While China invests to raise standards, U.S. colleges are globalizing their design curricula.
Among others, Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta are exploring new ways to prepare design graduates for the challenges ahead. Part of the formula involves sharing best practices.
``Many U.S. educators have traveled to China for conferences and conducted design workshops to teach, as well as to better understand the China design scene,'' said Elaine Ann, director of Hong Kong-based consulting firm Kaizor Innovation. ``There is a huge need for design education in China.''
In May 2002 in Beijing, the Industrial Designers Society of America and the China Industrial Design Association collaborated on the first China-U.S. conference for design educators, drawing about 30 from the United States and 60 from China.
The groups and two academic sponsors, Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Georgia Tech, are working to hold a similar event in the United States, possibly in 2005, according to Lorraine Justice, director of Georgia Tech's industrial design program in Atlanta.
This year, from May 22 to June 4, Carnegie Mellon's Craig Vogel will conduct workshops at Tsinghau University in Beijing for Chinese design students and professionals. The program is based on Jonathan Cagan and Vogel's 2002 book, Creating Breakthrough Products, which now is available in Chinese.
During the 2002 conference, said Justice, ``We learned China wanted to put in 400 [design] schools to compete with the World Trade Organization [countries]. There will be huge markets opening up for those designers to supply those markets [in China].''
China is reformatting its design schools and adding new ones, Vogel said in a recent telephone interview. ``When we went over the first time, the School of Arts and Design in Beijing was a craft school,'' he said. Now it is part of a university, with a more developed curriculum, an improved faculty and use of best practices. The city of Shenyang in northeastern China has a master plan for five separate college campuses.
China aims to become a design innovator and not just a copier, and to become WTO-competitive rather than just a low-cost option, Vogel said.
At Carnegie Mellon, Vogel and Cagan, a mechanical engineering professor, direct a new program for graduate students pursuing master's degrees in product development. The mechanical engineering department and design school offer the one-year program with support from the graduate school of industrial administration.
Georgia Tech has exchange programs with universities in Sweden and Germany, and is in discussions with BUAA in China. In addition, Georgia Tech is talking with schools in Asia, Canada and Australia.
``For students, their education will shift from problem solving to opportunity options,'' Justice said. ``No matter what is going on in Asia, we are going to survive.''