2015 / 4月
在工業設計的領域，國際工業設計聯盟認可了4大國際設計獎，包括德國的iF和Red Dot（紅點）、美國的IDEA（Industrial Design Excellence Award，傑出工業設計獎）以及日本的 G-Mark（Good Design）。2003年至今，謝榮雅和他所帶領的團隊一共拿下這4大獎共109座設計獎座，他是全球拿下4大設計獎獎座最多的設計師，同時也是台灣唯一位獲得4大國際設計獎的設計師；特別的是，在2006和2011這2年，謝榮雅和他的團隊在同一個年度裡，同時拿下3金，這種前所未見的優異成績，不但引起國際設計界的高度矚目，更對台灣設計界和產業界形成鼓勵作用，「很多人這才發現，原來台灣也可以拿到4大國際設計獎。」
帶著這樣的自我期許，謝榮雅與郭台銘合作成立「富奇想」這家以「重新定義新時代居家環境體驗」的新公司，謝榮雅說：「希望這樣的合作能夠讓鴻海從OEM、ODM走向EDM（ecosystem design manufacture）。」而謝榮雅的信心除了來自於郭董「富」的投資，更來自於他對郭台銘有著不同於外界的認識和理解，「從蘋果的手機到軟銀（Softbank）的機器人，過去多年來，郭台銘掌握了甚至實際參與了全世界最創新、最有創意的技術與設計，他的眼界絕對夠、製造能量也絕對夠。」
Polly Peng /photos courtesy of Jimmy Lin /tr. by Max Barker
When you ask Hsieh Jung-ya, co-founder of SquareX, how he came to create the firm early this year in a joint venture with tech giant Foxconn, he counters with a rhetorical question: “Would there have been any chance of this kind of cooperation coming to pass five years ago? It’s hard to imagine....”
For some time now, Foxconn founder and chairman Terry Gou has encountered a number of not insignificant challenges in his efforts to invest in diversified operations and broader product lines. Therefore he was looking for new synergy that would help him map out alternative routes. That explains why he sought out Hsieh Jung-ya.
But what is in the deal for Hsieh? Though he is renowned for being “Taiwan’s most award-winning designer,” Hsieh’s career has had its financial ups and downs. Only after passing through the crucible of harsh economic realities did he come to realize that for your designs to be turned into the next generation of explosively popular products requires a combination of both design capital and industrial capability. This is why he finally agreed to join hands with Gou to develop designs for “smart living” in the era of the Internet of Things. “It was really serendipity. When we met, we were each figuring out our strategy for the next step. The timing, the environment, and the maturity of my design team were all just right,” says Hsieh.
The International Design Alliance recognizes four major awards in the field of industrial design, including iF and Red Dot, both of Germany, the Industrial Design Excellence Awards from the United States, and Japan’s G-Mark (Good Design). Since 2003, Hsieh and the team that he leads have brought home 109 separate prizes from these four top competitions. In fact, he has won more awards from the Big Four than any other designer in the world. He is also the only designer in Taiwan to have won awards from all four. Especially noteworthy were the years 2006 and 2011, when Hsieh and his team brought home three gold medals in each of those two years.
Hsieh is the first to admit that winning international awards is an extremely cost-effective way to achieve the goals of advertising and marketing a company. But for him, the real end purpose of design is not to put the designer on a pedestal, but “to help industry in Taiwan be able to expand its share of the international market more rapidly.”Pouring passion into design
Hsieh, born in 1967, says that he suffers from the “seriousness of mind” of people born in Taiwan in that decade. From childhood his dream was to “change the way mankind lives in the future.” As the son of a minister in the southern Taiwan wing of the Presbyterian Church, which was very active in fighting for human rights in the 1970s and 1980s, Hsieh grew up especially sensitive to political and social change, as well as being prone to indignation, dissatisfaction, and insecurity.
But when he matured into a young man, he discovered a whole new world in aesthetics and design. He transferred his powerful emotions into this “handmade world.” From that point on, he says, “I started expressing my love for this land of Taiwan by pouring out my passion in a different direction, that is to say creativity.”
When Hsieh was 26, he made the farsighted decision to set up his firm in Taichung, reasoning that “it would be very helpful for anyone trying to start a venture in design to be right in the midst of the hinterland of the manufacturing supply chain.” The Taichung/Changhua belt is the bastion of traditional industry in Taiwan; there are a lot of manufacturing resources there, and the area provides the materials and production capacity that designers need. Moreover, production costs such as rent and salaries are lower in central Taiwan, and people are more motivated by interpersonal relationships, so it is easier to form mutually supportive networks.
Nonetheless, though central Taiwan offers many advantages, Hsieh still went through hard times when he first started up his business. “There was one time I was so poor that I had to rely on NT$400 I had won in the national store-receipt lottery just to get through the day,” he recalls, “And there were other times when I didn’t have a dime in my pocket, and just a few hundred NT dollars in the bank, and I had to ride my bicycle all over Taichung looking for ATMs that dispensed hundreds.” (Many ATMs in Taiwan dispense only NT$1000 bills.) At least now he can look back on those days and laugh. “Hey, I must be the city’s leading expert on which ATMs dispense hundreds and which don’t!”Hands-on approach
Throughout his design career, Hsieh has taken an attitude of “overcoming the odds through hard work.” “Being hard pressed is the special characteristic that we Taiwanese have in common.” Hsieh never studied abroad, got only an ordinary education, and as the son of a minister of course he had no background in industry and no powerful financial backing. The way he looks at it, all of this is exactly parallel to the situation of small and medium-sized enterprises in Taiwan.
He talks about Taiwan’s small enterprises, with their undersized operations and their constant struggle to raise liquid capital, but which nonetheless always have that one guy in charge who is a hands-on leader working not only in the office but right there on the production line. Hsieh says, “I have always wanted to be the bridge between our home-grown manufacturing base and the international market—to bring Taiwan’s manufacturing capabilities to the attention of the world through design.”
Hsieh tells the story of the time many years ago when he designed a bicycle lamp for a manufacturer in Changhua. When he went to the “factory” in person, he discovered a small house by the side of a two-lane highway, behind which was a corrugated steel structure, inside of which a dozen or so old aunties were assembling bicycles. At that time, he says, the first thought that came into his head was, “What is this?! Are they are even going to be able to pay me?!” Hsieh had designed a lamp that could be removed from the bicycle and function as an independent flashlight. However, the production costs of his lamp were double those of the traditional bicycle lamp, and the client hesitated about whether to try to produce it on a commercial scale. Hsieh encouraged the client to grab the opportunity to get a piece of the high-end bicycle market.
Ultimately this lamp won Hsieh his first ever iF design awards gold medal, in 2006, which was also the first iF gold won by any Taiwan designer. The story behind the lamp tells us a lot about the bittersweet struggle Taiwan’s industrialists have gone through over the past couple of decades to take their game to the next level in the international market.OEM, not OBM? OMG!
Hsieh says that shortly before the lamp won the iF award, the annual international cycle show was being held in Taipei. Hsieh’s client did not have the funds to participate in a big way, so, together with some other businesses, he rented a “super-mini” booth only 50 x 50 centimeters in size. There the manufacturer set out the new bicycle lamp. A representative of Raleigh, the major British bicycle maker, really liked the lamp, and wanted to sign a contract with the Taiwan manufacturer to become its agent for the UK. The Taiwan manufacturer didn’t really understand what was happening, and replied, “Okay, how many do you need? We’ll just stick your logo on there and we’re good to go.” Standing off to one side watching the whole exchange, Hsieh couldn’t help but sigh—the manufacturer had been doing OEM (outsourced) work for such a long time that he just couldn’t think of himself as the original brand manufacturer (OBM).
Fortunately, the story had a happy ending. Raleigh told the Taiwan manufacturer that such a great product should be developed as its own brand.Wall economics vs. floor economics
While Foxconn is certainly not a “small enterprise,” with SquareX Hsieh and Terry Gou are taking the same attitude of “taking on the world” that Hsieh brought to his previous work with SMEs. They are positioning SquareX as an entirely new firm that will “redefine the home environment experience for a new era.” The company is expected to release its first series of products in the fourth quarter of 2015. The underlying thinking behind the series will be to overturn “floor economics” and replace it with “wall economics.”
Hsieh says that through the use of forward-looking technology and value-added design, “wall economics” can multiply by many times the utility of previously idle vertical space. This is a “disruptive” innovation that will completely turn around Taiwan industry, and is the common dream of these two Taiwan entrepreneurs, Hsieh and Gou, who aspire to change the world. In a play on words, “wall economics” applies not only to the literal use of enclosed spaces, but also to the fact that OEM manufacturing has “hit a wall,” and only original brand manufacturing can take Taiwan to the next level.
Hsieh, who in 2014 suddenly abandoned his most profitable activity, “design services,” says: “Twenty years after founding my business, I decided to cut the chain. Although the company had to pay a terrible price for this, thank God that working with Terry Gou I have discovered new goals and new motivations. I hope you will all look forward to startling new developments in ‘wow’ design!”