EightSix met up with young graduate furniture designer Yingshuang Guo from Shenzhen to discuss her feeling about being one of the few designers to have gone through the Chinese education system without studying overseas, and see if this trend is set to continue. Yingshuang Guo was featured on EightSix here previously.
Hello Yingshuang Guo! Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
I was born in Shantou and raised in Shenzhen. I am different from other families in China who just have a single child, I grew up with siblings. As I was the middle child in my family, I had a lot of time to think about what I was interested in and what I really wanted to do.
Where are you working right now?
I am working at cimalighting design studio which is a design deparment that belongs to Daxin Lighting Decoration, located in Huizhou, Guangdong. Working here, I get the opportunity to cooperate with foreign designers and I think I learn a lot from them.
You studied at Jiangnan University – a lot of Chinese designers often go overseas to learn design. Why did you chose China, and do you think it is better or worse than studying overseas?
Studying overseas is popular in China now, and of course, it has both its pros and cons. For some students, they are rich and able to go abroad to obtain a diploma, which is also beneficial for their career in the long run.
Needless to say, a great number of design companies nowadays are searching for employees who have been abroad. For example, the company I am working in now prefers to promote workers who studied overseas. This phenomenon indicates that since the economic market in China was opened to the world, competition for employment becomes more drastic than before, especially for a Chinese designer who is usually thought to have a lack of creativity and always plagiarising. Due to the pressure of work, Chinese designers working in China like myself, also need to force ourselves to master English as our main language. Thus, spending two or three years overseas is a nice opportunity to learn further and gain a better CV.
In my perspective,there are two reasons why I did not go abroad. First of all, it is too expensive to survive in other western countries. I think the work experience should be the priority. It is better and more efficient to promote my design skills in a job than in school. In other words, a job gives you the chance to practice your skills while the school transfers the theories.
Secondly, there are also a lot of chances in China. A great amount of design companies have situated their branches in Guangdong as it is one of the main manufacturing areas in the world. I have a faith that design in China is possible soon. However, I believe a designer should have a rich background so I will still seek a chance to go abroad, either travel or work. Unfortunately, I have learnt that it is hard to find a paid design job in Europe since I just have one year of work experience.
Sometimes, I do think it is really a challenge for local designers to find their positions in China, due to many clients lacking knowledge in industrial design. Being a designer in China is a tough decision. But I do love being a designer, I will work hard and prove myself.
People typically say that Chinese education from a young age does not allow you to be creative – is this true? How are you creative?
The phenomenon you mentioned actually exists. Students usually suffer the pressure of standardised texts. The student who spends their time studying art or music are always seen as poor students who quit classes and seek art as a short-cut to university. Actually, it’s not true. My academic performance is not bad and I am an art student. I was not born creative – the first reason I stay creative is that I am really passionate about what I do.
The second reason is adventure – being curious. Fortunately, I was quite lucky to finish my compulsory education in Shenzhen which is a ‘mixed-cultural’ city which is influenced by both HK and the Mainland, but the dominant culture is Cantonese. This emphasises the dragon spirit – being vigorous, encouraging people to be adventurous and keeping persistent. My parents also have a strong effect on the development of my personality. They have always had small businessess all their life and never gave up and were never afraid. So I maintained a similar mindset to keep trying hard again and again.
Being creative is a difficult thing for designers, it will decline with the age. I really admire some older designers who can be creative all their lives. I will have to try hard to learn from them.
Who inspires you – any Chinese designers or international designers?
There are a great number of designers that inspire me.The most impressive one is Naoto Fukasawa, a well-known Japanese designer. His style is unique and totally represents the design theory “Less is more”. He also has the ability to connect culture and commercial interests into a product by finding a meaningful link. I like his work which makes me feel relaxed and happy. I like the way he thinks about life and uses it in his design.
Where do you hope to be in 10 years time?
I’d like to travel around China first, then go to Japan and Italy.
Thanks Yingshuang Guo!