Socratic Persistence -- An interview with Tang Tingbin
July 2005 the 7th edition
Art and Design
Leading journal for Chinese design art
By Dang Dan
An interview with Tang Tingbin
Editor's note: A few days ago, Tang Tingbin, teacher of China Central Academy of Fine Arts and Master of Industrial Design of Savannah Art and Design College published An Overseas Returnee’ Confusion. An idealistic overseas returned teacher has low salary and difficult life in China Central Academy of Fine Arts, the highest art university in China. This causes argument in design education field and society. The public generally thinks that when universities expand enrollment, education level keeps decreasing. Teachers of universities and colleges do part-time job under the pressure of reality and material temptation. It shows the imbalance of domestic education and embarrassment of education economic environment and value trend. Below is our reporter’s interview with Tang Tingbin.
Reporter: You received basic education and high education of industrial design in China and America. What do you think is the biggest difference between the two education systems?
Tang: Industrial Design Department of each school in China doesn’t have any difference. They have to take all the courses. However, each school in the United States is totally different. For example, Savannah Art and Design College, the largest design college, does a lot in industrial design. Automobile and naval vessels, design management and planning of IIT are good. The graduates even cannot use 3D software, but they can be hired by Ideo, Motorola and other big companies. Because at present internal industrial design institution in many design companies only manage and plan. All the design and R&D are subcontracted.
Many teaching materials I use in class are from IIT. It has a strict methodology. It teaches you research and brand management, but domestic industrial design teaching has nothing about research or does fake research. For example, Hunan University was the first to establish Ergonomics Department in China, but China has not established the relationship among human, machine and environment. Foreign education system pays more attention to cultivating analysis, induction and logical reasoning ability of students. They are required to write papers since they were young, including geography. Students are required to present on the stage. These can improve their ability. It proposes to cultivate people’s thinking ability, so that students have their own method to study everything. Comparatively speaking, Chinese teachers work hard in duck-stuffing teaching. You can pass the ergonomics examination only by reciting.
Reporter: You received duck-stuffing education. Was your mode of thinking greatly affected after you went to the United States?
Tang: I abide by the law and behave myself. I am a rebellious student who doesn’t want to follow the rules. Therefore, in the United States I can adapt to it. But I was affected for many years. For example, China and foreign countries have different definition for industrial design. To my surprise, in China industrial design is called industrial modeling design, while in the United States my classmates talk about their product idea. At that time, I felt funny. Because I think modeling is more important. Later I knew industrial design was the process of product innovation and development, but not only the shell of product. Domestic industrial design is driven by projects, so engineers develop new products. Designers design the shell. In foreign countries, industrial design is the chief engineer and a management process. They organize user research and marketing, find the problems, and ask related mechanics, chemical and electric structure engineers for help. Production is after supervision and adjustment. In the process of industrial design in foreign counties, research accounts for 90% and realization accounts for 10%. It is opposite in China.
In fact I know it more in work. I served as Product Development Director in Trisenx Group. I developed a product called network fragrance sensor. A sends a electric rose to B on the computer. B will smell the fragrance when he receives. The premise is that he has to buy our product, and install driving program and hardware. I drew up the plan, and organized engineers and experts to cooperate with my realization. This project was sponsored by NASA and rated as the excellent design in that year. It is also collected in The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design and published on Time Magazine.
Reporter: In the United States you have been accepted in the professional field and your life quality can be assured. Were you afraid of losing good development opportunity when you decided to go back to China as you said?
Tang: In the United States I have few holidays. I studied while working. After I began to work, I was still very busy. During Spring Festival last year I came back to China for the first time. The change of China made me surprised and excited. However, when I officially come back to work, I know I only saw the superficial phenomenon. Many deeper things have not kept up with the international level, such as discipline and rules.
In the United States I lived at each with high efficiency. Foreign countries pay attention to establishing and improving system. You don’t have to be very smart. You only have to do your job well. Because rules have been established and they have good operation. China requires everyone to be excellent in every aspect. The problem of China is that many disciplines have not been established. It is same for industrial design, but it mainly depends on people now.
Reporter: How long do you think can you go with your own power?
Tang: Of course it is not only my own business, but more people will join me. People sometimes pursue sense of achievement. In United States I have been reported by Time Magazine, but you are still a common person. Your ability is limited. At present domestic design universities don’t do enough to establish the image of industrial design. At present my position makes me realizes that I will pay a more important role.