Lasting impressions

Updated: 2012-04-20 08:43

By Todd Balazovic (China Daily)

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 Lasting impressions

Zhou Yi, founder and president of S.point Design, rebranded his company from industrial design to creative consultancy. Provided to China Daily

Legendary Chinese industrial designer says creativity is not just a job, but also a way of life

Walk down the streets of any Chinese city and it is more than likely that you will encounter one of the legendary stalwarts of industrial design in China. From the red and blue flashing lights on Chinese police cars, to the interior of private jets, Zhou Yi's design company S.point has probably added its magical creativity.

Graduating with a master's degree in design from the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts in the mid-1990s, Zhou has spent 15 years inventing new solutions to old problems.

From altering aesthetics -his company was responsible for redesigning Logitech's webcams to attract China's emerging youth market - to finding solutions - S.point was commissioned to develop one of China's first digital bus stops for the city of Hangzhou, he is a leader in China's drive for innovation.

With a team of just 25 employees, including engineers, marketing experts and graphic designers, his company boasts more than 1,000 unique product designs for international companies from 20 different countries.

But for Zhou, design has become something of a dirty word.

While accepting the China Business News award for one of China's top 50 creative minds last month, Zhou delivered a speech pleading with the audience to throw away the modern day notion of design.

"If a client comes to us, we will not start off with the thought of designing a different version of something that they already have," he says.

"We want to help our clients redefine the question they present to us by looking at different factors that affect their product."

Founding the company in 1997, he says his inspiration for creating the company came from the recognition that, on a very basic level, Chinese products lack style.

"At that time China was opening its economic doors and I realized that there was a great need to provide basic product appearance design for companies in China," he says.

While he may have started out simply turning dull looking products into functional pieces of art, in the decade and half since founding the Shanghai-based company, Zhou has moved beyond appearances and into innovative problem solving.

"Design is not limited to physical design. Design can provide market opportunities. You can see how design can be an integral part in different sectors of service, strategy and user experience. Not just the physical parameters of a product," he says.

As China progresses on its path to become a modern economy, industrial designers need to look beyond the products themselves, and the impact they have on their users.

"A lot of people will still be supporting physical design. However, if they want to be sustainable, industrial design companies need to expand their capabilities to encompass the market and not just the product."

Following his theme of moving beyond creating products that just look good, the young entrepreneur has recently rebranded his own company from industrial design to creative consultancy.

And for him, creativity is not just a job - it is a way of life.

"Creativity is an ongoing process that requires one to think differently - it is a way of life. Working in a creative way, design in a creative way, live in a creative way," he says.

At a time when China is coming to grips with its own drive to move beyond manufacturing, "our design role is to help facilitate the process, identify and distribute the creative resources that are needed to develop a sustainable and strategic advantage - this is truly how we can inspire our client's business", Zhou says.

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