Dot Design founder and design director Lance Han holds the view that the 21st century is the century for huaren(Chinese-speaking) designers. It is imperative for contemporary huaren designers to come up with a completely new and more evolutionary design style that departs from traditional stereotypes.
Dot Design, founded by Han in 2003, mainly provides services in visual design and product design. Established in 2011, the brand DOT Design has since rolled out a series of household items made from bamboo, including the Two Leaves Teapot Set, Green Bamboo Flatware, Ceramic Bamboo Mug, Woodpecker Stapler, and Bamboo Hanger. The company’s products have been recognized by the annual Taiwan OTOP Product Design Awards seven times, making it one of the few brands in the cultural and creative industries devoted to the research and development of bamboo arts and crafts.
Why did Han choose to work with bamboo? Because of Taiwan’s ready supply of some of the best bamboo species in the world, many indigenous to the country, he says. In terms of the growing and manufacturing process, bamboo is also an eco-friendly material. Han has thrown himself into the research and promotion of bamboo crafts ever since he served as a design consultant to the Taiwan bamboo craft industry in 2009. He was particularly inspired by the bamboo craftsmen he met during this influential experience.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of designing with bamboo? Han notes that bamboo grows fast, is eco-friendly, has high ductility, and is suitable for a wide range of manufacturing techniques such as hot bending, whittling, and joining. However, the material does have a downside. Highly water absorbent, bamboo is prone to become a home to mold and mildew in humid environments. In dry air, it can develop cracks. “It’s necessary for a designer to be very familiar with the properties of bamboo in order to design products with bamboo,” Han advises.
At Dot Design, the designer crafts the concept, and then cooperates with one of Taiwan’s highly skilled bamboo craftsmen to turn it into a reality. According to Han, there are two types of bamboo craftsmen, either factory-based or independent. Factory-based craftsmen are able to turn out a large volume of uniform products to a schedule, but are limited in what the variety of designs that can be produced. Independent artists have a strong passion for bamboo and an urge to delve deep into the possibilities of the material, achieving more in terms of concept than a factory ever could. However, these independent artists lack the manpower necessary to mass-produce a design.
For example, Dot Design’s Green Bamboo Flatware features the natural green color of growing bamboo, which is the result of a retention technique patented by Chushan-based, German-educated researcher Dr. Lin. In general, bamboo, once cut, will lose its natural green color over time. The company’s Green Bamboo Flatware has to be made by hand, which limits its production volume. “We hope to highlight the beauty of bamboo craft while also seeking to make possible the mass production of bamboo products,” says Han. “This is the goal we’re working towards every day.”
Besides the above-mentioned properties, bamboo has long been considered an important cultural symbol in Chinese society. “In Chinese culture, the bamboo knot is associated with a noble character. As the saying goes, ‘No meat makes one lean, and no bamboo makes one vulgar.’ In Chinese culture, bamboo, plum blossom, orchid, and chrysanthemum are commonly referred to as the Four Gentlemen. I think bamboo is endowed with strong Chinese cultural elements,” Han notes.
What kind of design can be described as huaren design? “The Chinese are an extraordinary people. They regard very highly virtues like modesty, filial piety, smoothness of character, and a one for all mentality,” says Han. “Western people stress the functionality of a design and its ergonomic aspects, while Oriental designs are focused on the presentation of a certain state of mind, an ambience, and harmony. They are quite different from each other. I think huaren design is closely related to huaren beliefs. As long as a design incorporates Chinese elements–ranging from thoughts to materials to environments–within the context of a common worldview, it can be described as huaren design.”
Han readily acknowledges, however, that merely replicating ancient table and chair designs, or calligraphy and patterns, in a contemporary way is simply not enough. “What does the future hold for huaren design? That’s something really worth thinking about,” he enthuses. “There is still a lot of room for improvement in the huaren design field. Modern huaren designers need to think beyond traditional stereotypes and create a completely new and more evolutionary style. This will shape the next century into one that belongs to huaren designers.”
About Lance Han
Lance Han is the Founder and Design Director of Dot Design, a design studio located in Taipei, Taiwan. He currently teaches at Taipei’s Shih Chien University, Ming Chi University of Technology, and Chinese Culture University. In 2011, he established the brand DOT Design, and over the past five years, he has devoted himself to the research and development of household items made from bamboo, and the integration of local cultural elements into design. His products have won awards from the annual Taiwan OTOP Product Design Awards seven times, in 2015 he took home a coveted Design Mark from the Taiwan-based, huaren focused Golden Pin Design Award.
Han encourages his talented design team to participate in design exhibitions both at home and abroad, the Taiwan Design Expo and Taiwan Designers’ Week among them. In 2016, Han was invited by the Taipei City Government’s Department of Cultural Affairs to serve as design director for the city’s street lamp redesign project. He is also the representative designer of Tatung District in the region’s “Feel Taipei” campaign, and is involved in the renovation of store signs across the city. In 2015, he set up Dot Design Labs, a venue for regular lectures, in an attempt to explore the ways in which design can influence the aesthetics of life.