Smarter 'All' : design and design research at the people centric era for China

Chin Hong Leong, B.Y.H. Lee

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic research


The world is undergoing unprecedented changes which have been stimulated by three notable forces today — The foreseeable needs of the 5.5 billion up-rising consumers within the emerging economies in Asia, Southeast Asia, Latin America, etc.; the dragging economy after the outbreak of the 2008 economic crisis, and the hyper connected world (nearly one-third of the group population are connected). The intertwinement of these three forces has aspired probable economic opportunity worldwide, yet implies also enormous load on environmental resources, economic uncertainty and unrestrained flow of human capital (e.g. Internet has intensified the practice of manpower/ service outsourcing from China, India and Eastern Europe among the developed West.).||As a result, the world is confronting mounting anxiety of resource scarcity (e.g. oil, water, food, etc.), creeping trade-protectionism and socio-economic instability (e.g. job security and social inequity). These challenges have given rise to an alternative concept of development – the ‘social economy’ – an urge for fairer share of resources and creative use of social capitals in Europe and the States, where by the once prevailing CONSUMER- driven, mere ‘for-profit’ practice of business is now shifting towards a more ‘for-benefit’ and PEOPLE-centric model of entrepreneurship.||While people centric thinking is taking hold in the developed West, coincidentally, ‘people empowerment’ and ‘social harmony’ have become two key signposts of the next phase of China’s development (stated in its 12th Five Year Plan [2010-2015]). Since the developing China has reached the ‘bottle neck’ of its material-intensive economy, it has to climb up the economic ladder, whilst anticipating its social and ecological dilemma that the decades of unflagging growth had created.||Found on the contexts above, this paper will first delineate how the emerging people centric thinking is going to shape the industries and hence design practices in general with some supportive examples. Then, the argument of why an embracive but specific People understanding of the rapid developing China should be acquired, hence related design research approach should be developed. Lastly, supportive design or design research cases will be presented to elaborate further the relevance of such design and research practices for a ‘smarter’ transformation of China, and perhaps other Asian economies alike.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12-43
Number of pages32
JournalAsia design journal
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2011


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