Taipei is a city where myriad forms of design ingenuity converge. Besides its Huashan (華山) and Songshan (松山) cultural-creative parks, markets of cultural products and design exhibits happen throughout the city, presenting a new vista of boundless horizon. In recent years, major design events have been staged, including the World Design Capital Taipei and the Taiwan Design Expo, each gathering together creative energy of many types. These events provide opportunities for the public to come into contact with the elements and principles of design. For designers, the foundation from product development to brand building depends equally on new ideas as well as cooperation from the industry chain, accomplishing creativity sustainability.
22 Design Studio – Design Begins With the Heart
In the basement and first floor of an old residential building, designer You Shengyao (游聲堯) leads a young work team in making warm everyday products out of cold, hard concrete. In 2005, just after graduating from university, You and fellow designer Zheng Yiting (鄭伊婷) began pouring their youthful passion and energy into marketing their own invention – concrete rings. Initially they simply displayed their wares on rugs they’d laid out, but the goal was to found a studio, so a fundraising campaign was launched to allow them to set up their own establishment with their own design brand. Both aged 22 at the time, they decided on the name “22 Design Studio” as this was the fountainhead year of their dream and mission. The moniker serves as a constant reminder to them to never forget their original aspirations.
Concrete watches were the first 22 Design Studio product to gain public recognition. The firm brought attention to the brand through the Zeczec (嘖嘖) fundraising platform. The capital-raising effort was successful, and designer You turned a creative idea into a commodity, followed by the opening of their brand-concept store. The 22 Design Studio product line now includes mechanical pencils, plus a variety of timepieces, including “4th Dimension Watches” (四度空間腕錶), and the line is constantly being extended. In light of the adverse yield rates when working with concrete, each innovation is a daunting challenge and a sterling accomplishment.
When people say that fundraising is an easy path to realizing one’s dreams, You begs to differ: when making use of a particular platform, success comes not from luck but from whether a designer’s concept or idea can be commercialized. A newly created brand must consistently tell a story, and maintain continual interaction with its market. In particular, crowdfunding is dependent on the trust that investors have in the brand. “Sincerity” is required for the products to receive continued support, and it is through fundraising platform feedback that one learns whether a creative idea fits market demand or not.
Hidden, appearing almost incognito, down along a quiet neighborhood alley, the 22 Design Studio is home to a studio and a production workshop. A number of other designers, who are also neighborhood residents, also took part in establishing the enterprise. Hence, as with many lanes and alleys, in which individuals from different homes come together, take care of each other, and share resources, at 22 Design Studio a small-scale design settlement has sprung up. This has become a kind of role model for the design industry in Taipei, leading to innovative design blossoming everywhere.
S. FLOWER Arrangement – Bringing the Natural Into Our Lives
The floriculture and floral-design industries have always been inseparable. Flowers and plants are used to decorate and beautify environments, and the floral arts are central to such celebrations as Chinese New Year. The result has been uninterrupted growth for the two sectors. This is not only an indicator of the enhancement of people’s life aesthetics, but has also become an important measure of economic development.
Shi Renjie (石仁傑), the floral designer at S. FLOWER arrangement (S. FLOWER石花．藝), has been practicing his art for almost 20 years. He grew up watching his flower-loving mother, along with a neighbor who operated a florist shop, plants to embellish their living environments. His own interest in flowers bloomed naturally from this, and their influence on him was so powerful that he became a practitioner of “floral-art living” (花藝生活), dedicated to the cultivation of natural design concepts in daily life.
Taipei is surrounded by mountains, so getting close to nature is easy. There are also many flower markets and floral-design exhibitions, and easy access to abundant information on international fashion trends, as well. The result is a long-flourishing floral-design industry, which, in recent years, has emerged as a popular option for start-up initiatives by young entrepreneurs. Many people harbor an almost boundless romantic notion about the glory days of floral-art design, but Shi counters with his tale of behind-the-scenes challenges and hardships faced in this industry. First, the cost of flowers is a very big challenge. In satisfying demand for high-quality products, the price of flowers is consistently exorbitant. And because Taiwan’s production techniques have not yet reached maturity, this is especially true for the preserved flowers that have become so popular in recent years. Designers nevertheless seek to provide the most beautiful work for their customers, creating ever more pressure on profit margin.
Currently, the majority of S. FLOWER arrangement’s customers are businesses. This differs somewhat from the average small florist shop, both those on major streets and the ones down lanes and alleys. Whatever the size of the shop, however, e-commerce has become an important business tool. It has brought greater convenience for floral designers and, just as importantly, highlighted the value of professionalism. This means appreciating a flower’s structure and appearance, and also having an artistic and aesthetic appreciation of its beauty. If such foundational skills are lacking, investing capital too quickly can be risky. In recent years Shi’s focus has been teaching and working creatively, and he has received many invitations from mainland China. He sees this as undoubtedly a benign and positive stimulus for the Taiwan floral-design industry.
Floral design brings the natural world into daily life, and significant vitality and color to a concrete city. The hard work of floral-design entrepreneurs is a key element in the flourishing vigor of Taipei’s industrial development, and simply adds beauty to urban living.