Design Director who takes the helm of SEED | Chen, Chao-Chen Dialogue

Industrial designers are like a group of explorers who desperately try to dig and capture every fleeting inspiration, taking in as much of its nourishment as they can, then transforming into functional forms taking in account aesthetic to implement in daily life. The design director in Seed, Meiric, who plays a huge role in how the group reacts and moves forward, considering the balance between the brand value, design, and people from a broader perspective .

Founder & Design Director: Chen, Chao-Cheng (Meiric)

Born in a small village, Meiric loves to doodle and fantasize since he was a child. In his young age when there was an era full of restrictions in 1970, he often dreamed of being a bird soaring freely in the sky. Such a wacky boy turned out attaining his degree in engineering mechanics that shaped his meticulous mental model, and founded SEEDDESIGN In 1991 releasing all creative ideas into the works of lighting. Among his honors are 2019 German Design, and years of Golden Pin Design Award.

On a chilly morning we were invited to Meiric’s house having some tea (one of his favorites), talking about his philosophy on life, and his perspective on design.

What do you think “lamp” is to you?

– Making lamps for me is the intersection of hobby and career.

I’ve always been keen on doodling and drawing since I was very young. As a result I was good at cartography from high school all the way to college. Making lamps for me is the intersection of hobby and career, I can do what I like and do it right for living, that makes me feel blessed and energetic every single day.

When did you realize you love designing?

– I don’t know, it is all in there, somewhere all up in the DNA. If there’s something wrong, I can’t help changing it by drawing. When I was a teenager, I sometimes got bored with those cityscapes I’ve ever seen from books that looked crowded and unorganized. At some points, I used to simulate urban planning like electricity systems, drainage systems and traffic routes to overhaul, even though I was doing that for fun. The fever of adventure raised within me, I just want to do something different and break traditional rules.

When did you decide on a career of being an industrial designer?

– I wasn’t sure till very late.

When I founded SEEDDESIGN, the first work have had a big success, but afterwards the others were not. So one of my clients from Scandinavia named Hans, he suggested me: ‘Hey why don’t you make glass lamps, that looks costy than plastic ones.’ I knew nothing about glass at that time, so I commuted across the towns twice or four times a week, driving down to a hot shop located in Zhunan in order to get the skills of glassmaking. Time after time, gradually I was able to dedicate my solid knowledge of the other materials toward improving the process and equipments of glassmaking. The interdisciplinary learning had brought me a huge benefit not only on my works having superior quality, but also on giving me oppotunities designing some more well-receiving glass fixtures for more ODM customers. Ever since on, I realized maybe I can more or less pay bills by design as a profession.

Are you a romantic or rational person?

– Absolutely romantic as you can see, how many people would buy the work “VULTURE“?

It’s too unique to be appreciated. I knew that, but I still liked it to be able to rotate and play around, so I enabled it. VULTURE to me is a kind of irrational behavior. But I can’t always be like this. I have to consider engineering feasibility, cost, and market demand…various factors that require numbers and logical thinking to evaluate whether or not to launch a product.

Among all of your designs, which one have you devoted to it the most? 

– The UFO, it was my very first work, for which it made me feel perturbed like treading on thin ice. Initially, I was not sure whether this is going to be a hot product or not, so I decided on sand casting that’s 10 times cheaper rather than mold casting. It resulted in a problem that the castings weren’t precise enough to assemble. So I went to my friend’s workshop to mill and assemble by myself overnight. The next morning till I took off my glasses, I just noted that only my eyes were clean in white. Nonetheless, thank God the UFO was having a big success otherwise there won’t be SEEDDESIGN anymore.

“Just do what you really want to do.”

What’s the style of SEED works?

– I think style is not the factor I’d take into account.

Design jobs are inspired by every little thing. We perceive inconveniences in daily life, try to innovate and provide solutions to meet the needs by generating ideas along with personal perspectives, that’s my understanding of design. I believe there is something more inside, for instance, the heritage of spirit and core value to attain a marvelous design. Take luxury vehicles for example, they might want to convey a message of self consciousness or a particular kind of streamlined shape coming through to merge the brand’s unique qualities. But that can’t be confined to any of styles, I doubt the founders have ever thought about that at the beginning.

As an Asian, what do you see as the design differences between east and west?

– There are various of interactive-structure as you can see in SEED products, that’s the difference. But I think that’s just because of me, with my mechanics background, which has nothing to do with where I’m from. I don’t think about the concept of being Eastern and Western design. Regional concept to me is the beginning of self-limitation, my design thinking is boundaryless. In the past, those European vehicle groups used to design cars with identifiable culture styles, eventually they all turned to global type products in the end to target the globalized market. It’s all about design itself that should be a human-centered approach to innovate.

Can you share an object you treasure the most with us?

– An object that I treasure the most? Actually, I don’t really treasure stuff. Instead, I care more about people.
I like something new and decent, I don’t obsess with old objects, cause goods are made to be used. However, I cherish the people around me. That’s why I still live with my mom, and most of my friends are old friends that I have known for decades. 

 Two things that matters in my life: “Simplicity” and “Good characteristic”

How do you spend your weekends?
– It’s quite simple in fact, I spend most of my time at home.

On Saturday, after my chores are done in the morning, I take a walk in my front yard enjoying the twittering of birds and the fragrance of all the flowers surrounded, Camellias, Roses, and Osmanthus, by which my wife planted.

After that I normally spend quite some time leaning by the south window in the corner, where sunlight streams through perfectly for my reading. I like to read. I read all kinds of books, particularly in history. It’s interesting to know that human behavior is very predictable with the lessons from the past. 

On Sunday, I go for a ride with some other motorcyclists friends, and come home before lunch spending the rest of time with my family: watch NETFLIX, go shopping, sometimes go to restaurants for supper. That’s how I usually spend my weekends, nothing special.

Is there anything that you are particular about in daily life?

– I like things with simple and good characteristics.
That’s not that easy, actually. Take food for example, I like eating fish a lot, but only the fresh ones. It can be so tasty even if you just cook it in a basic way, fresh is enough. Or such as my table and high stools, they were both made of wood. But not some rare or fancy kind of wood, just walnut and beech. The stools were designed and made by myself, I like them a lot that were out of consideration for my needs.
Same as tea, I regularly get tea leaves from a farmer we have known each other for years. It’s not expensive high-class tea, but I like it very much for its good texture in mouth and aromatic aftertaste. Since I don’t eat, drink, or consume too much, I prefer to keep things simple then stay with that.

What would you become, If you weren’t a designer?

– I suppose I’ll be a chief.
My parents ran a noodle vendor when I was little, so I learned by osmosis how to make boring food taste good since I was young. Besides, cooking is a form of creativity, which is very consistent with my characters.

What design would it be, if it is your last design before retirement?

Well, that’s not gonna happen, cause I don’t think I’ll retire.
I’ve seen some of my friends’ daily life after they retired, farming, fishing, going on vacations, but that’s kind of boring to me. Quote a poem by Tagore:  “ I leave no trace of wings in the air, but I am glad I have had my flight.” I think I will keep flying for long, maybe just slower and spend more time enjoy trees and sky.

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