Designed in CAFA, Made in Germany

I haven’t really documented student projects on this site but this one is interesting in that that yielded both a series of products and a couple of exhibitions. It stands out as an exemplar of how educational institutions can work with industry. 

This project was instigated by Stefanie Kubanek who has organised many such projects with the Bavarian crystal manufacturer Nachtmann (Part of the Riedel group). The overall project is called Nextgen and is aimed at giving students the chance to work with real manufacturing industry and to develop products for market with expert guidance.

We worked with 20 students for around 6 months, helping identify and develop themes appropriate to the project and to the material. After an interim assessment eight of these students were given the opportunity to travel to Germany to visit factories, meet designers and engineers to discuss their concepts, visit design studios and museums. This was an incredible experience which really gave students an insight into how to improve their designs and the workings of the design industry in general. 

The final exhibition showed a range of different approaches, but all of them were credible attempts to translate a Chinese understanding of design and aesthetics to a crystal object. In the end two approaches were chosen for manufacture — ShuFa书法 (Calligraphy), by MaoChuRong and GongYiNing, and JinYu金鱼 (Goldfish) by Zhang SiCong. The designs were a mixture of whisky glasses, tall glasses and plates/bowls.

Design in crystal (particularly machine-moulded crystal as these examples) is highly specialised from a technical perspective. These designs really pushed what is possible with the technology and are very pleasing objects. 

This work was exhibited a couple of times — at the Central Academy of Fine Arts and also during Beijing Design Week in BaiTaSi, which was covered by Blueprint, AD and others. 

Nachtmann not only supported all the travel, visits and accommodation, but also set up a royalty agreement for these products so that students could benefit from their design work. 

Thanks to Stefani, Wang Min, and everyone at Nachtmann for making this such a great experience for the students involved.