Jamy Yang is the kind of designer China needs. And the good that Yang does for China will be good for the rest of the world. Strong-minded, talented and homegrown designers like Yang offer the best chance for an emerging and unique Chinese design industry that can shake off the creative shackles of piracy, improve their global reputation and obviate international copyright lawsuits.
Yang's career path is a textbook-perfect example of how a homegrown Chinese designer can flourish with just the right amount of foreign influence. He studied design at China's Zhejiang University before going on to pursue a Master's at the China Academy of Art in the late '90s. At the latter school, China's employment of foreign guest professors paid off; Dieter Zimmer, a visiting professor of industrial design from Germany, recognized Yang's talent and helped him obtain a German-funded industrial design scholarship to Zimmer's own Muthesius University (which has since evolved into the Muthesius Academy of Art & Design) in Kiel.
After two years of study at Muthesius, Yang secured a design position at Siemens' headquarters in Germany, where he continued to hone his design skills and spent his free time visiting museums and exhibitions in Europe. In 2004, after having spent several years in Germany, Yang made the tough decision to return to China and attempt to start his own firm.
Yang Design was founded in Shanghai in 2005 and is today considered one of China's premier design consultancies. In the seven years since their founding, Yang's firm has attracted not only homegrown clients like Haier, but foreign firms like Absolut, Audi, Boeing, Bosch, Dupont and Natuzzi, to name a few. And Yang himself has some 30 design awards to his credit, among them the iF Design Award, Red Dot and Good Design Award.
Earlier this year Yang was chosen by Steelcase as part of their 100.Steelcase.com project, where they asked 100 influential creatives about the future. While the assembly-line factory is currently the backbone of China's economy, Yang's entry discusses the role digital manufacturing will play that leads to their decline--to the benefit of design: "...The system of industrial mass production will be replaced because each product will be unique," he writes, "suitable for every creator, treasured by every individual, and therefore much more sustainable for human beings than ever before."
The China Daily newspaper has a great profile on Yang covering both his career development and his thoughts on design. Prior to reading it I expected a propaganda-laden fluff piece, but the article boldly opens by quoting Yang addressing the design piracy issue: "No one wants to do something that is beneath contempt, unless they have no choice," Yang says. "But these are not problems that can be solved solely by the designers themselves...It concerns the development of the industries and relies on the collective efforts of enterprises, government, associations and designers." If China can continue cultivating designers and thinkers like Yang, their future will look bright indeed.