As an American interior designer worked in China, I know too well about the culture of copying someone else’ designs over there. You might think the designers in China who copy other people’s designs are not creative, but in fact, I have worked with many creative designers in China, so how come copying designs become so popular and it turns into the business norm for the interior design industry? Here are the reasons:
- Extremely unreasonable deadlines: People around the world all have witnessed China’s rapid economy growth in the past two decades, there was a reason for that. If you can move from one project to the next faster, it means the more money you make, to both the design firms and the clients, so the time schedules set by the clients and the design firms usually are very tight compared we do projects in the US. You can easily find a 1-year long project gets done in 5 months in China. As we all know, a quick design idea might only take few minutes to generate, but a very well thought through design concept takes time, and there is no such luxury in China to allow designers really thinking deeper, so the best way to cut the corner is to copy or tweak other people’s designs.
- Client’s requests: Unlike most of the clients I have worked with in the US who appreciated my creativity to come up with the ideas that no one else had ever thought about, the clients in China often demanded their designers to copy other people’s designs from the design magazines they read, the hotels they stayed or a store they visited. The most funny thing was one of the Chinese clients wanted me to copy a design from a design magazine and it turned out the project he wanted me to copy from was one of the projects I designed when I was working for another designer in the US.
- Lacking 3D perception: Most of the clients I worked with or the employers I worked for in the US could visualize my design ideas simply with a free-hand sketch or a little better made hand sketches for the initial design presentations, but in China, because many clients and the designers alike never had any art or design related training, they just can’t visualize the designs without seeing a super realistic 3D color rendering done by the computer program like 3D Studio Max. As everyone knows, it is very time-consuming to generate a 3D Studio Max drawing, it is just not cost-effective, especially for the initial client meetings. So, looking for reference photos on-line or on magazines and using them as part of the design presentation becomes extremely popular and cost-effective way in China to conduct the initial client meetings. If the clients like the designs in the project reference photos, the designers are forced to go along with the design concepts or details done by other designers showing in the photos which indirectly turns the interior designers into interior copiers or interior tweakers. You might ask why those designers do not use their own old project photos? well, they do! but those old projects were also copied or tweaked from other designers’ projects. Even if some creative designers in China came up with some great ideas, their designs never could be approved by their employers because their employers could not visualize the designs without a computer generated color rendering either, and no one has time to make their design concepts in 3D Studio Max just for trying to persuade their bosses to approve the designs so that they could present them to the clients, as the result, many great creative designs never even got the chance to reach the clients before being blocked by their employers. Frustrated, many designers in China start to look for reference photos for design ideas instead of creating their own.
- Excessive overtime working: Because the super fast paced work environment in China, many designers are forced to work overtime constantly, 60 or even 70 weekly working hours are very common, the fatigue and stress caused by long working hours inhibited and even further damaged the designers’ creativity.
There are so many creative individuals in China who want to create but can’t. They are frustrated, over worked, and under paid. So, instead of criticizing the designers in China for being copy cats, we should blame those few on the top who made the designers copy cats.