Interview with Cangshan

Winner of Kitchenware Design Awards

Award Winning Designer Cangshan shares insights


Interview with Cangshan at Tuesday 25th of October 2016:

DL: Could you please tell us a bit about your design background and education?
CC : At Cangshan our team is purposefully diverse with many members coming from non-traditional design backgrounds, some with educations in engineering, business management and communications. A common thread of passion for design emerged within our organization which has facilitated building an environment where members are valued for their tangible skills and contributions to the end product and not necessarily on their job titles or previous work experiences. Currently our design team is split between China and America with 9 industrial designers working on location at our factory in China and the rest of our team working in our offices in America.

DL: What motivates you to design in general, why did you become a designer?
CC : Our passion is to create beautiful function. This drives us to constantly identify opportunities to push, improve and innovate our current products and processes. Our whole team loves being able to create and share value by utilizing and coordinating our varied skills.

DL: What do you design, what type of designs do you wish to design more of?
CC : We design everything we can, from our knives, to our eCommerce website to our credit application forms, we just love to design. Everyone at Cangshan tries to make sure nothing is throw away, nothing is a place holder, if we can design a product or process to be more efficient and effective than that becomes our goal.

DL: What should young designers do to become a design legend like you?
CC : We wholeheartedly believe in pursing passion. One of the best places for a young designer to start is to drill down into the things that get you excited, to see how and if they connect to your values. Conversations with peers and mentors, personal reflection and experimentation are great places to start engaging these questions. This dialogue can be used as a tool that allows a person to focus their efforts, to begin to understand, identify and utilize their own unique voice within design. Then follow talk with action, knowing what you are about is equally important as doing what you are about. Following passion helps build momentum as the excitement, enjoyment and fulfillment a person experiences pursing their passions helps to push them through the difficult and scary parts of learning and doing something new.

DL: What distinguishes between a good designer and a great designer?
CC : Ego. Everything comes down to ego, good and bad. Ego can be the driving force that pushes a designer to go beyond and make something they believe in despite obstacles in their way or it can lead a designer to push their own agenda to the detriment of their goals. Ego must be balanced against values that reflect the passion and vision of the designer.

DL: What makes a good design a really good design, how do you evaluate good design?
CC : Our main metric for great design is our tagline, Beautiful Function, that wonderful, relevant balance point between forward thinking aesthetics and practical functionality. Balance is the key to great design. Going beyond pure function or aesthetics to find a place where a design becomes the best of both worlds. A great design pushes towards new while still answering today’s questions. It is not just one thing, it is many things done exceptionally well and balanced with one another.

DL: What is the value of good design? Why should everyone invest in good design?
CC : Good design is about adding value through improvement and innovation. At the heart of good design is an antagonism to the status quo, to allowing things to stay the same. The drive of good design is always forward, it is the belief in and pursuit of something greater and we believe valuable advancement is found by pursuing and bringing life to this desire.

DL: What is your secret recipe of success in design, what is your secret ingredient?
CC : Focus on the details way too much. Sweat those tiny meaningless details that only seem to matter to you, because maybe they do only matter to you and maybe they are as important as you think. Our team is given a lot of freedom to pursue their own solutions, ideas and interests. They are given the opportunity to do new things and provided the space to fail or succeed, to prove value. If it matters to you find out why, then prove that it does matter or accept when it is time to move on.

DL: How could people improve themselves to be better designers, what did you do?
CC : Honesty and dialogue are two of the most important factors to improving as a designer. The ability to listen, to change and to push past failures and successes comes from the ability to honestly assess yourself and others. Being able to identify what works and what does not is the key to healthy, positive growth. We believe this is best utilized through dialogue. Honest conversation with oneself and others can allow people to get beyond their ego and assumptions and to work on the skills and goals that will lead to improvement.

DL: How do you define design, what is design for you?
CC : Design is the intentional and constant process of identifying opportunities for innovation and evolution through various forms of back and forth dialogue between maker and user that leads to tangibly valuable iteration.

DL: What’s your next design project, what should we expect from you in future?
CC : We tend to have eyes that are much bigger than our stomachs. Our future projects always seem to outnumber our current ones. Currently we have a handful more knife designs to bring to the market in 2017 in addition to extensive additions to our knife accessories product lines. There are just so many beautiful, functional products we are itching to bring to market, but we are especially excited about our line of Japanese-made sushi and fish knives.

DL: What’s your ultimate goal as a designer?
CC : Our goal is always to add value. If we see the opportunity to truly create and share value we will pour our everything we have into making that value a reality.

DL: When you have a new design project, where do you start?
CC : Mockups and conversations. We love conversations at Cangshan and we talk to everyone. Our families, our warehouse workers and accountants, our friends, everyone’s thoughts and ideas are listened too and engaged. Graphic mockups and 3D printed samples go a long way in helping us see our ideas in the real world. The conversation becomes less subjective when we have a physical representation of our ideas.

DL: What is your life motto as a designer?
CC : Beautiful Function.

DL: Who is your ideal design partner? Do you believe in co-design?
CC : We at Cangshan are huge believers in co-design. There are no heroes, we are all contributing our values and skills to the end product. Everyone on the team has the potential to be significantly involved in the design process, from ideas to iteration it is a team effort. This team dynamic brings together new combinations and perspectives that we find invaluable in our pursuit of excellence in design.

DL: Please tell us anything you wish your fans to know about you, your design and anything else?
CC : Everyone at Cangshan is incredibly excited to finally start getting direct feedback from end users regarding our knives. We have spent 3 years designing, prototyping, manufacturing and selling our knives and things are finally getting traction, users are engaging our products and this is foundational to our design process. The positive reactions from design communities to professional chefs is humbling and fuels our passion to be the best.