Huawei, the largest telecommunications equipment maker in the world, invited us to help them improve their penetration in the European market.
“We didn’t want an agency that just brings their familiar ways to us,” Huawei director Bin Xie recalls. “We wanted them to understand our company, our products and what makes us special.”
The challenge was to design a successful product for Western tastes that was true to the principles and values of the giant Chinese business. It would be a two-way process: just as tangerine needed to understand the culture of Huawei, so Huawei needed to understand the culture of the Western consumer.
It was clear the design process at Huawei needed an urgent overhaul. Designers were being given only a few weeks to design a cell-phone – sometimes without even time to think and sketch. We worked with Huawei executives to define a structured and strategic approach to design that respected the philosophy of the company. Among the insights we identified was the potential of consumer trend analysis, particularly data on what was happening in different markets. The aim was to find a design language that could be understood in both east and west.
One tangible product of this new design thinking was the development of the C7100 mobile phone. Aimed at the Chinese market, more than a third of a million were sold in the three months after its launch in 2008. But even more important, perhaps, was the quiet revolution tangerine had initiated as to how Huawei’s products should look and feel. The Chinese desire for elaborate technology was balanced with the European demand for simple aesthetic design. The result was a distinctive design language that is central to Huawei’s international strategy. The company now has one of the largest in-house design teams in the world with design centres in the UK, Japan and the United States.
The design story
The client says:
“We learned so much from tangerine,” says Xie Bin. “From the first project, they were quite smart. They built a design language, and it was a balanced not an extreme solution.”
Xie Bin, Design Director, London Design Centre, Huawei