Industrial design life in Shanghai?

My company has recently asked me to set up a product design satellite in Shanghai to better serve our growing Chinese market. Before I commit, I would appreciate any experinces of being a western industrial designer in Shanghai.

What is the quality of life like there - do you have to live the gated compound existance or is it possible to integrate a little with the locals?

Is the city so polluted & unattractive?

Is there a design community? Are there product design support services?

With media restrictions, how do you stay in touch with the world?

I have had very good friends go there for work. They rarely received my packages or email. I set the ratio at about 1:4 for small packages. Nothing of value was sent and it still rarely made it. I maybe should have used UPS of Fedex more ofter. If they came back without such a hardship and sacrifice pack of stories I may have gone there. They went as the face person and their tasks were tough. I think it broke their youth quicker than they wanted.

If you are resourceful you will have fun. If you are a silver-spooner, you may never get the local customs quick enough.

How familar are you with asian values, customs and practices? If you are not then you may be in for a culture shock.

You company has given you quite a task, my advice is to link up with some locals who can speak the language and go from there.

There are many companies who try to set up a satellite office and fail completly because they have no local knowledge.

Let me know if you need contacts.

The social aspects is fantastic, though i dont live there, i travel there frequently. The city is beautiful and very metro. So much so, many have said shanghai is NOT china.

i’m in footwear not ID, even so i’ve spent about 9 months in shanghai (every 4 weeks going home for about a week). i absolutely love it there, before going to shanghai i was told that it’s the New York of Asia…and it is, central shanghai is covered with skyscrapers, the shops are amazing you can find whatever brand you’re looking for (real stuff or even knock offs), the locals are great if you treat them well and aren’t the typical arrogant turist that treats them like slaves, there are some really intellectual and interesting chinese people that you can meet randomly, some of the restaurants i’ve been to there are also among the best restaurants i have ever been to (non only chinese cusine but whatever you feel like eating you’ll find it there), if you want to mix with other foreigners (which i suggest you do as after about a 3 weeks i seriously needed to) then try joining some of the expats sites that are around; this is the one i thought was best and most active not sure how many ID people are on it but its full of all kinds of people that want to have fun and just help eachother out. the city is a pretty polluted (i’ve heard they have over 5000 new cars on the roads per month!!) but it didn’t really disturb me much, the weather is boiling hot in the summer and freezing in the winter and hardly any rain though or snow. living there is really cheap and the standards can be really good.

workwise i didn’t have many problems…send all packages with one of the main couriers…this is a must, set up an email system that will not classify your emails as spam; i had a problem for a few days where my emails being sent from china to the US were not being received as they were seen as spam by the US company’s email system…not sure if you understand what i mean but in general hotmail/yahoo/aol is fine, as for finding shops that can have materials/equipment that you will need for work then with you will have to rely on the chinese that you will be working with; they should have all information about suppliers etc. if not show them what you need and they will find it somehow.

my advice is that you go there at least for a couple of days to see the city and what kind of standards you would be living and working in. i think in general life can be great there if you are prepared to adapt to it.

I’m a Chinese born designer and have worked in Shanghai for 2 years. So Let me answer your questions.

Shanghai is a real big city with many people here(17m). The people come from different areas of China, even the world. So it’s interesting to see different cultures. Chinese people are very friendly to foreigners and the commercial service is high quality, so I think you will have a nice day in Shanghai.

Shanghai is not so polluted.Some new districts are very clean and beautiful.

Design community?No. Industrial design is new for China. But you can make friends with some designers-like me.

Product design support services? Developed! There are many professional prototype factories, mold and manufacture factories.

Media restrictions? Don’t belive the propaganda you heard.China is very open now. You can talk everything except criticizing the gov. openly.

PS: The food in China is so delicious and the landscapes’ wonderful.I think you will like it.

bandari in farsi means from seashore. also a type of very rhythmic music in southern iran.

I really appreciate all your feedback, information & observations.

I’ve been working internationally for a while & have made several work trips to southern China & HK. So I hope I don’t qualify as a ‘silver spooner’.

It sounds quite a city. This is a big decision for me & my wife. We love culture changes but we want to integrate a little (the golf & country club existance of many expats abroad doesn’t appeal).

What is the transport system like in Shanghai - would you dare to ride a bicycle in the city (sorry but that’s important to us)?

Bicycle,ha,it’s a symbol of China. But Shanghai is so big and most of people(2million) go to work by metros. There are 5 metro lines in Shanghai,cover main districts. And other 5 lines are being building. But if you live near from the company, bicycle is ok and quick. There’s alaways a bicycle way on the road so it’s safe.

A big problem is-the apartment is always small in Shanghai,and expensive in the city center.

my chinese partner has a car plus driver but he prefers to ride his bike 20 minutes to work everyday in beijing! he’s really cool.

Take the subway! I take it every where its great.

The taxis are also good, and they run on meters, and have a funny little voice that tells you in english, about the ins and out, so you feel comfortable. Also the voice reminds to take a reciept, as its has the taxi details so you can report if you feel cheated. Its a real experience! Apprently the taxis are gunning for an ISO 9002 for service or something like that and its a matter of pride to provide you the best service.

Very cool, if you ask me.

When you take a taxi avoid going between 4-7 pm , you could really be trapped.
Now I also have a bike, thats is sometimes really faster than subway (sometime to crowded) and taxi. If you dare take a motocycle taxi: fast and efficient, but donot forgot to negotiate. Shanghai is large but the citycenter is really much compacter than Beijing. However I would like to buy a Beijing Jeep once!!

Nightlife and entertaintment is excellent, food great. You can eat on the bund very luxurious for 300rmb or eat baozhi or jiaozhi for 3 rmb on the streets!! It is up to you. Large supermarkets like carrefour and wallmarkt are existing here, so you can do easily your shopping and even get Kellog’s and Heinz here.

As far as you like city life my advice is come here and enjoy the good thing Shanghai has, however if you like mountains beaches etc , it is hard to find close to this immense city, but who cares as you can take the plain to the fine asian beaches around China.

I lived half of my life in Shanghai and the other half in the US and I would say Shanghai is a city that you’ll enjoy if you appreciate Asian cultures. It sounds like there are a lot of people here on this board that are just as familiar with the town as me. Subway and taxi are two of my preferred method of travel. Shanghai has a very large art community, which means you’ll find many artists, graphic designers and architects. Industrial design is somewhat blended in that community but it is starting to stand on its own.

I’d recommend you visit several places in Shanghai, they have unique products that are in result of a positive fusion between design (fashion, furniture, industrial, etc.) and the Chinese culture. Xin Tian Di is an obvious one, there is also a new place called the No. 8 bridge, ask around and I’m sure you’ll find it. There is also a hidden road called the Tai Kang road where you’ll be pleasantly surprised at some of the stuff they sell there from a design point of view.

If you can read Chinese, pick up a copy of the Jie Fang morning post every Sunday. On page 7 they have a section on the topic of “innovation” and sometimes they can point out where the happening spots are.

If you need additional help just keep on posting, I can point you to some very nice and unique restaurants (both food and the design). Good luck!


  • Ben

It is a very cool city- very new / metropolitian. Unlike HK it isn’t SUPER densely populated (but very busy- it is a city of 10 mil I think)

All in all it is a great place to visit… but for living there… not my style.

:unamused: shanghai is NOT china?Yes,this city is beautiful. But shanghai is a largest city in my country. :smiley: 上海是任何设计公司进入中国的最好落脚点……


can i speak chinese? lol…

Hi all,

I am interested in working in Shanghai as an industrial designer.

Just want to find out a list of design companies in shanghai.

Thanks for your help

i like shanghai ,my grandparents live there for a long time,haha……cool city ,but it’s a pity that the people there are not friendly……i don’t know why…… :unamused:

I am from Taiwan, now studying in Milan
But i think one day i have to go to Shanghai to work… :slight_smile:



can u introduce us more design studio in Shang-Hai ?

I am an ID student from Taiwan and i’d like to find an internship this summer in China. :smiley: