Product Design, Research
My summer of 2018 was spent interning at S.POINT design firm in Shanghai, China. A member of Cordence Worldwide, a global management consulting partnership, S.POINT is a product innovation company with over 20 years of experience. Their projects have won a number of honors including Red Dot Awards and iF China Awards.
My mentor, a senior product designer, and the majority of professionals working with me were international. They came from different countries — Indonesia, India, France, Italy — with different backgrounds — industrial design, graphic design, marketing, business. From them, I gained new perspectives on potential career paths/concentrations and observed various approaches to design process and problem solving.
Project numero uno
My work during the summer was for paying clients or is confidential for S.POINT, so I am not allowed to post any of my design process or product renderings.
I was first put on a consulting project and designed fitness machines for a Chinese company. I worked alongside my mentor and a few other designers to come up with designs for a new line of machines based on parameters of the existing models (materials, dimensions, brand image).
We worked as a small team, individually sketching out concepts and consulting each other until we narrowed down to three designs. One of my designs was chosen for the final three. From there, we rendered out the designs and formatted them in a formal presentation that we then presented to the client.
The next task
My next project was to help the firm design a product for their own brand. I took part in the beginning stages of product development and was tasked with researching potential design opportunities. I benchmarked existing products and conducted interviews with target audience members to find if/where there were opportunities for the company to offer their own products.
I also had the opportunity to assist in a product photoshoot. I helped set up and model for one of the firm’s product releases. I was able to watch and listen to the corrections and guidance of the photographer and designer; one side working to make an attractive image and the other working to highlight the product features.
Working abroad was an insightful experience. The education and backgrounds of various international designers afforded them unique design choices and focuses. Some designed more for practicality or portability, some for manufacturing, and some for visuals.
I also had exposure to the styles and branding of Asian customers/clients. In the US, I had experience working with a variety of brand images and aesthetics, but they all fell under a similar hierarchy of style. However, in China, the styles were different. What was considered attractive and trendy in the US wasn’t always the same abroad. I found that Chinese aesthetics valued light, modern, and active visuals.
Working in a local design firm also meant having more direct access to manufacturing. From my experience in US internships, the process of choosing materials/finishes and finalizing the production of products was stretched out due to long distance communication. However, with China being a huge production and manufacturing center, designers easily took day trips to visit manufacturers in person and came back with handfuls of finish and material samples. This stage of product development and creation was much quicker and immersive.
From my experience abroad, I learned both about culture and design, but most importantly about how the culture informed and affected the design.