For me this week was all about the "wow", but not the Windows Vista launch campaign kind (although i did see a ton of "wow" Vista ads all over town)–rather, it was my first visit to the amazing country of China, with visits to both Beijing and Shanghai.
We started off our customer visits at the ChinaVisual.com offices where we met with some of their editors and founder who’s nickname is "Byteart". China Visual is an amazing online community that spans across many design disciplines including web and interactive. I did an informal interview with some of their editors which will be posted on their site with Chinese subtitles–i’m really curious to see how that carries since it was a somewhat rambling chat but very fun. I was really surprised by their questions, which were very specific and showed a great understanding of the software business, the web and interactive space, and a curiosity re: US business and culture. It was my first glimpse of a "creative workspace" on the trip, and their office space had common themes that I saw throughout the trip–a ton of creative/technical folks in wide open interior spaces–very similar to US and "western" design firm’s offices. What was particularly cool about the China Visual office space is that they had decorated the room with some photography and illustrations/graphics from a customer show they were planning for the following week, which served as good "walking the life of the user" reflection for their staff, busy cranking away at computers building out their application and editing content. I found a fellow film lover in one of their editors, Lusheng, who asked me about David Lynch’s new film Inland Empire–just goes to show you that "the language of cinema is universal". It was really fun to connect to a shared passion (Mr. Lynch) with someone from such a different cultural experience… in the same way that "design" in general would appear as a common passion amongst the many Chinese designers we met throughout the visit.
The next day we organized a customer meet and greet to talk about User Experience design and the opportunities for design in software–it was at this *radical* club/restaurant that apparently was designed by Philippe Starck, "LAN Club" was the name… the staff was constantly reprimanding all of us for taking pictures (presumably to protect the uniqueness of the space from being copied by others elsewhere). It was a great location for our meeting with 30 or so of the tope designers in various fields in Beijing.
We also had several more intimate 1:1 meetings with agencies: Digital Hail CEO Deng Xiao and his team showed us some cool WPF based apps they’ve built for Windows Vista, including a prototype for a social gaming environment/community space that was unlike anything I’ve yet seen in WPF (I hope they’ll finish it up and post to their website); Energy Source showed us their portofolio (amazing) including their integrated marketing campaigns that span web and location based experiences for top global brands; and we got to visit the "YouTube of China", Tudou.com, which has a killer app and amazing growth rates/content that mirror the rise of that other web-video site in the US.
All of my US friends who have been to China
told me in advance of the vast number of new construction projects that dot the skyline in China’s cities, indeed, i must have counted 50 buildings being raised… it was a apropo metaphor for the incredible development potential of China’s creative and technical communities–everyone we visited seemed to be bursting at the seems with ideas, energy, and optimism for the future potential of their business’ and China itself. I came away from my brief visit inspired myself, with a bunch of ideas of how we (msft) shoudl be thikning about the opportunity for our tools and platforms in the China market. That, and all the yummy food, nice people, and amazing sites… I can’t wait to go back and visit again!