I am back from Professor LIU’s conference in “materiology for designing” during the Cumulus pre-conference in Tsinghua University in
Beijing. Professor Liu teaches design.
He considers design as a cross-disciplinary activity based on concepts and management called upon prior sciences, technology, human sciences and even art come into the picture.
According to him design aims to give “soul” to our environment by taking into consideration after-purchase life and by making products significant with regards to progress assessment.
We are familiar with this approach to design as a Humanism rather than a mere technique to refine raw materials into products. However it is interesting to hear this theory worded by a Chinese teacher trained in a China-based Chinese university. Professor LIU does not mention innovative products or services, nor does he hint at architecture or graphic design. Instead he speaks about philosophy, wisdom, ecology, ethics and righteousness.
As I was visiting a country enlivened by a wonderful economic boom, where companies are gradually evolving from straightforward production to design-enhanced production to generate more value added, I thought I would be introduced to products made to meet the needs of millions of eager Chinese consumers. I thought I would be lectured about the tremendous opportunity for designers to take an active part in this economic mutation. Today Chinese universities count about 600, 000 students in a “first year program” of Design.
Professor Liu speaks about Humanism, “soul,” responsibility, he calls forth an environment-friendly and virtuous approach to design.
His speech shows he has come to awareness that economic development in China depends on industrial paradigms unbearable for the planet.
The Chinese have understood that they were going to have to change their consuming and spending habits. I wonder if his surprising stance goes to show that age-old wisdom spurs the Chinese to tackle ecological issues instead of strictly focusing on the needs of the high-growth middle class.
Middle class citizens are by essence the biggest consumers, willing to move upwards and to “Welfare” society. Chinese industrials could be mere matter-of-fact producers. Their domestic market is huge.
Chinese culture has always fostered harmony between human beings and nature, and this trend could lay the foundations for a kind of industrial wisdom. We could learn a few industrial paradigms from the largest factory of the world. Chinese authorities’ responsibility and knack for planning could promote transformation. After being scorned for their highly polluting manufacturing methods, Chinese industrials could blow our minds by empowering designers to implement new means of production and consumption. Green Economy is a key issue in all design training courses in China.
To me, companies lack the inner capacity to take to different means of production. I do not believe in industrial ethics. Ethics and business do not get along as well as “markethics” scholars seem to believe.
In capitalistic systems no company ever produces out of duty, companies always produce out of interest. Therefore “green economy” is only valuable if it creates value added. And when it does it is a wonderful opportunity for companies.
Since no company is righteous per se, political leaders make up for it by implementing ethically responsible industrial agendas. It is high time we set into motion major measures to give shape to ecological impulses.