Interior design is a relatively new industry in China, but I was shocked by how adaptive the Chinese interior design market is compares to Taiwan. Interior design has started to flourish during the economy boom in the 80’s in Taiwan, but throughout the years, I realize Taiwan still has a long way to go in terms of design sense and creativity. Even though the clients’ design tastes have been improved throughout the years in Taiwan, the designers’ design sense still can’t keep up with it. What I observed was copying design ideas from overseas, poor execution of design elements with full of improper designs. Many design elements looked cool if you look at each of them individually, but because they were all borrowed (copied) from somewhere else individually and put together without any logic or common sense, they don’t look connected within a space. On contrary, I have seen extremely well executed matured interior design in China. As a country just started her economy boom in the late 90’s, the transformation in China is super fast.
Compares to China’s more internationalized interior design market, Taiwan’s market still remains local. While China welcomes the interior designers from around the world including Taiwan to work in China, Taiwan has shown the resistance to accept foreign educated interior designers. Most of the interior design companies in Taiwan do not value foreign educated interior designers’ creativity or artistic trainings but only care if they know how to draw AutoCAD in Mandarin version, how to use metric system, and how to calculate material costs accurately. If you don’t have those skills, you can be as creative as you can, you will never be hired. Even if you are hired, the salary offered can be extremely discouraging.
On the other hand, China embraces foreign educated interior designers with opened arms (and higher salary), the design companies there don’t care if you can speak Mandarin or use Mandarin version of drafting software, if you can estimate costs precisely, or if you are familiar with metric system or local building codes. Those are not what they want from the foreign designers, what they want is the design sense, the creativity, and the ideas because they know things like the language, estimation, local building codes, or the sources of the materials can be learned, but creativity or design ideas can’t. Many interior design companies in Taiwan mistakenly think creativity and design sense can be learned, that is because they don’t understand the difference between learning and copying, maybe that was why I saw so many copied design ideas in Taiwan.
What I have learned from this experience is that giving anyone 5 years, most of them can estimate costs precisely, supervise construction site or do computer drafting or rendering well after 5 years, but none of them can be more creative after 5, 8, or even 10 years. People can be born to be creative but can’t learn to be creative. So, if I ever hire an interior designer, I will emphasize and value more on his/her creativity level than anything else.