I have got the honor to read a short article named “The Aesthetic Quality of a Product” written by Mr. Caims (Honggang Cai), which emphasizes that the differences between ‘Made in China’ and ‘Made in Germany’, to some degree, lie in design capability rather than manufacturing capability. The gap of design capability between China and Germany seems to be a generation, since China has just evolved from an agricultural country into an industrialized one; whereas Germany has extended from industrialization to service industry. Service industry, however, focuses on experience and feelings. Therefore, this transformation in Germany can be regarded as a so-called change from quantity to quality in leaps and bounds.
于我而言，这种感觉就是一种感性质量，或者美感。文章提到“现在诸如小米一类的公司在提倡设计的“温度感”，从实际的产出来说产品已经非常不错了。当有人纠结于iphone 6的屏幕和边框结合处可以卡进头发丝的时候，中国更多的手机消费者需要的只是一个有基本通话和简单娱乐功能的手机而已，零件之间接缝的大小完全是无关紧要的事情。而在价格上，二者实在是天壤之别。小米虽然号称高性价比，但是上千元的价格，已经是基数庞大的体力劳动者半个月到一个月的薪水了。”文章又引用中央音乐学院副院长周海宏主讲的《走进音乐的世界》来强调艺术对提升质量的意义 – 苹果对ipod背面的要求要像婴儿的屁股一样，如果用传统的对产品质量的定义，应该如何设计呢？
As far as I am concerned, this feeling is none other than a sort of emotional quality, or aesthetic feeling. The article stated that, “Nowadays, enterprises such as Chinese cellphone brand MIUI are promoting a 'sense of temperature' in their design. In terms of actual function, the product is really good. When some people struggle with the fact that a single hair could be caught in the juncture between the screen and frame of an Iphone6, much more consumers in China need nothing but a mobile phone with merely basic function of calling and entertaining. The size of the seam between components, to be honest, is nothing significant at all. Nevertheless, when it comes to price, the two brands phones are poles apart. Despite that MIUI claims that they are of high cost-efficiency, its price— about thousands of yuan— appears to be as much as the monthly or half the monthly salary of a great majority of manual workers.” Besides, the article referred to the lecture ‘Enter the World of Music’ given by Haihong Zhou, the Vice President of Central Conservatory of Music, to stress the significance of art improving quality – As everyone knows, Apple requires that the back of its iPod should be the same as the bottom of the infant. If we use the traditional definition of product quality, then how can we design it?
传统的对质量的定义在强调规范，规格，并尽量以文字和样品的形式来最小化理解上的差异，放在国外与国内的沟通上就显得尤为重要了。这些都是理性的定义，也是最基本的要求的传递，国内相当多的企业这个环节都还没有做到位。我时常听到德国的同事抱怨：“我们不是德国质量吗，怎么收到的是这种档次的产品”，经常我们开玩笑的回应：“你们需要买一辆汽车，并没有说要买BMW，所以我们交给你一辆BYD也没有错啊”。常见的国外与国内在产品质量上面的分歧在于颜色，一个笑话是说一个国外客户要求国内供应商将产品颜色做成蓝色，可是蓝色有很多种，实在是不好描述，最后国外的客户说按天空蓝的颜色，可是当他们收到货品的时候傻眼了，这不是天空蓝的颜色，反馈给国内，国内坚持认为他们就是按天空蓝的颜色生产的。后来国外的客户来到中国，他们才明白中国的天空蓝和国外的天空蓝不是同一个颜色 – 雾霾太大了。电镀的外观质量常常也是一个难以用文字界定的项目，于是有了样品，可是在样品生产出来之前又如何定义所期望的效果呢，表面的缺陷可以用外观检验卡，但是光泽度比较难统一，有人想了一个有趣的界定方法：最高等级的镜光需要能当镜子使用，看得清头发，其次需要看的清五官，再其次需要看得到轮廓。
The traditional definition of quality highlights standards and specifications, minimizing differences in understanding in the form of words and samples at the mean time, which presents to be especially vital when it comes to communication at home and abroad. In spite that these are all rational definitions and transmission of the most fundamental requirements as well, a considerable number of domestic enterprises fail to achieve them at this stage. I can always hear my German colleagues complaining that, “Aren’t we ‘German quality’? How can we receive product of such level?”. We often reply humourously that, “You just said you need to buy a car, but not a BMW, so it is no problem that we give you a BYD.” The most commonly seen divergence between home and foreign country lies in color, and there is a joke that can be illustrative of this point: a foreign client asked a domestic producer to make the product blue. Nevertheless, there are various kinds of blue so that it was indeed difficult to describe it. Finally, the client decided to use sky blue. However, they were astonished when they received the product, as the color was by no means the sky blue. Therefore, they sent a feedback to the domestic factory, only to be informed that the domestic factory insisting on that they have used the color of sky blue. Afterwards, the foreign client came to China, astounded to find that the sky blue in China is completely different from that in foreign countrie as a result of the thick haze. More often than not, the appearance quality of electroplating seems to be an item that can be hardly defined simply by words, which result in the appearance of samples, but how to define the expected effect before the production of samples? Defects in surface can be identified by the visual inspection card, yet it is gloss that proves to be hard to unite. Thus, someone comes up with an interesting method for defining: the mirror bright of the supreme level need to be used as a real mirror that can clearly reflect the hair, then the second level to reflect five facial features, and then the profile is seeable on the third level.
More often than not, rational definitions cannot solve irrational problems. One of my German colleagues often tells me a story of delicious food, “It is such a long distance for food evolving from inedible to edible, from preferred to delicate.” From a rational perspective, however, it seems to be difficult to perceive, as the function of food is almost the same if their nutritional ingredients are qualified under the inspection of bacteria contents. The sesame-seed cake was once regarded as a delicacy of the world when Yuanzhang Zhu (Hongwu Emperor) sought refuge, yet it was not any more when Zhu took the throne. Potherb that was once unwanted in villages is now acclaimed as treasure. The so-called delicious food is managed to generate pleasant feelings of people, which is known as aesthetics.
Likewise, the industrial products need upgrade in aesthetics from quality stability, to reliability, and then to superiority. This is the reason why industrial design should be included in the product besides mechanical design and electronical design. You will realize how crucial the artistic design is towards products when looking at the importance of the top award in industrial design— Red Dot Award. Industrial design, evidently, represents that more efforts should be paid on aesthetics on the basis of realizing the elementary function of a product.
Usually, there is a gap between sense and sensibility. This is the reason why a man and a woman quarrelling about whether to buy a good-looking laundry machine at 1600 yuan or to buy a less lovely one at 1400 yuan, as mentioned by President Zhou in his story. In the process of actual product design, engineers or business staffs of industrial design always dislike the outdated ideas given by structural designers, yet manufacturing engineers complain about the unrealistic layout carried out by industrial designers in turn. One of my friends told me a story about his company: They were once requested by their clients to design a bathtub. As this bathtub had to match other sanitary products, it had no alternative but to meet high requirements in terms of color, shape and style. However, that design could only be drawn due to the fact that the current technology could not process it. Since the client had make it clear that there were no compromises, the actual product finally came out after innumerable hardships. What’s more, the product was awarded the Red Dot Prize— just like Oscar Prize in film industry. Inferior to that are the Japanese clients who set considerably high standards on size. In addition to the elementary requirements on the bathtubs with regard to limitations on deformation of length, width and height, planeness at the bottom and ponding, they ask that the tolerance in length cannot exceed 3cm—otherwise, the bathtub would not be able to be placed into the gap that have been processed in advance. If the gap is too small, it will result in too much filled rubber. Thirdly, there come products with general requirements, which can be made relatively easily. Almost in each era, consumers tend to be more practical than artistic. Products with utility are able to fix a competitive price, while their counterparts with artistry possess fewer customers and cannot be manufactured with ease. It depends on how the enterprises choose the orientation and position themselves.
The appearance of the luxury cars on the road are attractive enough, and this is the outcome of art and aesthetics, which is far beyond the definition given by a leading domestic automaker that a car is “a sofa on four wheels”. My German colleague told me that an easy way of observing whether the automobile is good or bad is to examine the space between each of its doors and frame. I understand that it is about the capability of processing engineering, and good automobile enterprises have already satisfied it. In contrast, dozens of cars from third-world countries even omit car windows, which, to be honest, belongs to the floor of rationality. Although a number of industrial products haven’t changed dramatically over the past ten years regarding the function itself, they still have a long way to go for raising the aesthetics, which cannot be simply resolved by VA/VE. If a leadership is still in the stage of enjoying a big logo printed on the front of master level limited edition purple clay teapot and a line of words “Knowledge Is the Power” at the back, this road will be even much longer.
In rural areas, the past tile-roofed houses have been replaced by foreign-style houses with tiles, even the farm tools that was once used for food have nowhere to put. In urban areas, shared bicycle can be seen everywhere. In spite that their basic functions remain to be the same as they were 30 years ago, you may perceive that their appearances seem to be more user-friendly, even a 2-year-old child cannot tear himself away from them and name them in colors. This is the promotion of quality, as well as the transformation from sense to sensibility.
THANKS TO THE CONTRIBUTION OF TRANSLATION BY VOLUNTEER MS. ZIZHU WANG (Akiko) FROM GUANGDONG UNIVERSITY OF FOREIGN STUDIES