Designers must directly experience the market they wish to design for – Albert Chen

TCL is the biggest television brand in China, and globally ranks third largest. Currently, aside from expanding their market share in hardware, TCL established an Innovation Center last year, which is tasked with conducting customer surveys, managing the industrial design process, and understanding user experiences, amongst other areas. We talk with User Experience Center Director, Albert Chen, to uncover his views on design for the Chinese market.

Companies around the world are focusing on bringing more benefits to the user. This is a universal trend. For example, TCL aims, through a multi-brand strategy, to provide a wider variety benefits to consumers through customized service and design. A classic example is the TCL subsidiary Lehua, which focuses on third and fourth tier markets in China, and its other subsidiary, Thomson, which focuses on the international market. While both brands offer screens with narrow bezels, the international brand, Thomson, has a logo that significantly differs from that of the domestic brand. International users care more about the quality of the hardware and the unobtrusiveness of the set. The brand and the display of that brand is very important to Chinese consumers, which is why TCL make adjustments across different target markets.

The world is increasingly interested in the Chinese market, and that interest is mainly driven by the potential scope of the market. The rapid development and impressive accomplishments of the Chinese market in the past decade is proof that this is a promising market that has the opportunity and ability to prosper. The consumer habits of this market are yet to properly form, and Chinese consumers are open-minded–they are willing to accept new ideas and products–and have a wide variety of needs that need to be fulfilled.

Due to many years of OEM experience in China, Chinese designers are better able to understand the feasibility of a design. When it comes to branding, Chinese designers also have a better grasp of ideological manipulation. However, we have to realize that during this period of rapid growth, regional successes cannot be duplicated in a design for the global market. Different consumer habits mean that designers must broaden their vision and understand that each market is unique. Just because a design company has won a regional award, it does not mean they are able to design well for consumers of a different market.

A design suitable for the Chinese market has to come from China. A designer that understands the Chinese market cannot obtain that understanding by simply visiting China a few times. Designers must directly experience the how the market that they aim to design for operates in order to fully understand the needs of the user.

About Albert Chen

Albert Chen, User Experience Center Director for TCL, has worked in Taiwan, China, and overseas. He studied industrial design, and has worked at Acer, Liteon, and Nova Design. The work of the teams he has led has garnered a total of 12 international acclaimed awards from leading international award organisations including iF, Red Dot, G-Mark, and IDEA.

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