A new generation of designers are creating quite a stir in China. These independent creators are openly challenging the ‘made in China’ tag by introducing work that challenges old traditions, represents a more contemporary China and is in many cases avant-garde. Together their creativity is helping form a new vernacular for modern Chinese design.
Thanks to Bundshop, a platform for presenting a new generation of Chinese designers, we are publishing a series of interviews with some of the key practitioners there. Here we meet Eva Zhou, co-founder of the young Taiwanese brand Superise.
Design Talks. What inspired you to become a designer?
Eva Zhou. Art has been a constant part of my life and the seed of design was first planted in me whilst growing up, but the ultimate path to what I am doing now wasn’t a linear one. I had to learn what I didn’t like before I learned what I was most passionate about.
I started out my career in interior design, but I found it hard to express myself thoroughly because the ultimate goal of the profession is to serve clients. My ability to design often got pushed onto the wrong direction due to their varying tastes. Consequently, this became a serious block for the development of my abilities and individual expression, and after only a year of exhausting interior design, I knew I couldn’t do it anymore.
DT. How did you then come to create your own company?
EZ. Serendipitously. I met the manager of a furniture company who inspired me to take the path of being a product designer. Soon with my partner Jerry we created Superise. We looked around and saw how fast China was growing in terms of economy and urbanisation. However, we felt the Chinese are ignoring other parts of their spiritual and personal growth. They live a routine life in the city: they rush from home to work, from appointment to appointment, and have such full schedules but empty lives. Too busy, they have forgotten the little joys of life.
DT. Why did you design small products that contain elements of nature?
EZ. Superise hopes to convey a slow and peaceful lifestyle – the natural elements in design are there to neutralise the urban life. We therefore focus on designing small, elegant gifts that decorate one’s life with surprise. Just like our slogan ‘discover surprises in life’ we seek to bring small moments of respite to our customers. We love to meticulously discover the details and beauty in life, and transforming those discoveries into designs. Ordinary and banal objects in life – such as vases, pencils, and clocks – are reinvented with an element of surprise.
DT. Can you talk us through the ethos behind your current collection Spring?
EZ. Spring has been the first full collection of products inspired by this rationale. We hoped to invite the plants that are supposed to be in vases and outside of our houses into our homes and into our lives.
Vases aren’t supposed to be the only way to exhibit and look after these plants; they should be ubiquitous in our homes and decorate our living spaces with their natural beauty. Through our unique clocks, pencil holders, sticky note, nature and plants can successfully combine into our lives. Greenery no longer has to be outside but stay in our lives and inspire us to appreciate nature.
We also hope to convey the idea that design must be understood by everyone through our small, everyday life designs. We believe that a good design should be used by the mass public and by designing products that are inexpensive and small, we can integrate design into the lives of normal people.
DT. How do you define Chinese Design?
EZ. Design in the east and west is drastically different, and therefore many Chinese designers are trying to combine elements of both cultures into their designs. They are trying to present products that can be accepted by the West but still maintain a Chinese aesthetic.
However, we are less concerned with that aspect of fusion, and more interested in a deeper understanding of how design interacts with the consumer. The things we design, and the purpose of our design is not to simply sell a product, but to improve the lives of those that interact with the design. We, for instance, can bring a smile into the banal day of an overworked professional in a big city, consider each bird necklace and leaf notepad, a success.
DT. What does Chinese design mean to you?
EZ. We may not be able to define ‘Chinese design’ at this stage, because it is so nascent and it is going in so many directions, but to us it means being able to incorporate two very different phenomena – city life and nature. As China moves forward, and industrialises even further, it will be the duty of good design to continuously bring people back to their roots, back to nature, and back to peace. In the next couple of years, Chinese design will rely very heavily on branding to survive the globalisation that happening, which is why we are designers with a story.
DT. Do you see a unique Chinese aesthetic forming?
EZ. Those stories will come in many forms, and many voices. It will take some time before there is a unique Chinese aesthetic, but this is the way the evolution of design must happen. We hope that more people will appreciate the wide spectrum of what Chinese design means. We’re excited to be part of this movement, rather than an individual company moving forward.
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