Business and design in Asia.

ShanZhai-Crossing the Line from Copying to Innovation 山寨——跨越抄袭与创新间的界限

Shan Zhai ( is a very unique cultural and widespread phenomenon in China, especially in the consumer electronics market. Shan Zhai refers to Chinese knockoffs and no-name brands and goods.  People are impressed to see the Shan Zhai iphone before they can find the real iphone on the market.  Shan zhai products from mobile phones to cars and net books to shampoo are also easily found.

Design for the Disadvantaged--Pilot Research 为弱势群体设计——试点调查

After the Design for the Disadvantaged (D4D) event in Shanghai, the D4D Design Committee had an internal meeting to finalize the research plan on August 19.

Design for the Disadvantaged

Last Saturday, for the launch event in Shanghai's Factory at 1933, frog sponsored Design for Disadvantaged (D4D). The event kicked off D4D's social responsibility program initiated by a group of social entrepreneurs and designers in the summer of 2009.

Air China's Small Design Decisions 国航小小的设计决定

After disembarking from a recent Air China flight between Shanghai and Beijing, I looked up to have the following visual assault on my eyes:

Now, someone or some team at Air China has the beginning of a good idea here (although not new). They believe they should be using built-in displays as a unique opportunity for branding and sending a friendly message to their customers.

Where they've clearly gone wrong in this case, though, is the combination of cheap LCD technology with a fundamentally poor choice of color combination. Of the commonly known color combinations that affect legibility,  blue on red is one of the poorer performers. This typographic phenomena is even more true for display graphics than for print or other mediums. Branding can easily juxtapose these two colors, and does so successfully all the time, as seen in this classic design by Saul Bass:
然而,他们在这里明显误入歧途的地方在于廉价的液晶显示技术与颜色选择明显不当这两者的结合。在所有广为人知的影响易读性的颜色组合中,蓝底红字是最差的组合之一。相比印刷或其他媒介,这一排版不佳的现象对于图形显示媒介而言更甚。将这两个颜色放在一起用在品牌标识上是很容易的,而且一直以来这样也很成功,就像Saul Bass在这个经典设计中所展示的那样:

Brand Building Through Product Innovation in Taiwan

Last week I spoke at Computex 2009 in Taiwan at an event hosted by the TDC (Taiwan Design Center). A key challenge faced by many Taiwanese companies in any part of the computing space is brand building. Taiwan’s computing culture, to generalize broadly, is all about OEMs. A few have made the leap into consumer brands (e.g., Acer, Asus, HTC), but most are still OEMS, increasingly evolving into ODMs, and no more than flirting with the notion of becoming a consumer brand. Under this backdrop, I spoke about brand building strategies for Taiwanese companies from 2 perspectives.

How to Make Design Success Sustainable in China

I just got a copy of 21st Century Business Review from the bookstore in the airport for my flight from Shanghai to Guangzhou for a design competition. The feature story of the May issue is From Manufacturing to China Design.

The topic of 'China Design' has been discussed for the past few years. There is no doubt that Chinese companies should have original design as the first step to build their own brand. Originality has been promoted in the cities, big or small, in China with the government support. Hundreds of design conferences and competitions are held to promote China Design every year.

Green Is the New Rainbow

Though the global village is still suffering from the economic crisis and seeking for innovative solutions to recover, an emerging trend is becoming more and more established and leveraged as opportunities for future growth. Green is not only the new black any more. It will be the rainbow when the sun arises after the storm.

frog design and IxDA China Presents: From Design Vision to Market Reality

As frog design celebrates its 40th anniversary, Mark Rolston, Chief Creative Officer, will moderate a round table discussion that will examine the dialectic between vision and pragmatism, conceptual thinking and craftsmanship. In today’s economy, a vision is good, but to make a real impact, it must be brought to life.

The discussion will investigate:

1.  The challenge of executing a vision while allowing for the craft of design to tune that vision throughout the development process
2.  Technology as the lever that bridges the gap between design as art and design as impact
3.  How companies can use design to close the loop between strategy and execution

Round table participants include Baili Liu from CUA and Douglas Wang, Product Design Manager from Autodesk.

If you are interested in attending this event, please RSVP to

Date: Thursday March 12th, 2009
Venue: BAU, No 17, Lane 1252, Fuxing Middle Road, Shanghai 200031
Registration: 6:30pm
Presentation: 7:00pm to 8:30pm (includes Q&A)
Networking: 8:30pm to 9:00pm

Report from China: User-Centered Design as a Good Business Approach

During the economic slowdown, more and more companies find it hard to challenge the traditional way of doing business. Some organizations understand the importance of design and innovation but Very Few see the true value of user-centered design and usability as a good business approach. Looking at the Chinese context, the strategy and philosophy of top successful local companies is changing. The recent export figures, the engine of Chinese growth in the past decades, show a significant decline.

The Realness of 3G Opportunity in China :: 对3G序幕正式拉开时机遇的一些思考

The China 3G certificate release on January 7th is taken by many people as a big economic event.  I have been thinking about the realness of this opportunity.  I currently feel the below:

This is a real opportunity, though short term and long term need be driven by different forces. Due to the 10 years marketing investments of the China carriers, cell phone fashion and cell phone culture are widely spread and enjoyed among Chinese people, so the China market consumers do have the potential to consume 3G. But the volume definitely will need a few years’ foster, just as shown in what has happened to many innovative cell phone data services over the past few years – investment to cultivate seed users in the teenager group, the young city inhabitant group and the high-end business group will take big efforts and should be led by the deep pocket china carriers.  Good thing is the carriers do begin to show huge investment commitment: they recently committed about 280 billion RMB over year 2009 and 2010 into network and equipments, and billions to subsidize the cell phone companies too.  With these fund, 3G is a real opportunity short term, actually driven by the daring spending of the carriers; long term it is still a question mark depends on whether there can be the tipping point from investment driven to user driven.

Some people around us have already become the beneficiaries of this: