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DESIGNED BY A LATINO, MADE IN CHINA

DESIGNED BY A LATINO, MADE IN CHINA

William Naranjo      / June 2019

 

Orange creatives team, 2019 

I came to China for an internship, with my bag full of ideas and dreams and with a very vague concept of this country, nothing much more than some videos of thousands of people riding bikes to go to work or buildings that were finished in a week. Well, the story was a bit more interesting after all, China is just so difficult to describe that I decided to divide my story into some chapters that, hopefully, will explain my point of view on why being a designer in China is a life worthy experience.

 

First, Let Me Introduce Myself

 

My name is William Naranjo, I'm a product designer from Colombia, currently living in Guangzhou, China, the trading capital of the world. I'm 23 and my story with design starts in my town, I'm from a small town in the middle of the Andes in Colombia, I always loved how people in my town was resourceful and use the local offer to make life easier, in Colombia we live simple, with fewer products but always enjoying what we have. Something that really inspired me was how design can really improve things in every space that we can imagine, from spaceships to jewelry a curious designer can help to make it better. My decision to move to China wasn't crazy, every time I checked a product, I read " made in China" and as a product designer that always opened hundreds of questions about all the things happening behind, I never stopped to think about the country, the culture or the language, I just wanted to see how everything was happening that fast over there. I've been living here for two years already, now with thousands of new questions and learning every day about how products are created. I'm working for a Dutch design studio innovating home appliances and tech accessories for companies all over the world.

 

There Is No Time For Hesitation

Sample of my first design in production. Bluetooth receiver designed for EC technology

Especially here in the south, where the technologic products are the main industry, things are moving really fast.

For Chinese standards, there’s no time for repetition, you think it and you solve it on the way. The rhythm of production is so fast that the cities build roads before they’re needed, bridges cross oceans to reduce the delivery time to just a couple of minutes and, just like that, things, people and ideas travel by trains at hundreds of km/h.

For me, as a Latino, that was a big shock; during my first months here as an intern I was already designing products for a brand and, after eight months, I was developing 5 more. We started selling our first product in more than 30 countries!. I wasn’t even sure that one day I would be able to design for mass production, well, in China, there’s no time for doubts or hesitation, as soon as the first sketches and ideas get concrete,  we start discussions with factories to find the most efficient way to produce it.

 

Smells Like Development

Some Chinese cities are massive land extensions with thousands of years of history, like Guangzhou; some others, are ambitious plans just some decades old since someone put the first rock in place, like Shenzhen, the city where I lived until last July 2018. Shenzhen is one of those crazy and ambitious Chinese projects… a city that grew it’s population from a couple thousand to 20 million people in just 40 years, a city with way too many changes in an insanely short period of time. That progressive environment is actually what made me feel more interested in this place, you really can feel everything moving forward in every part of this place; the people, the food, the industry and of course in the infrastructure.

Every business in china is closed with a dinner around a big table. Here visiting partnerships in shanghai and a team lunch time in Zhangjiajie, Hunan

Here in Shenzhen is where most of the hardware developers set, groups of engineers, designers, and business executives gather to decide how to release the new technology, device, app or platform to take the market. Here is where those ideas from Silicon Valley end up in a real project, linked to a supplier who can materialize it.

 

Designed by A Latino, Made in China.

Last time I met a senior finance expert, he was really curious about why a designer from Latin America can be making products in China. He made me wonder what we, as Latinos, have to offer to the production industry. Sometimes looks like the responsibilities in the world have already been shared and Latin America was not taken into account. Chinese are experts on taking the ideas to production, Europeans have the design soul and taste, or Americans have the vision of the project. Well, for me as Latino has been more about learning than teaching but I would say that Latinos, we have the “opportunity detector”, that skill to find the way to solve it, no matter what. This soft skill usually is what makes teams keep an optimistic environment to cooperate and front challenges.

Product developers come here from every part of the world, sharing their expertise and personal views on how a product should be, mine, very influenced by my small town; where the people wear clothes made with wool and still make ceramics by hand. I still believe that our role in the industry has a huge impact on society, we're the ones who can be shipping bags to the ocean or make a risky product for kids. Far from the perception that design is a creative field, I believe it is a merge of disciplines that shape voices into things. What can represent more responsibility than being a creator?

 
 
Collaborating in the assembly line of a product. We as designers tell workers how the product was meant to be assembled

 

Behance https://www.behance.net/WilliamJNaranjo
Website http://www.williamnaranjo.com/
Instagram https://www.instagram.com/willdo.it/

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