At the Product Design Salon on May 19th, industry experts from both domestic and international sectors gathered together to explore the latest trends and innovative practices in product design. The spacious and bright venue created a creative and inspiring atmosphere. The event focused on discussing how to address challenges encountered in product development and how to balance emotional and rational factors in the decision-making process.
COO & Prof. of Industrial Design, DIIS
As designers, how did you manage customer expectations with the company requirements？
/李宁宁 Ning Li/
Founder & ED, Vistrat Design Consulting
Former Sr Dir of Industrial Design, Xiaomi Ecosystem
The true starting point is always the end user.
Xiaomi's platform is unique in a way that I have significant authority to deeply participate in design input. We rely more on immersive thinking, considering how I, as well as the design team and developers, would use the product as users. Our true starting point is always the end-user. The products I work on encompass a wide range of everyday essentials that I and people around me use. Instead of hiring a research company for user surveys, we take a different approach. We ask questions like, "What needs from previous products have been met?" "What challenges or hazards do I encounter when using similar products?" "What unmet needs do I have?" I immerse myself in mentally simulating or prototyping the final usage process. Therefore, in summarizing my 11 years of work at Xiaomi, I prioritize meeting the needs of end-users rather than solely focusing on fulfilling company requirements for KPIs.
/张莹 Michelle Zhang/
GM of Haier (Shanghai) R&D Center
Try to understand the consumption habits and patterns from different regions and user groups.
I would like to discuss our understanding of the challenges that Haier's designers may encounter from other perspectives.
The first challenge is the issue of design complexity. The industrial design industry, both domestically and abroad, generally faces the lack of systematic thinking. Designers usually focus solely on individual product design, overlooking the application scenarios of the product, such as the placement in the home, and the role it plays in people's daily lives. This requires designers to take into account every influencing factor based on a 360-degree view of users' lives.
The second challenge is internationalization. Chinese brands going global will encounter many difficulties, as every region has different consumer habits and user needs, particularly the different languages of different countries and ethnic groups. In the face of these adjustments, we need to create innovative and good designs, while also transforming them into products that can be mass-produced, ultimately achieving commercial success.
Do you believe that AI could be helpful to you?
/张莹 Michelle Zhang/
Design architecture, knowledge system and experience intergrated with tool system.
Traditional industrial design methods have many pain points:
 Design requirements are not precise. User needs may deviate in the transmission and definition process, the information is not sufficient, and there's too much integration of planners or designers' subjective judgments, leading to inconsistency between the final product definition, design solutions, and the real user needs.
 Design collaboration efficiency is low. The time spent on process integration and business promotion is greater than the core design creation time. Moreover, design changes are frequent, leading to repeated revisions.
 Design quality is not stable. Many of the company's knowledge assets are still in the hands of senior designers, and have not effectively settled into tools and knowledge bases.
We hope to build a set of digital and intelligent innovation design system platforms. The ultimate goal is to create a "virtual designer". This designer understands user needs, product design, manufacturing technology, human-machine effectiveness, and can directly produce and deliver design solutions.
You transitioned from an International to Chinese market, and you would have experienced a lot of differences in some of the culture and user behavior. Could you share with us how you managed to move from a different cultural background to adopting to Chinese culture?
Head of Digital Design, IKEA China
Differentiating product attributes is highly important.
Maintaining curiosity about evolving consumer behaviors and cultural changes is crucial. Differentiating product attributes is highly important in market promotion (e.g., light bulbs being a technical product while pillows being a visual product). In the United States, customers often evaluate beds based on visual characteristics that align with their lifestyle and aesthetics. However, in most Asian markets, purchasing a bed is a more technically driven decision. People focus on factors like materials, durability, and dimensions. This is because in many Asian regions, parents share beds with their children for longer periods compared to the West. It completely shifts the way products are marketed in the market. If a company is not genuinely interested in understanding customers' true problems, needs, and pain points, it will struggle to successfully redesign products that thrive in the market.
From the experience of being an entrepreneur, what are the challenges of managing the products and how do you manage your consumer expectation and your most importance plans?
/刘力丹 Lidan Liu/
Founder of HOTO Technologies
Assoc. Prof at Tongji D&I
How to fail fast.
Entrepreneurship is about pooling together funds and manpower to validate your ideas, and it initially involves a rapid process of trial and error.
 One significant challenge is innovation management. I have been observing the mechanisms, tools, and corporate culture that can enable the repetition and gradual accumulation of such innovation capabilities.
 Furthermore, I still believe that product managers are well-suited as designers, but the final decision-making point remains a highly intuitive one. I consider the abilities of product managers to rely heavily on intuition, which requires a certain talent. I haven't figured out yet how to replicate this ability of a product manager.
 The management challenge lies in how to quickly iterate and experiment. The hardware process, in particular, is quite lengthy, and when we need to iterate, it requires significant resources and can take seven to eight months or even a year. AI may potentially help us shorten the development and research processes.
There’s a lot of uncertainties today (AI). How can we connect our lives going forward? How do we use AI? Are we going to change our lives ? Are we gonna remain as human beings as we are?
Prof at Tongji D&I, Globally-known AI Expert
Design is more about using tools.
This is an interesting journey. All of the sudden, things start to become clear Later. I realized some point that design is not making the decisions, and it’s more about using tools. A tool, let’s say, a manifestation of mental’s breakthrough, and have created into a physical device that can actually multiply or indicate a way of thinking. That actually is a breakthrough. That happened to determine how you make your design and actually affect people produce, present, conceive things. The AI is actually a little bit different, it’s more like a mental state, a way of thinking. That’s gonna be a very high effect in the business or design. There’s a fear and I think it is rightful to have that fear, because it is very different. It’s going to affect the design world tremendously. I think it’s gonna reveal the true essence of the design, and the true value part.
As the night falls, we closed the event with lingering thoughts and anticipation for future explorations. May this design salon bring everyone both intellectual and social value. Looking forward to seeing you next time!