Thursday, April 10, 2008

Victory Beer in Shanghai Airport

After all my stress and anxiety and hard work and rushing around Asia and really feeling rather full up and not myself quite for the last few months, I feel like I am sitting on top of a mountain right now with everything happening down below me.

.... I am now in Shanghai Airport having a beer with my boss Corrado, after finishing a large pan-Asian design strategy project - crucially having a good response and teeing up a second phase. The key difference with the second phase is that I will no longer be working for DEM, but instead working as Design Manager for Dell in Taipei from the end of the month. That's worth another post.

So.... what a way to finish my DEM experience - beer in hand and staring down the fresh-out-of-the-shrinkwrap Pudong Terminal 2. One day left in DEM, and then two weeks on beautiful Bali. Bloody well done me!


Reflected in the the immense windows of the even more immense Shanghai Pudong Terminal 2 ... spot Corrado on the phone behind the taxi.


Say "ahhhhh"

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

HK Work Mode

I need to do some catching up on the old blog, but I always seem to
find a few minutes to e-mail in a post while I am in HK airport
(blessed by thy free wifi).

This time I am sadly working through the wait do the plane, and
arrival in "Asia's World City" seems pretty pedestrian this time round.


Yes, I finally get to ride the infamous Hello Kitty Eva Air Jet. Awesome.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Casio Exilim S10 Press Conference

One of my designers, Alfie, designed a neat little camera case for Casio and the launch of the Exilim S10 (apparently the world's skinniest camera), and the other week it went on sale. As part of our package, we assisted in the press conference, so I got a chance to strut my stuff on stage again and do some more speaking. It was pretty good fun, and particularly interesting to meet some of the Japanese company's senior management, who they wheeled out to flash for the cameras.


Flanked by a disarmingly handsome show host, I attempted to look serious when talking about our inspiration.


Paparazzi - I was more interested in their kit for much of the time!


Super duper Chinese style models show off the kit


Update: Some TV coverage ...

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Tokyo - 72 Hours

Well, here I am on the design roller coaster, sipping Kirin and staring out of my immaculately clean 30th floor window at the improbably Parisian Tokyo tower, and thinking things are rather nice. Kan pai!


View out to the rather camp Tokyo Tower


Some station, squeezed between the buildings

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Tianjin


Keeping my feet on the ground in Tianjin

The research wagon sets out for northern China, and we set our sights upon Tianjin - a city not too far away from Beijing. I was pleasantly surprised by the place, seeing as it had been populated by various Europeans at the start of the twentieth century, and they had left a decent legacy of colonial buildings and handsome streets. Although there were few actual attractions to speak of, it was really an interesting location and a notch more 'Chinese' than Shanghai or Beijing. It must be said that it is still unlikely that I have seen the 'real' China after my forays onto the mainland. None the less, interesting enough to entertain us for a few days of business.


The handsome side streets west of the city centre were packed with vendors selling classic Chinese tat. Sadly, no Christmas presents were found! But this was perhaps due to the very cold weather.


Old boys play games in the streets, away from their wives (much like Taipei!).


Somewhat reminiscent of the Hutongs in Beijing


This guy was one of the most characterful people I met - down from the north in Hubei, he ran a Xinzhuang (need to check) BBQ that just pumped out the best lamb kebabs ... after a tip from Lars in Shanghai, I now seek out these chaps. Killer, every time... and worth returning to! This type of BBQ can be seen on the streets quite regularly.


... which we did, when Alfie arrived a day later (with beer added).


The guy insisted we take a photo together, but then entirely lost interest when I suggested I send it to him ... he thought I should just give it to him the next time I see him!

And why was I seeking out the street food? After recommendations from several people, I was to check out the internationally famous 'Gou Bu Li' dumpling restaurant. The name (狗不理)comes from a story of the original owner who used to cook dumplings of astoundingly poor quality. Some say, the quality was so bad that when he dropped one, even dogs would not eat it ... hence 'Even Dogs Wouldn't' as a name. When this happened, he went away and learnt from a great master (I am somewhat making this up) and came back to great acclaim, but the name stuck.

Walk in and taste the food... and well, the only thing I would add is that 'Even Rich Dogs Wouldn't', as they were pretty bland and very expensive. The photos of George Bush Sr. and various Chinese dignitaries didn't help me change my mind.


'Even Dogs Wouldn't'


Rows of electric bikes, which are ubiquitous in China

After a day of seeing the same shops and hearing the same blaring music, I happened upon a Starbucks opposite a rather an attractive old Church. Clearly, this was what all the other foreigners in Tianjin thought too, and I bumped into a pair of fresh-faced English teachers who pointed me towards a couple of night spots. Well, 'the' night spot...

Dubbed 'Alibabas' it is down a dark, dark street, down a dark, dark lane, behind an unassuming door and a large piece of carpet... the only place to hang out for those living in Tianjin, it was none the less lively and fun enough to return with Chinese people in tow.


Reflecting on religion


New friends


The Liverpool match

Entertainment from our Chinese hosts takes rather a different form, and mainly revolves around displays of taste and wealth. Lunch on the Saturday consisted of one of the local banquet restaurants, and in typical tourist fashion I went around taking photos of everything moving... which it turns out is quite a lot!


The welcoming committee


Yes, that is a turtle, and yes, it probably has a price on it for cooking


Delicious frogs


I'll take the snake in Black Bean Sauce... seriously


Charming location in front of the freeway... with good parking. China and Korea often seems to have this sort of hazy light that is quite hard to describe.


Great views.

And to top off our 'cultural research' we went to check out the tallest tower in Tianjin, and a building that has clearly seen better days since opening in 1991. There was almost nobody there, and I for one felt particularly fidgety at this height!


The 'TianTa' (天塔)- China's scariest building


My guides walked straight out onto the glass-floored deck. Normally, I think I would have no problems doing this, but my whole body only wanted to do one thing, and that was to go DOWN, away from this shaky, rickety building with wobbly floors and bumpy elevators.


It's very traditional for lovers to put locks onto the gratings of such buildings to signify their love for one another. With this symbolic gesture, the lock then spends the rest of its life looking out across the pollution of northern China ...

In this photo you can definitely SEE the pollution just hanging in the air - and today was not a bad day. Combine it with the dust storms coming from the ever dustier north, and you can palpably taste the air whenever you step outside. So, even sunny days are reduced to hazy, foggy experiences which leave you squinting into the grey distance, dry of lip and scratchy of eye.

And as an industrial designer actually making these goods, I have to feel a major pang of guilt when I experience it.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Seoul Man

(I have been waiting to use that title for months)

As part of the mega project, I flew into Korea for a few more days of research. Since I am presently sitting in HK airport, one week in the future, and am recovering from a somewhat hectic few weeks, my words might do less justice than my pictures. The overriding impression this time was certainly "blimey is it cold!"


Our guide Luisa took us to the 'Secret Garden' in Seoul, and as the sun began to set the place was really ablaze in the sunlight. In this shot, you see where the King's subjects line up, according to their status.


Spot where the kids poke through the paper 'windows' - in the years before glass this is how they let light into the buildings. And yes, they might have to change them several times a year - perhaps this is also why the art of paper-making is still so much more prevalent in the East.


Roofless


Really rather magical rooms


One of the few glass buildings in the complex, this later building also has a chimney... it's the kitchen.


... and the underfloor heating for the King's quarters exits to the side.


Even his pooh gets sorted out (and sifted through to check his health!)


Nice windows everywhere.


Our guide was a designer herself, so she was able to point out the major differences in architectural style in Korea, as opposed to Japan or China. The main thing, she claimed, is that the arches of the roofs are more gently arched, and often the colours and materials put to use are more natural in feel.


Flexible space! All the rooms are totally open plan, and flexible depending on the time of year or what they are needed for. The planks that are lifted up here are used to allow air to flow through in the summer time (no need in sub-zero temperatures), and provide shade.


More windows. I'll stop soon, promise.


Windows of windows... even though the quarters are small, the windows make everything feel bigger.


... and meeting up with Dan on the final night was great (my neighbour from when I was a kid).... but I'll be seeing him next weekend anyway (okay, I'll tell the truth... in two days time).

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Monday, December 10, 2007

Shanghai & Hangzhou



Well, there is a reason they call it a 'kickoff' meeting ... we waited six months to start this project, and now I am spending more time abroad than I am at home. I can't relax as much as I might like, but if you know me well you'll know that I maxed out on the fun, frolicking and food - and most importantly had the chance to meet up with Anke, Lars and Bump (a huge part of the Singapore story that I was not allowed to divulge is that Anke is preggers with a baby - Made in China of course - and she announced it on the beach... hang on, this is too important for brackets...)

So - congratulations guys! You have your own paragraph now... look how spacious it is!

Anyway - I spent the days visiting clients and factories, and the nights heading out with the crew and meeting some new and old friends, and some like Simon that I know through multiple contacts, but never actually saw face to face. Anyway - not too good with words right now, so here are some pics. Ahh.


Shanghai World Financial Centre - not without its fair share of controversy... its original (elegant) shape had a large circle in the top ... but the locals are still rather sensetive about the whole Japan thing, and so dropped that for some kind of melted square hole. And in the process of the delay lost top spot as the world's tallest building.


Not quite the world's tallest building ... on the streets of Shanghai


View from one of the client offices - quite funny to be up above one of the recognisable locations in Shanghai - The Pacific Mall (same name as the one in Taipei!)


Elevated


Sunset in Shanghai


View from the Galaxy Hotel (translation 'Star River')


Road block


Hangzhou sunset - really rather wonderful


Loch Ness


Shattered mirror (just look at the texture on that one, Michael and Markus!)


Totally ridiculous - the only thing missing was the whiny Chinese music


It's really amazing to be around Taiwanese guys when they come to China... there is all this tension, but at the end of the day their culture is rooted here, and they know all of these stories... quite touching. Here is Alfie contemplating things.


Bikes - Shanghai Style

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