We stumbled upon Gao Yiqiang late last year, and were intrigued by his playful furniture and product series. Here, we talk to him about his relationship to design, current projects and how scary aesthetics really are.
How do you view your relationship with design?
On a larger scale, I consider myself as an industrial designer where I have to take manufacture and cost into consideration. On a smaller scope, I am a product designer that is always experimenting and playing with new designs. Ultimately, good industrial and product design should inspire feelings in the user – memories and/or something that people identify and connect with. If a consumer echoes with a product, then this is successful design.
How do you feel about industrial design in China?
There is no soil for the industry to develop here because there is very little awareness across our society. Right now, China is mainly concerned with production, but there are no regulations or systems. This is changing now, but the process is slow. It all comes down to education in the end, but this is another problem: there are more than 600 creative institutions across China, but they are very basic or close-minded. Most curriculums are too theoretical and “teach” via design from abroad (rather than by method). This imposition of a Western aesthetic may not necessarily be the best way to teach our future generations.
Tell us about some of your projects.
I like to focus on the psychology behind a piece of design rather than aesthetics. Aesthetics are frightening! They are too subjective.
I have a few projects that focus on connectivity, for example, my Lego-like furniture. I’ve also looked into Ming-style chairs that integrate cityscapes into the backrest. I’ve made prototypes of these in plastic at the moment, but I am now looking at experimenting with wood. More recently, I developed a wardrobe inspired by the abacus, which separates clothes more easily. I am now thinking of colour coding the system. Cracking, on the other hand, is a furniture series that was inspired by cracked glaze on pottery.
My most recent project is a light that features pebbles. Moving the pebbles changes the intensity of the light. The stones are also translucent and reflect the light at different angles.
How did you develop an interest in connectivity as a concept?
Initially, I wanted to create multi-functional products. Creating products that connect and disconnect with one another is a way to accomplish this. Secondly, this method of producing small parts is low cost and can help small factories in China to grow. I want to be more practical this way.
What does the future hold?
I am working on an exhibition of my teacher’s works now, as well as focusing on what to sell in my store (which is located close to The Forbidden City). I am also working on apothecary-style furniture where each draw is labelled as an emotion — selling via emotion, in a sense. I have an exhibition of my own taking place in Dalian in late June and, finally, I am looking to develop more furniture.
Thanks to Lynn Zhang for translating.