Project VTECH: Presenting Tommorow

So the fun is over and we've got to focus in order finalize/practice our presentations which take place tomorrow at VTech HQ. We are all excited to present our work but nerves can never be avoided. I know everyone will do a great job and I am ready to hear the feedback from Dave Waterman of VTech.

The past week in Hong Kong has been intense and fun. Touring design studious including Gold Peak, Kids ii, TTI, Hong Kong Polytechnic, Rubbermaid, and Tommi Le (awesome branding consultancy/designer) have all yielded different insights both culturally and professionally. Through my experiences as an intern with TTI I have gained some knowledge of the inner workings of the companies we have met with. Meeting with different department heads outside of design such as shipping and supply chain management has really opened my eyes to other aspects of the design process. For instance O.P.P, M.P.P, O.E.M are terms which are now ingrained in our vocabularies. There are a few highlights I'd like to share from each company tour/meeting.

Gold Peak - Meeting Simmon Davies. Listening to him present the story of a few of his favorite projects including the 9707 speaker system (can't find on google, only 10 made at 100,000 a piece!) and his collaboration with Ross Lovegrove on the KEF MUON Speakers (again a low volume production 100) which where superformed!. One of the big surprises was that the outside of the large somewhat run down 50 story building did, in no way, match the clean modern professional environment of the interior... In fact, a lot of the companies operated in the same fashion, particularly, those outside of central Hong Kong.

Kids ii - I worked with Kids ii in a sponsored project last quarter. During the kickoff week of that project we traveled to the kids ii Atlanta design studio and met Steve Burns, VP of Product Development, who introduced us to the project. He happened to be here to show us around their beautiful (and identically styled) Hong Kong studious. It was educational to hear him speak about the larger market and corporate decisions which governed the company but also how much they valued design as a company.

TTI - We met Leon with CCA, which is the design team for the larger global company of TTI. I interned with design team in CCI which is the American office in Anderson, SC. I had worked with a few designers at CCA while interning so it was great to see what the environment across the pond CCA... which reminded me a lot of CCI, power tools and prototypes everywhere! A little less transformers and a bit more gundum a the desk. :-P. It was also exciting to see a fully painted appearance prototype sitting on a desk which I had created but never saw made because I had left to go back to school.

HKPU- The first and only design school I've visited outside the U.S was definitely an experience. Our tour was lead by Remi LeClerc a professor at the school and professional toy designer (He went to school with professor Fossick and randomly met some years later in Hong Kong.) Remi led us through the work spaces and "research labs" of HKPU. There was a wide range of work from transportation, toy and even a project similar to Dreyfus which focused on "sizing china". We saw their studio space, workshops ( I really liked the desktop CNC machines!) and computer labs. Remi was a very entertaining host and teased a few of us "southerns" with his southern accent which when mixed with french sounded a bit like... well I can't really tell what it was ;-) but it made us all laugh.

Rubbermaid - We met with Peter Zou who is the sourcing director of the Asia Operations for the Home and Family products. He gave us a run down of the corporate structure, a detailed walk through of one project (design-manufacturing), special aspects of a few projects he has worked on, and answered a lot of questions we had. Mr. Zou was a very pleasant guy and was kind enough to take us out to lunch... AND MAN WHAT LUNCH IT WAS! He treated us to the buffet at the Pacific Club which is located on the water right across from the star ferry dock in the mall. The food was 5 stars and the patio location overlooking Hong Kong harbor was PERFECT. I tried raw octopus, oyster and skewered duck just to name a few and all of them delicious... Cut to the chase, one of the best meals of my life. Thank you Mr. Zou!

Tommi LI - And to cap things off Tommi Le Design Studio! Wow, talk about refreshing! The energy and enthusiasm Tommi had about his work was amazing. The work of his company was also amazing, over 500 awards and millions of dollars in profit as a result of his work are a testament to it. Tommi arrived with a big thermos of tea and iced coffee. After making sure we were all comfy, he delved into his work. Though it wasn't industrial design related (corporate branding and graphic design) many themes can still be applied to our practice. Such as proving your concepts to a client through user research, business practices and general design aesthetics. One of the many very interesting points he made was that the clients sometimes consider designers "prostitutes" because they do what they are told and as a result nothing of value is produced so the client has no respect for them. The way Tommi counters this is by a non-comprising attitude or being the "hero" (sometimes at the cost of a paycheck or two) that ensures what he knows is right is being produced. His high quality prototypes were a clear representation of that spirit.

A recurring theme or mindset I've seen here is a keen eye toward the business world and Tommi was no exception. One thing you forget in school is that at the end of the day this is all about making money for your client or shareholders. But at the core of all this is making your end-users happy and everyone we've met mentioned this as their guiding principle. So I guess if you consider design as the voice of the end-user then it is highly valued in the business world.

p.s- I don't think everyone in the group has entirely recovered from jet lag because we all seem to disappear as soon as we get back to the hotel which is generally around 6 or 7. I know I've slept for 12 hours the passed two nights.

Also, my 100th post is next... I hope it is good.