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As the epidemic has eased in China, the design event organized by iF brought together more than 500 guests.
More than 500 participants have joined the International Creative Design Conference Chengdu 2020 by iF this November, hailing from academia, design, manufacturing, media sectors and design schools.
With many large-scale activities cancelled or postponed due to the pandemic, the conference was an approach of returning to normal life in China. Sean Lee, Managing Director of iF DESIGN ASIA, says: “As the epidemic has eased in China, all walks of life are starting again with a positive attitude sending from the successful and full attendance of our conference.”
However, Ralph Wiegmann, CEO of iF Design, couldn’t attend the forum in person due to lockdown. Instead, he sent a video message expressing his best wishes for holding the forum successfully and future performance.
The conference at the Western China International Expo City in Chengdu, China, was shaped by one key trend: digitization. Seven guests with varying industry backgrounds presented a series of thought-provoking case studies. They shared their own design perspectives and professional angles with the audience addressing topics related to technical innovation, product design breakthroughs, human-machine interface and digitized education innovation – just to name a few.
The highlight of the conference was a panel discussion in which the audience took the chance to ask their questions to the experts face to face. Rethinking design in a post-Covid world, discovery and love were most popular buzzwords among the speakers. One of the main messages of the panel session was that we all need to aim for building a better-connected world. iF’s Sean Lee and other speakers concluded: “Especially in the current situation of the pandemic, we have the chance to work at home or work online. We do have our individual space and ideas, but connection is still essential.”
iF Design has received a positive response from the public since first hosting the International Design Forum Chengdu in November 2017. It aims to promote the world’s latest and most edge-cutting design by connecting Chengdu's local manufacturing and production enterprises with the international creative and design circles.
The International Creative Design Conference Chengdu is further part of the Chengdu Creativity & Design Week, an influential brand in Chengdu's creative design industry. The iF design center Chengdu, as the sub-venue of Chengdu Creativity & Design Week, also held theme exhibitions and organized innovative design related activities during the event week.
In the past, design was often regarded as a type of "shaping technique" that converts meaning into tangible merchandise to satisfy "public needs". Following the light-speed development of new and advance science and technology, as the Internet connects countless people together while the Internet-of-things connects countless objects together, all decision-making processes can be completed on a scrolling screen within a few seconds. The Forum kicked off with a presentation titled "New Design Thinking for Digital Generation" by Mr. Ding-Bang Luh, Chair Professor at the Guangdong University of Technology.
The next three guests shared the latest in design trends based on their own area of expertise. Mr. Yassu Nishioka, Director of Sony Design Center China, and senior design manager Mr. Zheng Qi ushered the audience into a whole new world with human-machine interaction founded upon design innovation against the backdrop of technology and design integration through analysis of cases at the Sony Design Center, including how Sony utilizes state-of-the-art artificial intelligence, sensory and interactive technologies in areas such as robot, automotive, architectural space and service experience. Mr. Yassu Nishioka revealed that currently Sony is concentrating efforts on imbuing machines and modern technologies with "a sense of life".
Mr. Kyle Hsiao, Vice President of Design at Vivo and the first Chinese designer to win an iF gold award, spoke about "Design-Driven to Reshape the Brand" and explained how Vivo's products in recent years manifest the company's preliminary evolution into a design-driven firm and the underlying design-driven business model. From "styling" to "problem solving," then "strategy" and ultimately "framing," he led the audience on an eye-opening journey about the "levels of innovation".
The last speaker in the morning was Ms. Binghua Xu, UX Design Lead at Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd., who centered on the theme of "Industry+Intelligence" and illustrated how AI can bring about brand new experiences in different industries as seen in numerous successful designs and smart industrial applications achieved at the Huawei UCD Center. For instance, a case of intelligent transport experience design demonstrated the industry+intelligence experience design process and how it differs from traditional product experience design. She concluded with some contemplations and summaries about industry+intelligence design trends and design mindsets, as well as trends in smart product experience in different industries in the future.
The afternoon began with Mr. Fabian Furrer, Vice President at Dongdao Creative Branding Group, who was also one of the jurors at iF DESIGN AWARD 2016. Speaking about the topic of "Reshaping," he called on everyone to rethink the definition of design: New digital technology is ready to galvanize significant revolutions in design and major changes in business in unpredictable ways. This kind of digitized development welcomes us through intelligent interface and super intuitive formats, which substantially enhance our experience with and realization of digitization. What does the future have in store for design and designers? Will designers be integrated with machines as one? Just to function as simple design machines? Or will we change our mentality and go on and do some unimaginable things with technology, and put forth immaculate insights and inspirations that will dictate the future of creativity and social media intelligence? The design profession is juxtaposed between "utopia and oblivion," and only when humans and technology work together could they come up with "unimaginable creativity," which is beyond the ability of any single person. This kind of foremost designs in technology integration thoroughly indicate that our future intelligent service platforms are conducive to augmenting our creativity, enhancing our connections with the world, and function as a source of stimuli for the human creativity system.
The second presenter, Mr. Aaron Chen of Alibaba Group started off with the development of design: From traditional industrial design to contemporary industrial design and the Internet Plus, from service manufacturing industry to product and business and then ecology. The designer's role and capacity limit continue to change and update. He asserted that, in essence, design is translation, the search for innovation direction within the boundaries of technology, and persistence in creating products that genuinely serve users’ needs, so that users are willing to pay for the value of design, ultimately resulting in commercialized added-value. Other than honing product experience, raising product value and improving user stickiness, it is also necessary to contemplate how to package a product so that it could reach more users. As a platform, it is important to think about how to ensure the standardized replication of experience, empower ecology, actualize rapid digitization, and elevate people's happiness with their work and life.
The next two speakers, Mr. Chiachuan Lin, Chief Designer/Vice President at NetDragon, and Mr. Wei Xu, Strategy Director, EOL, talked about the influence of digitization in education, gaming and user insight based on their respective area of engagement and field of knowledge. Mr. Chiachuan Lin shared with the audience how to make good use of digitization trends and the Internet and informatization mentality to design and develop the next-generation education platforms and products so as to provide more attractive, effective and personalized education products with better advantages and a higher degree of fairness. Mr. Wei Xu meanwhile spoke about new possibilities for obtainment of inspirations for design: Design is no longer just design, but a full-spectrum mindset that can improve life and the environment, and everything is founded upon not only keen observation and comprehension about human needs, but also a kind of zealous motivation that compels one to create or innovate the environment instead of adapting to the environment, which is the real source of power that drives continual progress. However, the real world is extremely complicated and challenges facing design are often unclear. Thus, how to effectively utilize numbers (quantitative) and context (qualitative) to analyze, contemplate, define and identify the key subject matters become a vital step early on in the design process.
Part three of the Forum was an interactive dialogue, where experts from different areas shared their views and participated in conversations from their own perspectives, while the on-site audience was also invited to communicate with the guests.
During the discussion, Mr. Yassu Nishioka used Sony's Aibo as an example to explain how the team at Sony injected "sense of life" into product while pursuing the goal of "giving more life to humans through products". Mr. Fabian Furrer opined that design of the future is actually dialogue with each individual, since individuals have different cultural backgrounds, adding that future changes in design hinge on varying individual preferences. Design of the future will cater even more to the penchant of the individual, and content will be tailored for each individual based on his or her taste, concluding that the future design will eclipse limitations imposed by labels or boundaries such as national border, race or gender.
Mr. Kyle Hsiao answered a question about the "difference between art and design": Art is something that serves itself, I think that is what defines art. Design meanwhile serves the public, and this is the major and marked difference. Design serves seniors, women, females, males...when designing, it is crucial to first understand what it is that you are trying to solve.
Ms. Binghua Xu: Due to the impacts of the pandemic, everyone's way of life and work changed a lot. We discover that many things could be done online, you could have your own independent space, your own independent thoughts, but during this process "connection" is mandatory. A slogan at Huawei is "to build a better connected world," and this holds true for the design realm as well. We are increasingly concerned about the connection between people, the connection between person and object, and the connection between objects.
Mr. Yassu Nishioka: If I were to sum up this year's experience in one word, maybe I would use "Re," or "discover" or "love". These keywords appeared several months ago, but at the same time it also dawned on me that the three words will continue to appear in life in the future. This is because this COVID-19 pandemic gave us a lot of time to think and rethink, to discover and rediscover, to love and love more. This meant a lot to me.
As the event neared its conclusion, Mr. Ding-Bang Luh summarized the conversation: No matter how our designs change under the trend of this digital age, no matter how business innovations change, in the future they will still follow the heart of the people. Let us try to imagine what people will think about in five or ten years, in doing so we will find the values that we need, the directions, strategies and ultimately the systems we need.
(published in November 2020)