The Chinese designer Haoyu Li combines his German design degree with Chinese business acumen. Now he is opening a design office in Bremen, with the aim of making it easier for Chinese products to enter the German market, and to bring German brands to China.
The port of Shantou, in southern China’s Guangdong province, has a population of just under one million in the city itself, and five million in the surrounding area, making it a quiet little place by Chinese standards. So it’s not surprising that Haoyu Li likes to draw comparisons between Shantou and Bremen. “I like the water, and the port. To me it is not important to live in the biggest city; I want to live where I feel at home,” he says, referring to both Shantou and Bremen.
Whether he’s having a beer with friends on the banks of the River Weser or enjoying the harbour atmosphere – he feels comfortable in Bremen, and calls the city his second home. He also likes to reminisce. From 2002 to 2006 he studied integrated design at Bremen’s University of the Arts. In addition to meeting professors Detlef Rahe and Oliver Niewiadomski he also got to know the famous designer Fritz Haase. “The University of the Arts may be small, but that is its strength. The teaching staff looked after me really well. The professors there suggested that I should study design instead of architecture, my original choice. That was very good advice,” says Li looking back. At the university, Li specialised in 3D design, structure and geometry, and won several design prizes with his work.
After his degree, Li returned to his home city in China. Here he met the industrialist Li Ka Shing, and with his help founded the Cheung Kong Industrial Design Center. This institute at Shantou University now employs 20 people and covers all design disciplines, from product and furniture design through 3D art all the way to advertising and package design. In his role as professor of design, Li passes on his German design expertise to the Chinese students, and he also provides design advice to companies. In addition to attracting many Chinese customers, Li has also been able to use his contacts to secure the German glass manufacturer Zenkade as a client. Li designed the packaging and brand presence of the Frankfurt company’s protective smartphone screens for the Chinese market. For the Germans, this is an invaluable partnership, as Li knows the Chinese market and the habits of local consumers. “German products have a very good reputation. If you communicate their origin on the packaging, for example by adding a German flag, it is easy to win customers,” explains the 41-year-old.
Through his company Haoyu Li Design Li offers German businesses the benefit of his international cross-cultural expertise. He is returning to Bremen with a subsidiary, to renew old contacts – and to feel right at home again. “Germany is famous for its technology, for engineering and cars. But German design is also world class, and has been very well received. That is why I want to help companies to take their products to China. With the right packaging, and with design that appeals to local consumers,” says Li. One thing he enjoys about Bremen is that everything is so close at hand. Not just his former fellow students, but also local authorities. Bremeninvest supports Li in all aspects relating to setting up his business and is helping him to find suitable premises. He is hoping to officially open his office early in 2017.
The design professor from Shantou University, who also teaches as a guest lecturer at Dessau University, wants to work in the other direction as well. “Chinese products are of a high quality these days, and Chinese companies have the financial means and the desire to bring their products to Europe,” he explains. However, many companies unfortunately do not know the best way to communicate and distribute their products; they lack experience. Haoyu Li helps Chinese manufacturers to design their products in such a way that they will appeal to the German market. This covers everything from product design and brand presence to the creation of advertising material. “For Germany and China it is important to come into contact with new ideas and cultures from other countries. And I am going to forge a link between the two countries,” Li promises.
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