Industrial Design in Taiwan

I just finished a week long stint in Taipei, Taiwan attending the International Design Alliance World Congress and the Icsid General Assembly.  I am not being flippant by saying that the experience was life changing.  I was able to meet and interact with many of the world’s best minds in the world of Design. Taipei is an interesting city with some amazing culture that proved to be a fantastic backdrop for a conference that was discussing the topic of Design.

There were a few things that hit me in a big way.  The main one being the investment that I saw from the Chinese/Taiwanese Government into Design.  The scale of this conference was staggering. It was bordering on overdone.  But, in retrospect, a conference that is – at its core – about trying to make the world a better place can’t be overdone.

Another take away was the level of exposure to Design that the Taiwanese Youth gained from the IDA Congress taking place in Taipei.  I was walking around the Design Expo which was being housed in an old tobacco factory (that was a designer’s fantasy in and of itself). It was a collection of about 12 or so studios with exhibits displaying all sorts of design pieces from Industrial Design to Graphic Design to Woodworking. It was an impressive, if not typical, display of items from a multitude of Design disciplines. The part that struck me most was the amount of kids in the expo.  We’re talking bus loads of them. Kids ranging from elementary to high school aged were being brought to these exhibits and exposed to Design.  If you had this same exhibit in North America not only would you be devoid of the children in the exhibit, but I would go all-in on the idea that you could shoot a cannon through the exhibit and you would be hard pressed to hit a single person.

I’ve often said that Design is a canary in a coalmine.  You can use layoffs from Design-oriented companies as a barometer for the economy.  If company’s are laying off designers, that means that fewer products will be produced 9 – 16 months from now. Fewer items being produced, means less export, etc.

Using this same thought process, you can see the rising trends as well. With the unprecedented exposure to the field of Design the Taiwanese children were receiving, I look to the likely world dominance of the Asian Design Community in the next 10 – 20 years. There is no questioning the expertise, and level of quality that Asia has mastered in the realm of manufacturing.  If you begin go tie that in with the innovative nature of Design, there is no way you can ignore the potential of what you saw happening there.

If you’re a designer, I highly recommend getting involved in the International Design Community.  After spending some time there, I tend to believe that it is as important, if not more important than involvement in your local design community.  We’re living in an ever shrinking planet where the mixing of cultures and ideas is easier than ever before.  I saw enough in one week to convince me that Design can help bring about change for the good, and it is more than just a passing fad.  The International Design Community is where it’s at.