From winter to spring, the unexpected outbreak of COVID-19 has halted every sector of our society. For designers, upcoming projects have been shifted, postponed and even cancelled; as a result, Design Shanghai 2020 has postponed and will now take place from 26 to 29 May. Yet, while daily development of this global pandemic affects our lives, work, and perspectives about the future, it is also an opportunity to re-examine priorities and contemplate how design could deepen interpersonal connections and instilling more inspiration and energy into family, life and society.
As Asia’s leading design platform, Design Shanghai has reached out to friends and colleagues to launch online and livestreaming initiatives, with a goal to interact with audiences and as a creative way to preview Design Shanghai 2020. Zhuo Tan, Director of Design Shanghai, says, “The essence of design is to solve problems and care for others. During this challenging period, our team and designer friends have been utilizing all our capabilities to ameliorate the situation. Even though Design Shanghai has been postponed, we have been in close contact with our exhibitors, partners, and audiences through various channels. We are grateful for everyone’s support and understanding. We have launched a livestreaming channel with the intention to construct an interactive platform which engages and rallies everyone as we endure this episode as a community. I look forward to our reunion at Design Shanghai in May.”
Here are interviews with nine designers who have had a long relationship with Design Shanghai (done via) email and telephone, to learn about what they have been up to and how they cope with this situation productively in preparation for Design Shanghai in May.
Zhang Lei, Founder and Chief Designer of PINWU
“Design has always been invigorating.”
With an innovative approach towards traditional craftsmanship, Zhang Lei believes that the origin and end of design lie in the aspirations for life. Therefore, people have higher expectations for design during a public health crisis. This is exactly the time to encourage people with effective and utilitarian design, making a positive impact on society and pushing the market forward. “When everyone is anxious, we need soothing design; when everyone is calm, we then need something exciting. This is manifested in both of our shows at Design Shanghai 2020. The theme is coloring, which includes new material research and the application of colors to new materials. We hope to bring excitement with these optimistic designs.”
Mario Tsai, Founder of Mario Tsai Studio
“Design is what I must do.”
Furniture designer Mario Tsai is focused on materials and its application. He has been contemplating his role and responsibility as a designer and hopes to take the studio onto a multi-dimensional field with a commitment to sustainability. He also sees it a designer’s responsibility to explore product design that serves the greater public in order to create a better environment. “During this period, a lot of people think about design in the context of public health, but I hope that we go beyond that. We might encounter different types of disasters in the future, and we need to think about how to prepare and react. We designers need to think about questions like reducing waste in the process as well as product development that enhances public awareness.”
Xiao Liu, Founder of THESHAW
“Home should be therapeutic.”
Xiao Liu, whose visual installations reflect her inner and spiritual world, empathizes with the psychological traumas that many people have experienced during this global health crisis. She grapples with how to bring hope to the society as a designer. “We always raise the question of what a good product is. In our current situation, it must be something that brings hope. This pandemic has caused much harm to people’s physical and psychological wellbeing, which will take a long time to heal. They might choose to spend more time at home after this. Home is not only a place which satiates our basic needs, it should also be therapeutic. There should be more empathetic and hopeful products to ease the pain.”
Xiaoxi Shi, Co-Founder of 2-LA
“The overlooked details in life are the best inspiration.”
Xiaoshi Shi is an industrial designer particularly fond of “functional art”. During this period of self-isolation, he has dived into the neglected details in daily life and has turned them into inspirations for design. “As a designer, I had always thought that I was attentive to details. But now I realized that was not the case as I spend so much time at home these days. There was so much information to absorb every day before the outbreak, but now all of a sudden, we are cut off from the outside world. As a result, we are forced to look at the things in the immediate surrounding, which is quite inspiring and profound. This will be my first time at Design Shanghai, and we will present a coffee table inspired by the mathematical knot theory. From the top, it looks like a trefoil, but spatially, it looks different from every angle. We’ve got enough functional but neglected items in our life. Therefore, I want this design to be a functional art piece instead of an aesthetic tool.”
Frank Chou, Founder of Frank Chou Design Studio
“Design is meant to propel the society forward.”
When home becomes the space for work and life interchangeably, Frank Chou, too, is carrying out his double-identity as a designer and as an ordinary individual, collecting problems from daily life and seeking solutions as a designer. “Life is the best source of design. Under this circumstance, we need to redefine design and come up with timely solutions for our problems. I initiated the Create Cures project with a few designer friends as a response to what we need during this COVID-19 outbreak. Design should not be forced into life but should be complementary. I designed a sterilizing lamp which functions as a tray and lamp that emits UV light. When people return home, they can place keys, phones, and wallet on the tray to sterilize. The lamp is not only intended for this outbreak but also for promoting personal hygiene awareness for the long term.”
Yuming Lin, Founder of Nanchow
“People will pay more attention to home design.”
Yuming Lin, cement tile designer, believes that as the market is slowly returning to vibrancy, home design will take on a new aesthetic and spiritual value. “We all have lost and gained in this pandemic. After being home for so long, people will become more attentive and feel more attached to this personal space. They will likely reconsider what a home should look like, whether they like the objects in this space or not, trying to create an environment suitable for their individual spirit. This is what we would like to explore at Design Shanghai this year. Customers usually buy design tiles one by one, but they might not know how to arrange them at home or might not be satisfied with what the outcome looks like. So we decided to launch a new package this year where people can buy a whole set of tiles arranged aesthetically in advance like a carpet for home use. They will get what they see and plan their home as they wish.”
Jamy Yang, Founder of YANG DESIGN
“The essence of design is to solve interpersonal relationships and the relation between human and nature”
Jamy Yang is one of the most influential industrial designers in China and has always been committed to changing the society with design. He has been contemplating how to utilize design and technology to enhance a sense of happiness at home. “What will our home become when we stay indoor for an extended period of time, or when we are separated from our family? This reminds me of the time in 2018 when Kenya Hara invited me to design a future home for the House Vision project. This future home seems to be appropriate for our current situation. In the Green House design, people can share the joy of tending plants through the internet with anyone they wish. It is a way to sustain connection while being apart, and it also brings joy to life. As a designer, I hope to design with sincerity and precision and to incorporate technology in design to improve the relations between human, and that between human and nature.”
Chao Cheng Chen, Founder & Chief Designer of SEEDDESIGN
“We should take advantage of this period to think.”
Lighting designer Chao Cheng Chen has used this subdued period to re-examine his work. “The presentation of light requires a physical and visual atmosphere, and our products are quite interactive. Therefore, Design Shanghai is a very important platform for us. For this year, we will set up an installation which mixes music and light to accentuate the charm of our products and create a memorable experience for visitors.”
Yin Ye, Brand Director of WUU
“Now we can direct our focus to life.”
WUU is a home furniture brand with a commitment to materials and aesthetics. “Our generation is the fastest growing one in China. We have been busier than ever, but now we are forced to slow down. This is an opportunity to re-examine our life and family. I believe that the objects that can be used for a long time are truly eternal. Maybe we will find a new breaking point based on the objects that have been with us for a long time at home.”
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Design Shanghai is Asia’s leading international design event, breaking new ground and setting a precedent in Asia’s ever-growing design community. Showcasing the best design brands and galleries from across the globe, Design Shanghai provides a unique and exciting platform to network, exchange and establish long-term business relations with Asia’s top architects, interior designers, property developers, retailers, collectors, and private buyers.
Design Shanghai aims to explore how eastern and western design philosophies can work together synergistically across the halls: Contemporary, Classic & Luxury, Collectibles, Kitchen & Bathroom, Workplace and New Materials & Applications. The event also features bespoke installations, an inspirational design forum and exciting networking events.
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