After years of discussion and effort, the Industrial Designers Society of America recently approved the formation of a China chapter.
Its champions hope the move will help advance the practice of design in creating social as well as business value in China, while also allowing IDSA to serve as a non-political networking channel and clearinghouse of design-related information across the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macao.
While much remains to be determined about the chapter's structure and method of operation, it has some definite goals in mind.
In terms of activities it may undertake, there may be organizing conferences, executive training, workshops, seminars, social gatherings, promotions, and so on, according to Xin Xiangyang, the chapter's chair and an assistant professor at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University's School of Design. Of course, IDSA China Chapter should provide support to international designers, especially IDSA members who need to start their businesses in China, and vice versa, Xin said via e-mail from Hong Kong on Sept. 28.
It will be interesting for most Chinese designers to understand that IDSA is actually a volunteer organization rather than a government-empowered unit, he added. To be part of IDSA is to believe in its value and to contribute to its operation and success. Xin said much remains to be done to instill the understanding in China that design is so much more than merely a function of styling or adding decoration to products, but rather a discipline than can fundamentally improve society and impact the functional and commercial success of such products.
Xin said the chapter's officers need to develop a practical development and also officially register the chapter in Hong Kong.
Tim Fletcher, also an assistant professor of design at Hong Kong Poly, has been the driving force behind the creation of this first non-North American IDSA chapter. (To see a related video interview with Fletcher from IDSA's fall 2008 conference in Phoenix, go to www.plasticsnews.com/video and scroll down to the Design & Innovation playlist.) Fletcher, who is in the process of relocating to Pittsburgh from Hong Kong, has served as the association's liaison in Asia for the past three-plus years.
The China chapter currently has about 30 members, Xin said, but we do expect a noticeable growth of members in the near future. Both Tim and I have received lots of new inquiries for joining the chapter.
The key now, according to Fletcher, is to build a better network of designers throughout China, since that country tends to be highly segmented by provincial interests. He wants to see a communication conduit created that will allow information to flow in both directions between the U.S. and China.
IDSA held its 2009 International Conference and Education Symposium on Sept. 23-26 in Miami.
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