Interview with Xiaofei Cui, Liu Wang, Qing Zhang, Bowen Qian, Art and Design School, Zhengzhou University of Light Industry

Winner of Kitchenware Design Awards

Award Winning Designer Xiaofei Cui, Liu Wang, Qing Zhang, Bowen Qian, Art and Design School, Zhengzhou University of Light Industry shares insights


Interview with Xiaofei Cui, Liu Wang, Qing Zhang, Bowen Qian, Art and Design School, Zhengzhou University of Light Industry at Sunday 23rd of October 2016:

DL: Could you please tell us a bit about your design background and education?
XA : I have over 22 years of experience in design and over 7 years in industrial design education. I worked as an exhibition designer and freelance designer from 1993 to 2003, I used to study in the UK for my master's degree, 4 years aboard study really broaden my view and also make me have the high levels of self-confidence in design, and then I worked as the art director for a jewellery design company. Since 2007 concurrently teaching product design part-time in design schools and universities in China. I have worked in education full-time from 2009 while maintaining my design practice up to now.

DL: What motivates you to design in general, why did you become a designer?
XA : I think the main reason is I love creating beautiful things when I was a child, especially like to drawing something in my fantasy world. It quickly became clear to me in high school that I love Chinese traditional painting and western oil painting. I don't know anything about design at that time actually, not just me, even in the whole society of China. Fortunately something happened in the late 80s of last century of my country. I got chance to study the product design in the local University, and also that is my first time understand the concept of design, and I really enjoy to create some different.

DL: Did you choose to become a designer, or you were forced to become one?
XA : I believe that choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.

DL: What do you design, what type of designs do you wish to design more of?
XA : My work across a range of design field, including graphic design, interior & spatial design, exhibition design, product design, advertising and interaction design. It is difficult to choose which one is my favorite, if have to choose, I prefer product design, because it is more closer to our daily life.

DL: What should young designers do to become a design legend like you?
XA : First of all, make sure you really love design and enjoy it. Secondly, you should have a wide range of knowledge and social responsibility. Thirdly, always concentrate in one direction that you really interested in. Finally, sometimes you should stop talking, but never stop practicing.

DL: What distinguishes between a good designer and a great designer?
XA : Good designer love design, great designer take design as faith.

DL: What makes a good design a really good design, how do you evaluate good design?
XA : Good design is innovative, Good design makes a product useful , Good design is aesthetic, Good design helps us to understand a product, Good design is unobtrusive, Good design is honest, Good design is durable, Good design is consequent to the last detail, Good design is concerned with the environment, Good design is as little design as possible, Good design doesn't over design, Good design should find the balance between form and function. in addition, keep asking yourself or someone else is this good enough? If they don’t say “Wow”, you know you have some work have to do.

DL: What is the value of good design? Why should everyone invest in good design?
XA : Good design is not just about the aesthetic improvement of our environment – it is as much about improved quality of life, equality of opportunity and economic growth. Good design can help anyone make your life much easier and environmentally friendly.

DL: What would you design and who would you design for if you had the time?
XA : I am planning to do some special design just for my daughter actually.

DL: What is the dream project you haven’t yet had time to realize?
XA : My dream is to design a luxury soft airship.

DL: What is your secret recipe of success in design, what is your secret ingredient?
XA : I don't think anyone have the secret recipe of success in design, if I have, just love life, love design, never give up and be a good man.

DL: Who are some other design masters and legends you get inspired from?
XA : One of the design masters who has influenced me the most is Sir Jonathan Ive, he is the chief design officer (CDO) of Apple Inc. we graduated from the same university, I think the most important thing he taught me is you have to make the real design model by your own hand, not just drawing.

DL: What are your favorite designs by other designers, why do you like them?
XA : Philippe Starck's Juicy Salif, I think it is not just a product, it is a work of art in the kitchen.

DL: What is your greatest design, which aspects of that design makes you think it is great?
XA : One of my design work I really like to talk about, I can't say that is greatest, actually it just a set of bowl. you know ancient Chinese use rice soup as the glue to make the highly effective paper armor, according to this production method the bowl made by rice and rice paper, light as if there is no weight when you hold it in hand, it would be a new way to reduce cost and carbon emissions.

DL: How could people improve themselves to be better designers, what did you do?
XA : Keep study and get the useful feedback from the real end-users.

DL: If you hadn’t become a designer, what would you have done?
XA : I think I will become a painter, a poet or a martial artist, because those are all my hobbies.

DL: How do you define design, what is design for you?
XA : Design is the ability of grasping all the details. I am a person who love life and pay attention to the little details of daily life, design is an integral part for me.

DL: Who helped you to reach these heights, who was your biggest supporter?
XA : There is no doubt that my family has given me the greatest support, I could not have reached these heights without them.

DL: What helped you to become a great designer?
XA : Observation, curious everything, take notice and make record of things others overlook. Desire to draw upon my observations and then improve the design standards, desire drives action, great designers desire great change. Understand context. Context is what enables us to make sense of things. Context includes details that allow us to decide if something is relevant. Unbound by rules, we should see rules as guidelines, freedom of thought is what many call creativity. Experience and solutions, rich experience can make you find out the best solutions to an existing problem.

DL: What were the obstacles you faced before becoming a design master?
XA : Eyereach, freedom of thinking and persistence.

DL: How do you think designers should present their work?
XA : Certainly, presentation is one part of your job, sometimes your design is good but the way someone tried selling it wasn’t, you will failed! The client simply went for something more convincing, tangible and believable, only you can give a proper explanation, not just walk away.

DL: What’s your next design project, what should we expect from you in future?
XA : My next design project is a set of marine life-saving equipment. Apologize I can't say too much details about that. I hope this project can revolutionize the existing facilities.

DL: What’s your ultimate goal as a designer?
XA : Create a personal brand, and maximize the value of social and marketing of designers.

DL: What people expect from an esteemed designer such as yourself?
XA : Sometimes the client himself doesn’t know what he wants but expects you to deliver a amazing project he needs. I usually just show the design process rather than the simple plausible results in a long term.

DL: How does design help create a better society?
XA : Obviously design play great role in shaping the society and that also not only from the view of environment but also from the aspects of lifestyle even mentality. Design is create some good things influences people, anything that influence people can make an impact on society.

DL: What are you currently working on that you are especially excited about?
XA : I am planning to the Edinburgh Napier University for 1year design research and teaching work, I haven't been to Britain for over 10 years ago, I got lots of memories from there, that's why I am so exciting.

DL: Which design projects gave you the most satisfaction, why?
XA : A set of transparent box for storage, because my personal design description for that is a design without design.

DL: What would you like to see changed in design industry in the coming years?
XA : For effective use of resources and product sustainability, establish an evaluation and monitoring mechanism in the global.

DL: Where do you think the design field is headed next?
XA : The combination of biology and artificial intelligence with design.

DL: How long does it take you to finalize a design project?
XA : Spend time based on the complexity of the actual project. Some commercial projects are usually not less than 6 months, and the non-commercial research cases will take more time.

DL: When you have a new design project, where do you start?
XA : Begin with a brief and schedule your design time. Remember, you can't do anything efficiently without a timetable.

DL: What is your life motto as a designer?
XA : Fight against the ugliness!

DL: Do you think design sets the trends or trends set the designs?
XA : It's difficult to answer because this question just like the chicken or the egg which came first?

DL: What is the role of technology when you design?
XA : Technology has a huge effect on today's design world, even in the traditional field. I am very concerned about the new technology, but still very careful to use them into design. Because we can see too many short-lived electronic products in the current market.

DL: What kind of design software and equipment do you use in your work?
XA : Photoshop, AI and Rhino.

DL: What is the role of the color, materials and ambient in design?
XA : I think ambient is the most important element influence our designs, followed by color and materials.

DL: What do you wish people to ask about your design?
XA : That's amazing! How did you make it? My answer is you can make it if you really love design.

DL: When you see a new great design or product what comes into your mind?
XA : Just say wow in my mind, Could I own this? Can I try it?

DL: Who is your ideal design partner? Do you believe in co-design?
XA : I think anyone can be my ideal design partner, in most cases , design is the collaborative innovation amongst different areas, so I believe in co-design.

DL: Which people you interacted had the most influence on your design?
XA : I can't say which, fortunately I am a lecturer, that allows me have lots of opportunities to interacting with my students, I should say thanks to them because the positive influences on both sides.

DL: Which books you read had the most effect on your design?
XA : Tao Te Ching, it is not a design book, That is an ancient Taoist classic.

DL: How did you develop your skills as a master designer?
XA : I like to read all kinds of books, not just in design. I believe that if you want to make a breakthrough improvements in some design field, you must have the knowledge out of that area. Especially after reaching a certain height of your design level, I think only philosophy can help you to develop your design skills.

DL: Irrelative of time and space, who you would want to meet, talk and discuss with?
XA : I just like thinking alone in a quiet private space.

DL: How do you feel about all the awards and recognition you had, is it hard to be famous?
XA : I think the awards just recognized for my professional level, but it does not represent all of my design capabilities.

DL: What is your favorite color, place, food, season, thing and brand?
XA : I don't have a favorite season, I love feeling of nature. I like white color, the meaning of the color white is purity, innocence, wholeness and completion. My favorite place is Newcastle, because I used to live there when I study in the UK, that is my second hometown in my mind.

DL: Please tell us a little memoir, a funny thing you had experienced as a designer?
XA : I used to create a urban planning model for a exhibition space when I was young, the model is really big and looks quite real, unfortunately I couldn't take it into the exhibition hall, because the gate is too small. Is it funny?

DL: What makes your day great as a designer, how do you motivate yourself?
XA : Keep in a good mood, and set a schedule to do the little piece of work every day. Remind yourself you can do it, even most of people said you can't do, in addition do not forget the fitness.

DL: When you were a little child, was it obvious that you would become a great designer?
XA : I like to drawing something when I was a child, I think that might be a sign.

DL: What do you think about future; what do you see will happen in thousand years from now?
XA : Design will always be accompanied by the development of human society, I believe that artificial intelligence and space travel will completely change our current lifestyle in the future.

DL: Please tell us anything you wish your fans to know about you, your design and anything else?
XA : I am not just a great designer, I want to be a great painter, a great poet, a great martial artist. Of course, if I have more spare time before I die.