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Product design in China and their challenges
Product Design / August 29th, 2016 9:26 pm     A+ | a-

Product design in China
and their challenges

Product design brainstorm session

With China being the world's largest manufacturer it is nothing but the most logical choice for a product designer to be located in the center of it all, Shanghai.

In this article we will discuss what type of challenges a product designer located in China faces.
Obviously being located in Shanghai brings a lot of benefits to the table, besides having access to all the resources that a big city has to offer, you will also be close to the manufacturers.

Where usually products were only manufactured in China and designed abroad is this changing heavily. China has been investing more and more in R&D and it doesn’t look like they will stop doing so. It all seems promising for designers located in China, but there are still challenges to overcome.

Design lost in the language barrier

Designers from Europe or the US that are located in China will eventually face a language barrier. Even though Chinese is the most spoken language in the world, people still expect English to be the main language when doing business or any level of international communication. Communication is a crucial part in design, when a client comes to you with an idea it is up to the designer to create a concept/design that can make the idea a reality.

Contact Design2Gather now for a free consultation around your idea/concept!

Know what the client wants and don't assume you know before you are absolutely sure. As a designer your work will speak for you, but good preparation and frequent communication with your client will save you a lot of unnecessary work.


China is enormous, travelling with the metro in Shanghai from one place to another can already cost you more than an hour and you will still be in the same city. This is not necessarily a problem since as a designer you will mostly be working from one place. However when you are entering a product development stage and you are looking to create samples or even produce on a larger scale, you will have to visit factories. Visiting factories usually takes places during the product creation process.

These factories will often be located outside of the city so you will have to invest time to travel to them. Luckily in China there is a high-speed rail that can take you to almost anywhere within China, it’s extremely fast and also relatively cheap. China now has 19,000 kilometers of high-speed railways but is aiming to build 30.000 kilometers of high-speed railways by 2020.
Communicate frequently with all parties involved and calculate travelling time into your schedule.

Having a good relationship with the manufacturer is important to ensure that all your requirements are met. It will cost a great amount of time in order to create such a relationship. At Design2Gather we have frequent contact with the manufactures and make sure to visit the factories often to ensure quality. If you are going to work directly with a manufacturer yourself then you make sure you lay out all the things you want to get done and communicate this to all the parties involved. This way you can focus more on your core business as being a product designer.

Finding a suitable business partner

If you are a product designer and looking to start your own business in China, then there are a few things to keep in mind. One of those things is finding a Chinese business partner.

One might say that this is not a problem and that might be true, but the trick is finding a business partner that suits you as a product designer. The most efficient approach is by contacting an institution that can help you find a suitable business partner. Such institutions are often foreign institutions and representatives that are there to assist businesses and individuals from their country.

An example is 'The U.S. Commercial Service China', they focus on the interests of American businesses that are trying to do business in China. A good first step is to check with your embassy or consulate and find out what they can do for you. Obviously this is just one way of finding a suitable business partner, but another way is using your connections or as the Chinese would say ‘Guanxi’.By using your connections you might be able to find someone that is willing to go the extra mile and wants not only the best for themselves but also for you. It is an important option to keep in mind.


Doing design in any form or shape is a creative process, this means you will need resources to feed your creativity. Finding those resources abroad can come easy to some people as they will throw themselves into a country with a totally different culture and language. But some things we might take for granted are easily missed when going abroad.

Nonetheless, when in China you might not have access to online resources such as Google you will have access to some other great resources. Remember all those factories that are located in China, well as a product designer you will find out that in China you can buy a lot of products.

Through the online marketplace ‘Taobao’ you are able to order almost anything and this way conduct research on products related to your project. Not only will you have access to a big catalog of products, you will also be able to get in direct contact with the vendors if you have questions. An obvious problem that could arise is communication, this is obviously once again done in Mandarin. Having a friend or business partner could greatly help you in solving some communication issues.

All in all is the word experience a good way to sum it up. If you as person, as a product designer, take on a new challenge by operating out of a new country with new difficulties to overcome, you shall gain a lot of experience.

Hopefully this article has given you some new insight, if you are looking for more information or if you have any further question then please do not hesitate to contact us through our website or social media.

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