British Council Creative Economy

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15 February 2015

Training in Innovation Design

David Crump, Head of Business Incubation, describes latest collaboration between Cockpit Arts and the British Council in Vietnam.

Alex Dunlop

Our venue this time was Ho Chi Minh City, and the Cockpit Arts team consisted of Madeleine Furness (Business Development Manager) and me.

Our first day was spent visiting four of the companies that would be attending the two day workshop. These visits were really informative, and gave valuable insights to a range of local smaller-scale manufacturing. The products made by these businesses included home ware products, lacquerware and wooden carvings and statues. The welcome received at each business was tremendous, with everyone taking the time needed to describe how products were made, where their markets were and the challenges they faced. The desire and determination to develop their export markets was a common feature of each business. This day of touring local businesses was a really beneficial backdrop to the subsequent days of the workshop. It was also a great way for Madeleine and I to find our feet a little and acclimatise to the area.

The workshops themselves were organised through a local manufacturing association (HAWA) and were held at Ho Chi Minh City Chamber of Commerce.

The bulk of the first morning was taken up with introductions. After Madeleine and I shared a little about ourselves and about Cockpit Arts, each of the delegates told us about what they did and what they wanted from the workshops. There were around 50 delegates, some representing around 22 different companies and others being students or freelance designers. There was a considerable range in terms of company size, and also in depth of experience regarding the UK market.

With the introductions over we started on the main workshop content. The overall structure on day one was to take the delegates from the principles of trend spotting through to creating mood boards. Delegates worked on their own mood boards, but within teams so that they could share thoughts and experiences. These teams also mixed the business people, students and freelance designers together to make the most of their different backgrounds. The mood boards produced tended to show a blend of the UK (we had brought UK magazines for material to use) with strong Vietnamese influences.

The second day started off where we had left off on day one, with some more mood boards being discussed by the room as a whole. After spending some time talking about product design, we asked the groups to select a single mood board and then to take that, as a team, to develop a product. The individual groups worked really well, making the most of the different skill-sets and backgrounds to produce some really interesting products. The blend of UK and local influences again came in to play in a really imaginative way. Another recurring theme was that of sustainability, whether in using recycled products or in working with locally sourced materials.

The final part of day two was to talk about product pitches before asking all the groups to pitch their product to the room. The atmosphere was one of friendly but intense competition, with each group doing a great job of presenting their product before the final vote was taken. No prizes for the winners, but hopefully much satisfaction for all in taking part over the two days.

Alex Dunlop

Overall, it felt like a really productive few days had been spent in Ho Chi Minh City. A critical part of the mix was our interpreter, who taught design at the local University. We often came up against concepts that had no literal translation, and so some thinking had to be done before sharing that particular thought with the room.

The people we encountered were great, and very welcoming. As for the city; I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many scooters and mopeds; the amazing thing is how they weave their way around each other in what seemed like a continual ballet.

I can’t wait to go back!

About Cockpit Arts

Cockpit Arts is an award winning social enterprise and the UK’s only creative-business incubator for designer-makers. Since we first started in 1986 we have helped thousands of talented craftspeople to grow their businesses, many of whom have gone on to achieve national and international success.

Our mission at Cockpit Arts is to support and promote talented designer-makers from all backgrounds through all stages of their career. We strive to raise standards in the contemporary craft and design sectors, making an important contribution to the UK cultural landscape and economy.