Topics Discussed and Key Points:
● Opportunities in architecture and design within China
● How the design space in the West differs from that of China
● Design trends in China today and potentially going forward
● The relationship between developers and the local government
● The leeway designers have in localizing big foreign brands for China
● China’s design influence beyond its borders
Today on The Negotiation, we speak with Andrew Sigfrids of ASIG Design and ASIG BIM. Established in 2010, ASIG Design is a multi-disciplinary architectural design firm specializing in the interior design of restaurants and coffee shops.
With offices in Shanghai, China and San Francisco, ASIG has worked with large companies like Starbucks, ABINbev and the Li Ka-shing Foundation, as well as small independent business owners.
Andrew also heads New York-based landscape design firm Urban Terrace and San Francisco-based direct-to-consumer furniture brand CABA Design.
He speaks on his foray into the architecture and design space in China. Realizing that the industry in China seemed to offer much greater “freedom of design expression” compared to that of America, which requires newer designers to go through a “rite of passage” via years of drafting before being allowed to actually spearhead projects.
Another primary difference between the West and China is the cost of construction, which is much higher in the West and leads to more conservative designs. Since the cost of labor in China is lower, designers and architects are given more freedom, from the big-picture project designs to smaller interior details such as the design of sockets.
Yet another distinguishing factor in China is “a mixture of owner, client, and consumer drive for wanting something new and different, pushing people through the doors via an interesting space.” Unique, selfie-friendly spaces are also growing in popularity.
On the other hand, the West is far more driven by efficiency and brand consistency over innovation. However, many big Western brands are now embracing the reality of localization if they want to do business in China, even if that demands an almost complete rehaul of their established branding in the West.
“Another factor [that differentiates America’s design space from China’s] is a mixture of owner, client, and consumer drive for wanting something new and different. [...] The general Chinese consumer is always seeking something completely new and something completely different. [...] The West is far more driven by efficiencies, in things such as service, and general brand recognition. For us, it’s about pushing people through the doors via an interesting space.”
“You feel so free as an individual [in China]. In business, it’s the same. The government typically leaves you alone with how you want to run your business and how you want to make your money—until you get big.”
“The path to success in China changes year after year. The success path, entering now in 2021, could actually be very different from how it was in 2016—only five years later. The consumer base has changed so much that you might actually want to go a different route in how you design your space and how that tells the story of your brand.”