Starting in 2009, Ian Yen joined most Taiwanese designers in gradually shifting his company’s focus to mainland China. Yen, who has worked in both Taiwan and China for many years, is well qualified to speak on the reasons behind this shift in strategy. “If you ask me for my takeaway on running design firms in Taiwan and in China, I think the most important thing is that the market determines the direction of our business,” he states with confidence.
After many years teaching in notable universities in Taiwan, including Shih-chien University and the Taipei University of Technology, Yen started his own design firm, Y x R Design, with branches in both Taiwan and China. Over many years in business, Y x R Design has accomplished a lot, and subsequently been honored with numerous major international awards. Due to his extensive experience, Yen has his own take on the relationship between contemporary huaren design and the huaren (Chinese-speaking) market.
“In addition to countless homegrown design firms springing up in tier-one cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen, China’s design industry is also enriched by the many renowned global design firms that have established offices in China. In such a broad and open market, not only can the design industry flourish, competition is also extremely fierce. This kind of positive competition is an excellent catalyst for the development of contemporary huaren design,” says Yen.
Market differences between Taiwan and China have led to differences in how the design industry on the two sides have developed, as Yen explains from the perspective of both users and firms. “Designers and design firms need the stimulation of a good market. For designers in Taiwan, competition is just as fierce as in China, but unfortunately, due to the limitations of the market, most Taiwanese companies are not able to produce distinct design,” he explains.
“When people think of all designs as the same, then the only market advantage design firms can hope to obtain is through price competition,” Yen continues. “Most Chinese companies value design because of positive market feedback. Thanks to enormous market demand, companies are gradually realizing that good design can drive the sale of their products. For designers and design firms, the profits from the high volume of production and sales means that they can charge higher fees. This positive market cycle has resulted in a flourishing design industry.”
Ian Yen is confident that contemporary huaren design is influencing the consumer market. “It’s undeniable that, for younger huaren consumers, the rapid iteration of products is nothing new,” he notes. “Younger consumers need innovation, so for huaren designers, design firms, and even companies, each new iteration of a product must be better than the last. With this goal in mind, the quality of huaren design is growing every year.” Yen believes that each experience he has of designing for the huaren market contributes to the growth of himself and his company, and that the current market continuously pushes designers forward.
Yen says that only a broad, open, and competitive market can force companies to recognize the importance of design and consumers to value the concept of branding. These developments will raise the standards across the market, in turn creating more opportunities for huaren designers in the future.
About Ian Yen
Ian Yen is the director of Y x R Design and a part-time lecturer at Shih-chien University and the National Taipei University of Technology in Taiwan. He has participated in Milan Design Week and Tokyo Design Week, and been honored in major design competitions such as the international iF and Red Dot design awards. He is one of the few Taiwanese industrial designers with training in architecture. His unique background and ensures him a perspective that is different from that of most designers, and pushes him to develop new ideas around design and entrepreneurship.