By Gabrielle Kennedy
Design Academy Eindhoven’s renown is rooted in the freedom it offers its students to explore their personal fascinations. Almost all the graduation projects are self-initiated and often deeply connected to a student’s own interests, culture and vision. How does this work for Chinese students whose secondary education lends more towards an emphasis on a collective pursuit? How does this difference manifest itself in design? How can the design relationship between Europe, China and the rest of Asia be mutually beneficial and flourish?
Ole Bouman is the director of a new cultural platform in the city of Shenzhen- Design Society - that will act as an interface between China and Europe’s design cultures. The platform’s vision is to create a better understanding and more opportunities for both. He is keen to see how Asian Design Academy Eindhoven graduates can take their knowledge back home to address major societal issues and use design as catalyst for social innovation.
During Wednesday’s roundtable discussion Ole sat with graduating students and recent alumni - Jing He (DAE Master graduate), Chen Jhen (DAE Master graduate), Yun Tian (DAE Master graduate) and Yaolan (Violet) Luo (DAE Master alumnus) in a discussion moderated by Christine de Baan.
“For me as the director of a new design platform in China the obvious question is how can we find some sort of blend between China and Europe,” says Ole. “A place where Chinese creativity can mix and interact with other cultures.”
Ole was keen to hear from students about their views on this blending. He asked them about how certain characteristics of European design might be embraced back in China (and the rest of Asia) like irony and using design as a provocation.
“How do you take that back to China with you?” he asked.
Yaolan (Violet) Luo graduated with a project about censorship – using amnesia as a metaphor for forgetting information. “I think my research shows that you can use creativity to overcome certain problems like censorship in China,” she says.
Bouman then went on to talk about how creativity is not necessarily just an individual act, but a massive mandate that is supported by the government. “My question then is as designers do you want to take part in an major historical transformation? Do you want to use design to change China?”
Jing He sounded unsure. “In China there is the slogan ‘China’s Dream’ but I ask whose dream is that? And I think it is the same with Chinese creativity, who am I to say what they need because I don’t think there is any sort of common dream there.”
The question, however, may not be how can design serve a collective dream, but how it can contribute to the realization of the dreams of many individuals seeking a better and more democratic way of life. A question that in an arrival-city like Shenzhen is paramount.