Defining ZTE's design DNA

Joseph Waring
telecomasia.net
Hagen Fendler, global chief design director at ZTE’s handset divisionHagen Fendler, who joined ZTE six months ago as the global chief design director for its handset division, explains to group editor Joseph Waring what it takes to assemble a world-class design team and instill a culture of innovation
 
Telecom Asia: How do you pull together a world-class design team with a Shanghai headquarters?
We’re on our way to building a global team in different locations. Of course, our main location is China, but we’re planning to build a European design center this year, in Germany, which will help us to develop our skills in innovation and in design overall.
 
It’s important to understand how such a big team works. ZTE now has 400 people, which means the design team is one of the biggest internal design teams in Asia. It’s not only about the skills within the team that’s important, it's also about how different departments work together and communicate together. We have in our design center an industrial design department, a user interface department, a user experience design department and a mechanical design department. It's important to have the whole value chain under control -- from that conceptional and creational part to component sourcing and mechanical design.
 
We are trying to build up the so-called total user experience for customers. You can find innovation within our industry only if you are combining the different areas of design not just industrial, or user interface design, or user experience design. So in networking you can find the real innovation for consumers.
 
What have been your top challenges since joining?
It’s always a challenge when you start in a new company. You have to first understand the culture, understand how the company works, what’s the strategic setup. And then you have to understand the basic setup, in my case, the design center, then define the areas where you can make the biggest different and the best impact. I think this is a normal challenge to first get a good understanding of how a company works and then to find the right anchor or angle to improve very quick.
 
I think we already developed quite well in the last six months. We were able to establish a new evaluation process within the development process. We redefined our design philosophy, and we redirected our design strategy for a more consistent family design language approach. We’re on our way to building up a design language system, which will help our designers to be more efficient and more targeted toward a certain goal so that we will be able to develop our own design identity in the future.
 
Because that’s one of the most important things we have to build up, on our way to become No 3 in the future, we need to be able to define our design DNA so that a ZTE product can be identified by the design and by the user experience. This will be one very important step in building our brand perception in all our markets so that the ZTE brand can be recognizable.

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