Reverse engineering and local design

Throughout my studies (BID), I am thinking about ways to approach design when I enter my career. This is not one of those ‘don’t think about it don’t worry’ things, things like this always made me think as a kid (I used to change ‘I want to be ____ when I grow up’ probably twice a day, when most kids either didn’t care or just wanted to be one thing.). Anyway, I had this thought that if Asia are making everything we try to design and produce at a rate that far exceeds our time, energy, monetary efforts, how do we compete? Why even consider a career?

So it got me thinking. The original plot for making cheaper, better (not always) and larger produce copies of American, Australian and European designed products was to ‘reverse engineer’ it, then redesign it, with their own branding. Well, it seems in Asia, focus: China, they now do design things purely for westerners, without taking influence from our own products. In fact, we could sit back and have everything designed over there, at this rate.

So, it got me thinking. What if you took these crafty ideas, that most of us would be lucky to come up with ourselves, as they have better designers for lower pay, and reverse engineer it ourselves? Then, with local materials we source ourselves, add a little bit of aesthetical local culture signature to the design, and produce it ourselves. Obviously their would be a large mark-up from the original design but still, how many people are there that have seen that amazing chair design, based on the ergonomics of another design but has that local appeal that just makes it such a great purchase?

It is a bit hard to fully communicate the point I am trying to make here. I also know how many of you would love to argue what I have said. But do you know of any business, specifically, very local businesses (those that don’t export/import), that practice this? I am aware there are clothing and furniture designers that do this everywhere, using recycled materials, etc. But what about the products we consume almost everyday, especially the ones that seem to just go straight into waste?

Side note: think about those barbers and hairdressers. We don’t import hairstyles, but people invent a hairstyle overseas, it is seen on someone that travels, noticed by the hairstylist, they want to imitate, work out how it was done, then advertise to their customers and new hairstyle they have mastered, including their signature way of doing it- perhaps an easier, more efficient way with less water and less hair gel. The original creator gets no royalties and would never ‘sue’ a hairstylist in china for giving haircuts that (s)he created in Germany… just a thought, that’s all.