The 2018 China Design Forum The Spirit and Mission of Design

Blending design with charity and having design masters and young designers on the same stage, the 2018 China Design Forum cultivates a unique presence at the 42nd China (Shanghai) International Furniture Fair (CIFF).

Design was all over Shanghai in September when the 2018 China Design Forum was held from September 10th to 13th in the National Convention & Exhibition Center in Hongqiao, Shanghai, creating a refreshing presence in the 42nd CIFF.

This forum, an event open to the entire Chinese design community and the public and held completely for the public interest, was hosted by C Foundation from Shenzhen, the first voluntarily organized non-profit foundation in the design community of China for the fourth time consecutively, hugely supported by CIFF, and co-organized by two industry leaders, China Foreign Trade Guangzhou Exhibition General Corporation and Redstar Macalline. The forum always sticks to its original aspiration and aims at becoming an annual non-profit platform for design exchanges with the greatest intellectual depth and widest influence.

14.pngCreate · Innovate Forum

15.pngCreate · Invent Exhibition of Works by Young Designers

The Create · Innovate Forum and Create · Invent Exhibition of Works by Young Designers, as the two thematic sections, created impressive highlights and wonderful surprises one after another for the China Design Forum. 

In the Create · Innovate Forum, participants earnestly came up with topics like the human touch, universal value and social responsibilities of design, talked about them in depth and extended the discussions.

Thanks to the Create · Invent Exhibition of Works by Young Designers, attention was lavished on young designers, who showed up on the stage and in exhibition areas to share their original wood works and the stories behind them.

Spirit of design

Finding ourselves in each other

19.pngSpirit of design – Liang Jianguo, Executive Chair of 2018 of C Foundation

Is there a spirit of design? If so, what is it?

In the opening speech of the Create · Innovate Forum on September 11th, Mr. Liang Jianguo, the 2018 Executive Chair of C Foundation, went straight to the point: “Actually, I think the spirit embodied by C Foundation is also one kind of design spirit. What is the spirit of design? In essence, it means that we find a bit of ourselves in each other. This thinking can inspire us on many issues, including what to do in this era, how to do it, what is our relationship with the society and with demand. Demand is something that we designers must think about, and we should address the demand people have concerning designs.”

The mission of design goes beyond design

Beyond design 

20.pngMission of design – Steve Leung, Director of C Foundation 

Building on the discussion on the spirit of design the day before, in the Create · Innovate Forum on September 12th Steve Leung, Director of C Foundation emphasized the mission of design. 

C Foundation, particularly Directors of C Foundation, have the responsibility to make it clear to everyone that the mission of a designer is not to simply produce good designs. Designers are duty-bound to give back to the society and to the country. The Directors should, through programs of education and assistance, give young designers more opportunities to learn.

Director Steve Leung illustrated the severity of social problems, disasters and calamities with a series of figures and presented a concrete and elaborate design strategy to each issue. He argued that our designs should properly consider environmental and other issues facing everyone; we should not just create a seemingly beautiful space, that is not enough; we do great harm to the earth every day, though we are not aware of it.

The gift of design

Tell stories with colors

Dai Kun, Director of C Foundation and a design master that prefers using color as a means of design, and Mr. Karl Johan Bertilsson, Creative Director of NCS Color AB from Sweden and NCS Color Academy and an internationally well-known master of color design and management, together launched the co-branded color card designed specially for the forum and gave the cards to audience as a gift. Mr. Dai Kun said: “This is the first time that we have had our own color card in China.”

According to Director Dai Kun, designers are sometimes like screenwriters or directors and they are actually making up stories and making those stories real. When designers tell others their stories, if the recipients have the same emotional response, crying and laughing as the designers do, that means the designers have succeeded. It is a unique visual experience for the recipients.

21.pngTell stories with colors – Dai Kun, Director of C Foundation

Colors are very important, particularly for designers. Mr. Karl, a master in color, pointed out that the trends including urbanization, intelligent development and Generation Z and major social events would usher in a new era after 2019 and along with it new trends of colors.

22.pngTell stories with colors – Mr. Karl Johan Bertilsson

The future of design 

A ten-question interaction between young designers and design masters

In the Create · Invent Exhibition of Works by Young Designers, the original wood works of six budding designers debuted collectively. All the works are made from wood and embody the new-generation designers’ affection for and attitude towards the world, design and life, whether they are large pieces of furniture or small objects, whether they are made in the traditional or cutting-edge way. On the philanthropy exchange platform of the Create · Innovate Forum, these designers candidly shared their thoughts and had dialogues with design masters. The ten questions asked and the answers given forged links with the past, reflected over the present and indicated vision for the future.


Zhou Jing

Otherwise, change your lifestyle

24.pngDesign + life: The path of life of independent designers – Zhou Jing

Zhou Jing, co-founder of the “Otherwise” furniture brand, shared the “path of life” of independent designers. “Otherwise” is a furniture design brand co-founded by Zhou Jing and Wei Yushu. The two co-founders used to be architects and they shifted to wood objects of everyday use because they like the wood material and also because they seek this gentle way of life. The “design + life” combination is the logic underpinning products of Otherwise and also captures the lifestyle of the two co-founders for whom “Otherwise” means making a different choice and changing your lifestyle.

Zhou Jing VS Kinny Chen

25.pngA ten-question interaction: Zhou Jing and Kinny Chen 

Both Zhou Jing and Chen Dejian love their life, though one is the stay-at-home type and the other leads an unrestrained and colorful life. Regarding the contrast between them, Mr. Chen Dejian, Director of C Foundation and a person with varied interests and hobbies, candidly pointed out that focusing on design all the time would deprive one of the fun in life. To lead a rich life is very important to design because it allows you to observe many different things and turn them into part of design. If you are bent on design all the time, how can you find inspirations? 

Zhou Jing thinks differently. To him, manual work is itself a part of design. When you do or make something yourself, you will find many details or truths that cannot be revealed by plans or drawings. Zhou Jing usually starts his creation process with hands-on practices, during which thinking gives way to doing and pens to his hands. This way, inspirations easily spring up.

Dou Ning

Digital processing enables users to play a part in the creation of their life

26.pngOpen making: a customized home for users – Duo Ning

Duo Ning, founder of dot Architectures and dot Make, expressed his vision on design in the digital era, which is fundamentally and essentially a hope that everyone can, aided by new technologies and new designs, actually do something manual to play a part in the creation of their own life. In the digitized society, the digitally processed series of furniture allow young consumers of the new generation to try innovating their furniture products by altering size and scale and selecting from multiple options and thus to make their home individualized. 

Duo Ning VS Zhang Qingping

27.pngA ten-question interaction: Duo Ning and Zhang Qingping

In the face of intelligent digital control that is rapidly developing and convenient, Duo Ning asked C Foundation Director Zhang Qingping how to view technological evolution and how to handle the technology-human relationship in design?

Mr. Zhang Qingping answered that designs used to be created in the basic and traditional way with hand-drawn sketches; nowadays they are created with software, a completely different approach. Of course, the traditional way has its pros and cons. What to choose is up to you. You need to decide which is the best way to create your design and to express your thoughts and ideas; once you make the decision about which way suits you the best, you should learn more about it.

Guo Lijun

Art asks questions, and design resolves questions

28.pngUtility of design – Guo Lijun

As one of the earliest CNC furniture designers and advocates in China, Guo Lijun, founder of the furniture brand Weiyong, raised a philosophical question at the onset: What is design for? Why do we design?

He argued that utility of a product is the most direct manifestation of the product’s value; to use products more conveniently and more comfortably ultimately serves a better life, which is also the most important purpose of design. Thus, designers should seek to let function dominate form. Designers should use environmentally friendly and recyclable materials, create industrial designs in line with intelligent manufacturing (CNC), make designs that everybody likes and can afford: design for utility and make the best use of everything.

Guo Lijun VS Qu Guangci

29.pngA ten-question interaction: Duo Ning and Zhang Qingping

Director Qu Guangci, also an artist, first advocated for “orienting art towards the mass”. In answering Guo Lijun’s question concerning the balance between artistic creation and brand management, he said: “As an artist, when I was building the X+Q brand, I found out that art and branding had important connections. If I had not worked on the X+Q brand, I would not have seen many of my problems as an artist. And when I handled the business matters, I saw the cruelty of the reality and humanity, something that I won’t realize in my daily life or in the art world and that, in return, is fed into my artistic creation.”

Zhang Qi'an

Handicraft, the path to inner peace

30.pngThe approach to create large woodworks applied to small woodworks – Zhang Qi’an

Zhang Qi’an, former architect of China Architecture Design & Research Group and founder of Qi’an Woodworks, shared what he did in furniture making besides architectural work. Tapping the mortise and tenon joint technique and craft in existence in China for over a millennium, he combines architecture with furniture, applies the approach to construct traditional large-scale woodworks to furniture, which falls into the category of small woodworks; thus, architecture and furniture are joined by the traditional techniques of woodwork construction.

Zhang Qi’an VS Ju Bin

31.pngA ten-question interaction: Zhang Qi’an and Ju Bin

Zhang Qi’an and C Foundation Director Ju Bin, both designers whose works exhibit a poetic quality, had their Q&A on the stage. Zhang Qi’an, a designer of multiple fields, asked about the perplexing contradictions and conflicts between Chinese and western and between the traditional and modern.

In response to Zhang Qi’an’s doubts and confusion, Ju Bin shared personal thoughts: First, design can be interpreted in the broadest sense, which means that everyone is a designer; but in the narrowest sense, design is a profession and designers should view design with a very professional attitude; second, all designs boil down to commerce; third, all designs should show real care and compassion to more disadvantaged groups, which is particularly important nowadays. When a designer understands the three points and have a tolerant and inclusive attitude towards commerce and design, he can open many doors and see the design industry with composure. But that composure does not necessarily mean you do not have a strong personality.

Lu Zhigang

Design is a puzzle game

32.pngPersonal refinement through design – Lu Zhigang

Lu Zhigang, chief architect of Minax Architects and founder of the Minaxdo handmade wooden workshop, expressed his thoughts on woodworks, design and the future of design; design is in essence a puzzle solving game and a good design can easily solve problems. His philosophy, whether of woodworks or buildings, is to make designs that evoke surprise, wonder and amazement. A good design should arouse strong feelings, including a sense of ceremony attached to the design and an impact that you feel both physically and psychologically. Innovative design in a certain cultural context should be able to resist the influence of dominant cultures and clear the obstacles arising from concrete history. 

Lu Zhigang VS Lin Xueming

35.pngA ten-question interaction: Lu Zhigang VS Lin Xueming

According to Lu Zhigang, there is not enough exchange and communication between interior designers and architects and there seems to be a trade-off between architecture and interior design.

C Foundation Director Lin Xueming said that the distinction between architecture and interior design might be a phenomenon unique to China; in China, construction projects abound on a vast scale and proceed so fast, which calls for a division of labor between architects and interior designers so that they can be more focused and do things more quickly. With the distinction drawn, architects and interior designers differ completely in terms of market, client base and client demand. Interior designers surely keep up with the latest trend better as they work on the final link with which end consumers directly interact. Lin Xueming said: “On the surface, interior designers seemed to be more elegant while architects…” “Look like construction workers as they frequent construction sites,” Lu Zhigang said quick-wittedly. 

Wang Tong

Tapping into tradition for the present

34.pngBreathing new life into tradition – Wang Tong 

Wang Tong, co-founder and chief designer of Jixiang furniture brand, elaborated on how their designers had always tapped into the traditional art and classics for design inspirations. The core of brand building is tapping into tradition for the present; specifically, their designers strive to create products with rich artistic elements and embrace the classic art and aesthetics philosophy for design. Wang Tong presented their works and the creation process from getting inspiration to drawing sketches, prototyping and finalizing, and shared the tear and joy he felt as a craftsman as well as the pitfalls and gains along the way.

Wang Tong VS Liang Jinghua

35.pngA ten-question interaction: Wang Tong VS Liang Jinghua

Addressing the promising young colleague like a kind teacher, C Foundation Director Liang Jinghua expressed different opinions with smile and sincerity: “You should build your work to last longer. We should simplify things to conserve resources. We should respect previous structures and also look forward as future works will have their day. The common ground between modern technologies and aesthetics and taste of modern people should be found.”

As summarized by Liu Xiaodan, the moderator of the forum and C Foundation Director & Secretary General, in the Q&A session, all the young designers asked good questions, but the answers given are not the only one; hopefully, everyone can ponder over the questions and find their own answers. Let’s all work together for design and public welfare and think about more innovative issues. Hopefully we can see more new faces join us along the way. 

Notice for republication:

The copyright of articles on this website are retained by their authors.
The articles on this website are all original or compiled; if you need to republish them, please do notify this website in advance and indicate the source of content in the form of hyperlinks.
We welcome the sharing of the content on the website but forbid republication for commercial use.