Abstract

China is an ancient civilization rapidly developing in a globalized post-modern context. The country now finds itself at a crossroads, with outside ideologies and forces of “Americanization” and “Westernization” competing against its cultural heritage and communist economic system to form a national design identity for contemporary China. This paper uses the rise of modern design in China, design examples from Hong Kong and Taiwan, the 2008 Beijing Olympics opening ceremony, and Victoria & Albert Museum’s China Design Now exhibit to investigate questions of national identity as they pertain to design. It argues that, with the whole world watching China’s rise as a global economic power, the real challenge facing Chinese designers is how they can create a “new” image of China to present to the rest of the world, particularly the West, if they don’t wish to be stereotyped by images from the ancient past. To discuss the potential impact of Western design and economic influences on the development of a contemporary national design identity, this paper first investigates the relationship between a designer’s ethnic background and creative work to search for a possible direction of development of a contemporary national design identity for China. It concludes that cultural factors do not play a key role in every design project undertaken by Chinese designers in the Greater China region, but rather that decision depends on the nature of the design job. However, the author recognizes the importance of studying the cultural artifacts of this great civilization, as well as the urgent need to establish design curricula with Chinese elements, in order to discover how to establish a modern international style with a contemporary Chinese touch – that is, its contemporary national design identity.

Keywords:

China, National Design Identity, Globalization, Design And Culture, Chinese Design, Asian Design

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Jul 7th, 12:00 AM

Designing Contemporary China: National Design Identity at the Crossroads

China is an ancient civilization rapidly developing in a globalized post-modern context. The country now finds itself at a crossroads, with outside ideologies and forces of “Americanization” and “Westernization” competing against its cultural heritage and communist economic system to form a national design identity for contemporary China. This paper uses the rise of modern design in China, design examples from Hong Kong and Taiwan, the 2008 Beijing Olympics opening ceremony, and Victoria & Albert Museum’s China Design Now exhibit to investigate questions of national identity as they pertain to design. It argues that, with the whole world watching China’s rise as a global economic power, the real challenge facing Chinese designers is how they can create a “new” image of China to present to the rest of the world, particularly the West, if they don’t wish to be stereotyped by images from the ancient past. To discuss the potential impact of Western design and economic influences on the development of a contemporary national design identity, this paper first investigates the relationship between a designer’s ethnic background and creative work to search for a possible direction of development of a contemporary national design identity for China. It concludes that cultural factors do not play a key role in every design project undertaken by Chinese designers in the Greater China region, but rather that decision depends on the nature of the design job. However, the author recognizes the importance of studying the cultural artifacts of this great civilization, as well as the urgent need to establish design curricula with Chinese elements, in order to discover how to establish a modern international style with a contemporary Chinese touch – that is, its contemporary national design identity.

 

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