US to China, design to manufacturing
From an O’Reilly Radar interview with Chumby founder Andrew “bunnie” Huang:
The way it works is a lot of these large [U.S.] brands have almost no engineers on the inside… office consists of some product managers and maybe a couple of product engineers. And what they do is they just write kind of a Word document that’s 10 pages long.
They ship it off to China to a factory. And the factory actually does all of the work of taking that sort of sketch and that Word document and turning it into a real product, right? And they’re really good at doing that. And they’re very fast. And they’re very efficient at it.
So the thing that sort of the Chinese lack is sort of like market vision. If you ever see a product made by a local Chinese entrepreneur, they’re often times these very nichey sort of almost quirky strange products. You get this kind of Chinglish thing going on where I could see where this could be useful, but it’s just not the right product. So what really is lacking and the reason why China’s sort of viewed as not innovative is they sort of lack the understanding of the American market. And I think they are a little heads down in terms of taking risks in terms of dramatic product design.
…But they actually do — like a surprisingly large amount of design for very little money.
See the full interview. (Photo from bunnie’s blog.)
3 comments on “US to China, design to manufacturing”
I totally agree with this assessment. There are certainly a lot of creative people in China. But they usually aren’t found in the business world. You have people working in production who are incredible business people, but they’re not designers. The number one mistake here is entrepreneurs thinking, “anyone can do marketing,” or “I’ll just get my cousin to do graphic design.” Creative professionals just aren’t seen as a necessary resource, and the incentive to become a design student is also slim unfortunately.
So where do you think the creative people end up? I’d have thought business actually, just because the incentive is the greatest there, even though it also attracts the less creative as well.
My opinion is that there are lots of brilliant, creative people in China. But what there is a shortage of is (a) market understanding of Western markets, and (b) integrative skills to bridge technology to the marketplace. This often requires many different functions and perspectives to come together. I think there is an opportunity to bring Western skills at integrating teams together to China and that is what returnees and foreigners can provide, to complement the excellence that you can find many different all functions, especially technical ones, in China.