Class: Made in China
Final Individual Reflection
As a business student, I have learnt the concept of “design thinking” in my freshman cohort class. I remembered we had a few brainstorming sessions for ideas to improve sustainability in NYU, but the furthest we got was to “pitch” our ideas to the class and maybe adding one or two pictures of the “prototype” to the slides. More than a year later, I enrolled in this “Made in China” course because I wanted to understand how the ecosystem of the creative industry worked in China. Unlike the previous class, it sounded really cool that I could design my own project and get it manufactured, but not simply “talking on paper”. Looking back at these past 14 weeks, it was definitely not an easy process. At a certain point during the course, I was pretty discouraged as things did not go as planned and I worried that I could not produce anything meaningful. However, I am so glad that I made it to the end and I was really surprised that there were few students and guests who were actually interested in buying my prototype. I am not only thrilled about my accomplishment, but am also wondering whether I want to be an entrepreneur and build a start-up in China after graduation as the course has sparked my interest in “making” something.
From the original ice cube tray concept to the beta prototype of the Bike Pad, I realize the value of my “idea” was not about all the fancy functions that I came up with, but the opportunity identified that motivated me to keep finding creative solutions through aligning my thoughts to what my customers think. I and Bruce had constructed so many different kinds of prototypes, including low-rez prototypes, looks-like prototypes, works-like prototypes and engineering prototypes. Although each prototype looks really different than the rest and not one of them is perfect, they all give me some new insights on how my ideal solution should be like. On the other hand, the most important takeaway from this course is of course directly experiencing the “made in China” ecosystem. In particular, I had the negative perception that “Made in China” equaled “shanzhai” before this semester. Through examining the product cycle in class and visiting factories to talk directly to the people in the industry, I now strongly believe the Chinese manufacturing industry had both hard and soft skills, which means they have the capabilities to produce high-quality products and services with high efficiency. After all, China is gradually moving up the value chain and is providing comprehensive supports for entrepreneurs to conceptualize their ideas and engage in the production processes.
As for working with Bruce, I believe our division of work is pretty natural. As an IMA senior, Bruce is more familiar with utilizing technology tools in modeling and has much more experiences with hardware designs. Therefore, he tried really hard to produce multiple high-quality 3D rendering models and coordinated the 3D printing processes, which are very important for us to visualize our concepts and evaluate their feasibility. He also showed me how to use various tools available in the IMA lab to do rapid-prototyping, which I think was one of the most important processes that we went through before we had our final design. Meanwhile, I was more responsible for the “business” side of the project. I was always planning our next steps, collecting feedback for the product and making sure we had everything we need for the next stage and were meeting all the deadlines as I knew it took some time to develop nice-looking models using technology. Sometimes I might have annoyed Bruce by always proposing new ideas that might sound completely irrelevant to the project as I believe we should not waste our time on improving ideas that were unlikely to succeed. This was why I suggested adding a “phone case” function when the “basket in a basket” idea didn’t work out and to use “L”-shaped hooks instead of circular-shaped hooks that could easily break. I do believe that I have demonstrated him the importance of being flexible and always have some backup plans in case things didn’t go as expected. Overall, we had a great time working with each other and we were both delighted to see our products finally came into shape after numerous re-designs.