The Portland Art Museum has a great China Design Now exhibition going that I plan to see.
The exhibition shows that China has three centers of design—Shanghai for fashion and consumer lifestyle, Beijing for architecture and urban spaces and Shenzhen for product and graphic design. It make the case that China is moving from imitation to innovation in design, thanks to its artists, designers, filmakers and architects.
The shift from imitation to innovation in China, of course, is a key question for that country and the global economy. We keep hearing from people inside China that design graduates are still imbued with a “quick-quick,” copy mentality, shaped by an export economy based on low prices. We also hear that Design Thinking and the design of social systems is unknown to Chinese design students. Current policies, such a tying the yuan to the dollar as it declines, tend to continue the export strategy. A stronger yuan would tend to increase consumer spending inside China and, all things being equal, enhance design innovation.
This Portland exhibition is an important window to the country’s three centers of design and provides a deep look at what is happening on the ground and on the edges. Clearly, China is moving from imitation to innovation in many different sectors already
The exhibition was first developed by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. In Portland, home-base innovation consultancy ZIBA Design worked with the museum curating team to create an inter-active presentation on Chinese design that worked for the Portland Art Museum.