Ben Chiu is executive director and international curator of the annual Taiwan Designers' Week. On a recent trip to Taipei, Perspective sat down with him to learn about the growing design industry in the region
How did you get involved with Taiwan Designers' Week (TWDW)?
I actually studied industrial design in a different part of the country, in a city called Changhua, and I lived and worked there for ten years before moving back to Taipei in 2009. My [now] business partner and a group of designers were already working on Taiwan Designers' Week and they needed volunteers, so I got involved. I thought it was only going to be for two weeks but… ta-daaa… I'm still here! (he laughs heartily)
Why was the event initially set up back in 2007?
A lot of the designers who were originally involved with TWDW were working in the big computer design companies like ASUS or Acer. I think that they wanted to share concepts and ideas that went beyond, you know, expanding the radius of a laptop, so the first exhibition was born to showcase work by different local talents.
Ten years on, how has Taiwan Designers' Week changed?
In the very beginning, it was simply designers wanting to make an exhibition, but now we have many different events. We have designers who promote their concepts and ideas, and also we have a group of designers who promote their brands or companies, so part of it is more like a trade show, and part of it is more like telling the stories.
Then, we also have a platform where we select some young talents each year and we promote them. One year we had a pop-up bookstore, and this year we are trying something new by having a guest of honour. We decided to
choose Israel as a country to focus on, and I've been working closely with some Israeli designers, and we will be bringing some really nice pieces across for the show.
How do you think events such as Taiwan Designers' Week has changed the design landscape in Taipei?
Well, for example, before 2007, you really didn't see that many design shops. We actually helped Huashan Creative Park to build up the very first Taiwan designer's shop. So, that's one change, as the public are more interested in design now.
I also think that, whereas 10 years ago designers were simply looking for in-house jobs with big companies, nowadays, young designers are out there making their own products, their own brands… I think that Taiwan Designers' Week has definitely influenced this change in a big way.
Tell us about your involvement with World Design Capital Taipei 2016.
I'm co-ordinating the International Design Week Forum, and I'm really excited about it! We have invited 15 different speakers from previous World Design Capital cities, and also delegates from a range of international design weeks. It's a two-day event, and when I started to plan this, I was thinking, 'There are so many design events in the world now, but why and what benefits do we get from them?'
So, we've made the first day a closed-door event, and I want it to be a platform for us to discuss the challenges we each face when creating our different events, whether they be political or logistical or whatever. I want it to be
a like a big brainstorming event where people will, hopefully, be able to take away great ideas and solutions for future events, and possibly collaboration opportunities too.
Then, the public talk will be the next day and that will be more about design in general and design events throughout the world, and how they work. We want to make a difference for people working in the design industry, not just designers, but the people who organise these events.
This is an excerpt from the "The Design Connector” article from the October 2016 issue of Perspective magazine.
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