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China closely chases Korea in design capability

Posted May. 09, 2014 05:58,   


“When I went to a business trip only several years ago, chief design officers or executives at local companies asked me for advice. Today, they want to meet American or European design experts than Korean designers. This means that they made development in design and are more confident.”

An executive of a renowned design organization in Korea, said, “The design capability of Chinese companies is growing much faster than expected. Chinese products look less sophisticated than Korean products now, but if the trend continues, there would be no difference.”

Just as Chinese companies are chasing Korean companies in technology, they are also narrowing the gap in design. The Dong-A Ilbo met several businessmen and experts for the “New Design Management” series, which started from April 28, and many of them said that Korea’s design competitiveness is definitely superior to China’s now but they are not sure what it would be like going forward.

Statistics also show China’s potential in design. According to the Korea Institute of Design Promotion, Beijing has more than 20,000 design companies. Around 250,000 people or 3.8 percent of the working population in Beijing are engaged in the design industry.

Samsung Electronics is moving fast. It decided to set up its second design R&D center in Beijing following Shanghai. “Beijing is emerging as a new foothold in the global design industry,” a source from Samsung Electronics said, adding, “We decided to open a design research center in Beijing as Shanghai is not enough to learn the Chinese market and consumer trend.”

Many of Chinese designers in their 20s and 30s were educated in the U.S. or European countries which are advanced in design. The Chinese central government also has strong willingness to foster the design industry. The Chinese State Council said in a report “The Fusion Development of the Industries related to Cultural Creativity and Design Service” earlier this year that China needs to change the economic structure from “manufacturing” to “creation” by increasing the competitiveness of the design industry.

China’s “technology engine” seems to have been on track. Now, China is revving up the “design engine.” As large Chinese companies take design management as a key tool for innovation, they are likely to follow Korea whose key products are in the premium category.

This year marks the 15th anniversary of design management of Korean companies. Now is the time to upgrade the design capability of Korean companies while paying attention to China’s design engine.