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  • Writer's pictureTingbin Tang

Tang Tingbin: The Guy Who replaces Made in China with Designed in China

Updated: Feb 28, 2018

Beijing Youth Weekly

Tang Tingbin: The Guy Who replaces Made in China with Designed in China

He has no strange hair, long beard and personal independence of artist; He has no suit, car and house of overseas returnees. The art overseas returnee in front of us-Tang Tingbin, teacher of China Central Academy of Fine Arts-wears a T-shirt with the characteristics of the times and a green leisure trousers. His traffic tool is only a motorcycle.

He called himself an idealist. He gave up superior environment in the foreign country, and wanted to develop Chinese industrial design which just started." His biggest dream is to allow China have brands listed in the most valuable 100 brands around the world.

Tang Tingbin’s Confusion

Tang Tingbin, who studied in Savannah Art and Design College, came back from the United States to China this March. However after he returned, the overseas returned artist had a lot of confusion. First, weakness of the industrial design makes local enterprises only earn a small amount. If China exports a DVD costing USD32, the patent fee paid to foreigners is USD18 and the cost is USD13. Chinese enterprise can only earn USD1 of profits. For a domestic MP3 whose price is USD79, the foreign countries charge USD45 of patent fees. The manufacturing cost is USD32.5. Chinese enterprises can only gain profit of USD1.5. Price of a mouse made in China in the American market is USD24. Distributors can earn USD8, brand owner can earn USD10, and Chinese manufacturer can only earn USD0.3. At present there are more than 170 kinds of products "made in China" whose production is top in the world. China’s exports have risen to the world's second, but the exports of their own brand is less 10%. Second, 20 years VS 200 years. China's industrial design education is too young. Industrial design started in China from the early 1980s. To now it only has a history of over 20 years. Hunan University started to set the course in 1979. It is China's first university staring the subject of industrial design; Academe Arts and Design, Tsinghua University established this course, in 1982. Industrial design classes of other colleges and universities were developed in recent years. At present, more than 800 colleges and universities have established this subject in China. Most schools have established this subject for less than five years. Industrial design with a history of over 200 years in foreign countries only has a history of over 20 years in China. Third, salary of art education in China is so low. The monthly salary of teacher in the highest art school in China is only RMB1300. Plus class fee, it is only about RMB2500. There is no housing distribution. Housing allowance in the contract is only RMB70. This really surprises Tang Tingbin, who studied in the United States for many years, served as design director of famous company, and now teaching in the highest institution of fine arts in China.

Want to change China’s understanding of industrial design

Real life makes people confused. The whole society is blundering today. Overseas returned Tang Tingbin still sticks to his major, and looks forward to change China’s understanding of designers through his own efforts. "Sometimes people live for a sense of value." Tang Tingbin said, "If in the future the cars designed by me or my students run on the road, I will have the sense of value". When Tang Tingbin sees all the cars running on the road are foreign cars, and Chinese national brands are accused of copying design of for foreign car company, he urgently hopes to do something for development of auto industrial design in China. From "manufacturing" to "design", difference of a word brings completely different value to the enterprises. But China's current enterprise leaders see only that the design has to spend a large sum of money, but they don’t see design brings the rich economic returns for enterprises. Last October, Tang Tingbin returned to China, attended an industrial design week in Wuxi, Jiangsu Province, and then had a lecture in China Central Academy of Fine Arts. He talked for a long time with Dean Wang Min of Design College of China Central Academy of Fine Arts, and said out his idea of developing Transportation Design Major. Tang Tingbin had ever taught the course in the United States. Two people were very interested! Tang Tingbin recalled the scene at the time and said happily:”Great minds think alike. I really regret we didn't meet sooner!”

"In the global economic competition, if we fail in education, we will fail in development and future." Tang Tingbin explained his intention to serve as teacher in China Central Academy of Fine Arts.

Talents are more important than machine

IDEO, America's biggest design company, designed models for a domestic mobile phone manufacturer. The enterprise paid 500,000 euros to the design company. However, RMB100,000 is enough for domestic Chinese design companies. Foreign countries think that industrial designers should find problems and creatively solve the problems. In China somebody calls industrial design industrial modeling major. It is only to design modeling. At present, Chinese designers only play the roles of artists in the enterprises. They are not important for the enterprises. And they will not decide in the process of R&D of new product. Before he went abroad, Tang Tingbin designed an intelligent water meter for a company in Changsha, Hunan Province. The main work was to design a beautiful shell. This let him personally feel China’s positioning of designer is really a simple artist, and the specific work is to design a beautiful shell. While in foreign countries industrial designer is leading research and development of any new product process. He leads the direction of product design. In the foreign countries talents are considered the most important by each enterprise, but Tang Tingbin doesn’t have this feeling after he comes back to China. After researching on several enterprises, Tang Tingbin said:”Principles of Chinese enterprises think machine is more important than people. They think a machine tool cost millions of yuan can be use for several years, but they don't know, a talent can be used for several decades and can create more economic profit.” Now China companies pay attention to foreign designers. This makes students studying design in China restless. They cannot see their own prospects.

In the joint venture car enterprises, the foreign side invests technology and management, but the foreign side can share three times of profits of Chinese side. Tang Tingbin said this is because we lack software investment and respect to talents. Chinese car companies pay thousands of dollars each year to invite foreign designers, but as long as they see Chinese designers, the design cost goes down immediately, and they give designers very short time. They will take out a few pieces of foreign cars and say: "You don't have to design. Change according to this." Tang Tingbin was responsible for building Transportation Design Major for China Central Academy of Fine Arts. He has started enrollment. Tang Tingbin said in his office: “As a teacher, I want to change the understanding of the industrial designer through my teaching, let them know what a real industrial designer is, cultivate more industrial design talents, and build China Central Academy of Fine Arts into the cradle of Chinese designers.”

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We tunes the time thinking and drawing in reverse

Except positioning, the difference between China and foreign countries in design includes weak design management, different composition of designer team, time and money, etc. After investigation of Chinese enterprise, Tang Tingbin found now many Chinese enterprises didn’t want to spend the time and money. They think these things work slowly. Tang Tingbin said Tupperwear, the largest plastic container production enterprise in the United States, had a lot of people devoted to the study of practicality, seal quality of lunch box and other questions. The annual salary for every person is several hundred thousand dollars. But it seems useless. Actually this ensures sustainable development of the enterprise.

Before the design, foreign enterprises must organize workers to do research on production, process, materials, humanity and other links. These should occupy 90% of the time in the design. The rest of the time is just 10%. Now in China it is opposite. The product designed with this method cannot conform with the requirements of customers. Only products designed after thinking can reflect the value of the designer, and can be the most favorite products of users.

Don't make Chinese elements symbolic

When we mention Germany products, maybe you would immediately think of fine and stable; when we mention American products, maybe you will think of wide and open. But when we mention Chinese products, what will you think of? You will feel hard to describe with a simple word. The reason is that Chinese products lack their own design style.

The connotation of the design is culture. This is the view of George Yarrow, an international famous car design master. In recent years, the industrial design of big foreign enterprises reflects more and more Chinese elements. They put the connotation of Chinese culture into design. We can also call it Chinese style. With the expansion of Chinese consumer market, the application of Chinese elements should be in accordance with the trend of the development of the times.

It will be symbolic and apparent with bad combination. Some people now simply consider Chinese culture elements as cultural symbol. When we mention Chinese elements, people will think of Chinese knot, red lantern, dragon, Chinese kung fu, the Chinese dress and so on. These patterns are the Chinese elements. In fact it only can reflect the designer’s poor understanding of the Chinese culture. Tang Tingbin said: “In fact, the Chinese elements are far beyond specific symbols. Beijing's bid logo Taiji and Beijing 2008 Olympic logo Chinese Seal reflect the culture inspiration brought by Chinese elements to the field involved. Whether we can reflect the cultural connotation in the design and melt the Chinese elements cleverly into design, the key is the designer's knowledge background and the ability of cultural understanding. This requires designer’s natural emotional revealing after understanding of national culture.

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