Chinese design

By Wang Han Source:Global Times Published: 2017/9/12 18:08:39

What do foreigners think about the looks of local products and their prices?

Many Chinese brands are striving to improve their presence and recognition in the global market. To win the hearts of foreign customers, local manufacturers are now not only making more efforts to improve the quality of their goods, but also upgrade their designs in order to entice more international sales.

But what do foreigners think about Chinese products and their packaging and prices? The Global Times asked some foreigners in Shanghai to comment on the appearance of several types of Chinese products, including electronic gadgets, bikes, shoes and cosmetics.

Danish nationals Sarah and Pernille said the design of most Chinese items seem modern. Pernille added that there is not that big of a difference between the design of Chinese and Danish products as she expected.

Columbians Maria and Alexandra are international students in Shanghai. They told the Global Times that the design of most Chinese electronics is simple and elegant. "Chinese mobile phones impress me most, as they are much thinner and lighter than the phones we use," Alexandra added.

However, some interviewees do not have a favorable impression of Chinese design. For instance, American Jason said many products in China are direct copies of Western ideas, such as clothes and gadgets.

Ksenia from Russia is not impressed by Chinese products. "I don't see something new and unique," she said. "Maybe because I didn't stay in Shanghai long enough, I didn't meet something cool and impressive. But I'm looking forward to it."

A foreign man holds an abacus. Photos: CFP and Wang Han/GT



We showed pictures of some popular Chinese-made smartphones, laptops and electric toothbrushes to our interviewees. Maria and Sarah appreciated the simple, minimalistic design of the electric toothbrush. "It is not very complex. It also uses simple colors," Maria said.

Alexandra said the toothbrush is much smaller than those she used before. "I used electric toothbrushes before, but they are too big, so this one appeals to me," she added.

Jason was impressed by the thinness and lightness of Chinese mobile phones. "They look simple and easy to use. Some of these phones do resemble the phones that are designed in the West, but they look lighter and thinner, which is good. It is easy to use," Jason told the Global Times.

However, Ksenia said the design of Chinese smartphones have yet to impress. "For me, it's all copies of Apple and Samsung. They didn't create something new." But she thought the design of the electric toothbrush was fancy, suggesting its shape looks like a bed light.

As for laptops, Maria said, "I really like the design. I felt like it is really easy to carry. It has one color all around, and I really like the simplicity."

We also asked the interviewees to guess about the prices of each gadget based on its design. As for the electric toothbrush, Alexandra guessed it could be sold for around $50, but its current market price is only 199 yuan ($30).

For the laptop, Jason said it might sell at 8,000 yuan, but its real price is only 5,000 yuan. However, the interviewees' guesses about the smartphone prices were lower than their real retail price. Both Jason and Ksenia guessed their market prices are between 1,000 yuan and 2,000 yuan, while their actual prices are between 2,500 yuan and 4,000 yuan.



Some interviewees pointed out that the design of Chinese-brand sneakers are similar to the design of Western sneakers. "I feel that a lot of shoes at the moment are following the design of one color and two stripes," Maria said.

Ksenia said the design of Chinese shoes are nice, but they seem to be the same style as many Western sports brands, such as Nike and adidas. But Ksenia still thinks the shoes seem to have good quality and look nice.

Notably, Maria, Jason and Danish Pernille and Sarah all pointed out they don't like letters or big logos on Chinese shoes. For example, Jason said they look comfortable to wear, but he will not wear something with logos. "I am not a big fan of 'the name.' I don't like the design of the letters," he said.

In terms of price, their actual market value is between $8 and $20. But the interviewees' guesses were higher than the real price range. Alexandra, for example, thought the sneakers were probably sold for $50; Jason guessed the price could be around $30 to $50; Pernille and Sarah thought the shoes could be sold for at least $70.

Ksenia's guess was closest, between 50 and 100 yuan, which is the exact market price range of Chinese-made shoes.



Many traditional Chinese bike brands have upgraded their design and quality in recent years to attract a younger generation of customers. We showed the design of two best-selling bikes on Taobao to our interviewees.

Jason loved the design of both bikes. He thought the mountain bike looked strong and expensive; as for the city cruiser, he appreciated its classic-yet-still-modern style. Alexandra and Maria preferred the vintage city cruiser over the mountain bike.

Ksenia and Pernille were not impressed by the designs of either Chinese bikes. "They look very normal," Pernille told the Global Times.

When the interviewees were asked about the prices of the two bikes, all quoted much higher prices than their true value. Maria said the city cruiser should cost $100 (its real price is around 600 yuan), and $500 for the mountain bike (its real price is around 900 yuan).

Ksenia thought the mountain bike was "expensive for sure," at 3,000 yuan, and the vintage bike at 1,000 yuan. Sarah and Pernille thought both bikes sell for 1,500 yuan. Jason said the mountain bike must cost 6,000 yuan or 7,000 yuan. When he was told its true value, 1,000 yuan, he couldn't believe it, as American bikes sell for at least $1,000. "Where can I buy this? I want to buy two," he laughed.



Chinese facial nourishing creams are big sellers in the local market, and most of our foreign interviewees attributed this to their traditional-looking packaging. Pernille and Sarah said their designs are "old-fashioned" and less modern than similar products sold in Denmark.

"I like its traditional Chinese patterns. I don't know about the quality but I would buy it for my friends as gifts," Ksenia told the Global Times. Maria agreed, saying she likes the products' vintage design but suggested that the woman's image on top of the package clashes with the flowery patterns on the sides.

As for their prices, which are only between 20 and 50 yuan, most interviewees gave much higher values simply based on their look. For example, Alexandra thought the cream could be sold for $20, but its actual price is only around $5.


Competitive prices

Overall, our foreign interviewees pointed out that the prices of Chinese-made goods generally are much lower than similar Western products.

Maria said that because Chinese sneakers are much cheaper than she expected and their designs similar to Western brands, she sees no reason not to buy them.

When asked whether Chinese products could compete with Western brands, most interviewees said yes, though Chinese brands should focus more on looking local and unique rather than imitating Western stuff.

Ksenia used to have a Samsung mobile phone, but now she uses a Chinese smartphone. "It's cheaper, but I think the quality is the same," she added.

Jason said he was more impressed by Chinese product prices than their designs. He suggested that if Chinese products are proven to be of equal or higher quality, then over time they will be able to compete and maybe even surpass Western brands.

Alexandra (left) and Maria


Pernille (left) and Sarah





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