Noticing Tweaks, Communicating Universal Concepts, and Offering Value in Design

Noticing Tweaks, Communicating Universal Concepts, and Offering Value in Design
Photo Credit: Taiwan Design Center

What you need to know

Four acclaimed designers from different countries gathered yesterday to share their experiences and ideology of design.

On what was possibly one of the coldest days so far this winter in Taipei, a long queue was seen in front of the Performance Hall at Eslite Spectrum yesterday morning. The line of mostly young adults was trying to get a seat at the Golden Pin Design Award 2016 Forum, in which four designers from different countries would share their experiences and ideology of design.

The forum was held as a precursor to the Golden Pin Design Award 2016 Award Ceremony, an annual event presenting design projects created for the Chinese-speaking market. The designers that graced the performance hall yesterday included Oki Sato, founder of nendo Design, Arthur Huang (黃謙智), founder of Miniwiz, Mårten Claesson, co-founder of Claesson Koivisto Rune, and Javin Mo (毛灼然), creative director of Design 360˚ Magazine.

Oki Sato was first to take the stage and tackled the question, "What is design?" The Canada-born Japanese designer said he started pondering the question after working on his first project 15 years ago, which had a very low budget.

"I used to think design was avant-garde, pioneers, forerunners," he said, but over the years Sato has come to realize that design is a minor change, a tweak, in life. This is also the basic attitude he now holds for design. He says he believes "a small idea can gather momentum and bring about greater change," and encourages designers to look at things from small to big, and from near to far.

To follow, Sato shared three keys to finding these "tweaks": never focus on just a single point, relax, and have a daily routine and treasure it. He elaborated on the latter point, using himself as an example. The designer said he goes through the same routine every day, from the food he eats to the clothes he wears. This allows him to notice the differences and details in his daily surroundings and ensures that he won't be too exhausted to work since he currently manages 400 projects daily.

"I want to make sure I can devote my daily life to design," Sato said.

He said many designers do not think about designing products that actually "feel like" the product requested by clients, or they neglect to design the surroundings of the product. He concluded by saying design is about making people "feel," and it can be small and subtle.

Photo Credit: Taiwan Design Center
Oki Sato.

Arthur Huang from Taiwan followed Sato. He talked about design from a different approach: material. He said he started his company, Miniwiz, because he was dissatisfied with what he saw in society. The company's designs are about "transforming anger into the motivation for design."

Huang said Taiwan has one of the highest recycling rates in the world, but it overlooks using recycled material in design. At Miniwiz, a large part of what they do is breaking down these materials to see how they can be re-engineered. Their work has attracted clients such as Nike and Philip Morris International, and the team is also behind the EcoArk Pavilion in Taipei, which was featured in National Geographic's documentary series "Megastructures."

The designer said that thinking about re-engineering to create new materials is crucial since it leads to lower costs. And in response to designers often complaining about clients not having a sufficient budget, Huang says, "If you're solving a problem, how can they (clients) not have money?"

Photo Credit: Taiwan Design Center
Arthur Huang

Javin Mo from Hong Kong and Mårten Claesson from Sweden shared their past projects and experiences. Mo said a designer has multidisciplinary identities, and that growing up in Hong Kong shaped this characteristic in him and his work.

"Hong Kong, as a multicultural city, has given me a lot of space to be creative," said Mo.

Claesson said that "national differences don't really affect decision making in design." He also echoed Mo, saying, "There is no way to escape your cultural background. It comes out in your work."

Photo Credit: Taiwan Design Center
Javin Mo
Photo Credit: Taiwan Design Center
Marten Claesson

The event wrapped up around noon, and though it had already been three hours since people were seen waiting in the wet and cold, it felt as if the forum could have gone on longer. As the crowd filed out of the performance hall to return their translators, Huang's words seemed to linger in the space. "Design is about conveying universal values and concepts. You have to offer a better value."

Editor: Edward White