My first experience working abroad was absolutely unforgettable. Shanghai in June 2018 was hot, humid, fast-paced, technologically-advanced, eclectic and extremely eventful. Every day presented a new adventure, opportunity and challenge. I was assigned to work at China Bridge (CBi), a service design company that innovates solutions to provide customers with better experiences. My product design classmate, Alex, and I teamed up to find windows for growth and to improve tourists’ experiences in an area called ‘Yu Gardens’ – a historical site with a shopping plaza, botanical garden and temples. Although I have a product design background, executing the project made me notice overlaps between product and service design such as: Research is the root of all great ideas and that both types of design strive to improve a user’s experience.
We also had a few mentors who offered constant guidance and feedback which made our contribution valuable. We celebrated our cultural differences and respectfully exchanged ideas with one another which strengthened our relationships in the office. Furthermore, my overall understanding of the design process has developed; my work experience reinforced the idea that as designers, we cannot guess what customers need. We must ask people what they want and then design it – in the best way we can. I also believe that all of the professional people we met are shaping the creative future of China through design.
In my ‘out of office’ hours, I explored the cuisine, culture, attractions and engaged with many locals along the way. I noticed how the food was different to the way it is served in the West. I was also surprised to find how widely-used WeChat is and how it can be used for everything from renting bicycles to making payments. Furthermore, a highlight for me was a visit to the Montaplast production plant for automotive components. Having special access gave me insight into mass production in China and made me appreciate the accuracy and quality control of every single component produced for companies such as Ford and Mercedes.
Given this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity by Kingston University has been an honour and being alongside seven other ambitious students made me feel more at home. Thank you to professor of design, Catherine McDermott, for selecting me for this programme and to everyone in Shanghai that warmly welcomed me and allowed me to experience the city like a local.