Earlier this week I was having lunch at No 10 Downing Street with David Cameron and the Chinese premier Wen. An intimate lunch with a small group of business people had been organised to develop and strengthen the trade relationships between our two countries.
Last year, I took part in the trade delegation to China. Once again, I represented the smallest and most creative company around the table, testament to the importance of the design industry as part of the UK’s economic growth plan and showing that you do not have to be a giant corporation to do business with one of the largest economic powers in the world.
At Priestmangoode, we have been working out in Qingdao for a few years already as part of a long term contract with Sifang Locomotive. This summer, we’re opening our first overseas office out there.
Why China? For the last few years, all our clients have been overseas, for the most part because we tend to work on large-scale projects like airplanes, trains and ships. At the moment, China is a huge market for growth for us, particularly in the travel and mass transportation sectors where we do a lot of our work. We felt that it was important to have a presence on the ground. Our experience of working in China has shown that cultural understanding is hugely important: working locally will enable us to better service clients, contribute to the creative economy as well as strengthen the international nature of our company.
I also think that increasingly, the major new brands will be coming from China and we want to ensure we’re at the heart of that economic development. The sheer scale and ambition for the country’s expansion as an economic power means we are seeing opportunities there you wouldn’t see anywhere else. Our experience working internationally over the last 25 years means we can help companies not just with design, but also offer them an international cultural understanding, helping them export their products.
Design is not just about aesthetics. It is crucial to the success of a company. It can produce better products and services, make a business more efficient and help increase export and sales. At the moment, Chinese companies seem to be grasping this better than most.
Paul Priestman is co-founder of Priestman Goode