Once again, design takes centre stage for Nicely Made in China’s weekly feature. Mr Li Zetian was born in 1977 in Hebei, the province which surrounds Beijing. He began his professional life as a graphic designer and went on to build one of the major product design companies in Foshan, Guangdong province, in Southern China.
Li Zetian, can you tell us a little of how you began your career?
Starting out as a graphic designer, I very quickly got interested in industrial design which led me, in 1992, to design a tower fan for Foshan Shanhu Electric Fan company. But my career really took off 3 years later when I started designing industrial products. In 1995 I started designing for a company making water fountains called Fangyi. At the time, Fangyi was being sued for copying Taiwanese products and their moulds had been confiscated. They asked me to redesign their moulds. One thing led to another and I ended up redesigning 10 products for them. All the products sold very well on the domestic market. Fangyi then realized the importance of design. From then on the company decided to work with me.
On the subject of copying, it is worth mentioning that during the reform period in China, most companies in the Pearl River Delta were copying other products, with no original design input. When the companies were taken to court, many turned to remodeling as a solution to avoid problems. It was this huge demand for remodeling designs that made me realize that I should have my own practice. I established Daye Design Group in 1999.
How do you like to work?
Usually, a graphic designer works very much alone, but industrial design is a lot more complicated and requires teamwork. There are many processes involved, such as structuring, making blueprints and building models.
What type of products do you like to design?
My personal taste is for simple but not simplistic, with an accent on environmentally friendly concepts. Nowadays, the products I prefer to design are sports products. The piece I am most proud of is the “surfing bike”, which is our own original design. We’re currently looking for a suitable company to produce it. It is very different from the commissioned design work we have done so far which ranges from home appliances to sports products.
Who are your clients and what is your relationship with them?
Nowadays we prefer to collaborate with big brands like Honda, Panasonic, Toshiba and Sanyo and General Electric. Midea, Haier, Gree, Kelon and Angel are our main clients on the Chinese market. We prefer designing for big companies because they see it as a form of investment, whereas smaller companies are more cost conscious. We like to develop in-depth cooperation with these clients. We are not just selling the blueprints but also participating in the whole process of design as well as brand building. It is a much more rewarding way to work.
What does the future hold in store for Daye Design?
Our goal is to own our own brand, controlling the whole process from design to production. As it happens, we are already making some efforts in this direction. We recently registered Morgan Electronic Technology Co. Ltd – this company will do product design as well as production.
Foshan City, Guangdong province