By Lauly Li, The China Post
TAIPEI, Taiwan — Ben Chiu has a dream, that is without question. It’s the finer contours of achieving that dream that remain unrefined. To be sure, Chiu is not idle. He is executive director of Taiwan Designer’s Web and has been organizer of the annual Taiwan Designers’ Week for the past five years.
“If you ask me what my dream is, I can tell you that I want to be an agent of Taiwanese designers, to act like a bridge between designers and the outside world,” he said. “To assist them to communicate with others … You can say it is a service industry within the design industry.”
“However, I don’t have plans for how to achieve my dreams yet.” Chiu, who said he doesn’t like to follow regulations and often does things spontaneously, asked me if this was too passive an approach: a dream without the plan to achieve it.
Without giving me time to respond, Chiu answered his question.
“Well, I guess this is a necessary path to go through while pursuing a dream. A time when you hesitate and get lost for a while.” “You are never sure where life will lead you. Sometimes the answers just come up without expectation,” Chiu said. The length of his tenure with the TWDW team was unexpected. “I thought I was just going to be volunteer for the 2009 Taiwan Designers’ Week (TWDW) for a week. Somehow, five years later, here I am still working for the TWDW.” It has been a teaching time. “It opened up my eyes and world, and inspired my dream.” It began, it could be said, as rough and tumble. “When I joined the team as the exhibition producer (in 2009), there were only a few weeks left before the expo was to begin. There was only one employee at the Taiwan Designer’s Web, and they had not yet settled water and electricity supply issues, or decided on the exhibitors’ locations at the expo,” Chiu said.
“You can imagine how messy and urgent the situation was. It was a crazy busy month for every one of us.” Hosting the event continues to present challenges. “It really requires a huge passion and determination to hold the annual Taiwan Designers’ Week, as we do not have government resources or money to hold this event,” Chiu said, noting that in order to keep running the expo, every staff member at the TWDW must do several side projects to financially support the exhibition. The TWDW describes itself as a design exhibition with a focus on providing Taiwanese designers with a platform to achieve greater exposure both within Taiwan and with audiences on the global stage.
The first Taiwan Designers’ Week was held in a 330-square meter showroom in Eslite Bookstore Xinyi branch, Chiu said, noting that the theme of the expo was “let’s talk,” which suggested a platform for designers to communicate with people.
“Seven years later, we are now holding the 2013 TWDW at the 5,900-square meter Taipei Expo with 250 Taiwanese designers, 90 companies, and international designers attending,” Chiu said, adding that the TWDW has started to gain in popularity in Taiwan and international. Up to 2007, Taiwan’s industrial design sector had been developing for over 40 years, Chu said, and yet there had been no exhibition specifically providing a stage for Taiwanese designers to showcase their talents. “Seven years ago, several industrial designers from Asustek Computer Inc. (Asus, 華碩電腦) and Pegatron Corp. (和碩) decided to hold a design expo that showcased products designed by Taiwanese nationals,” Chiu said. These designers are all close friends, often going to different countries to attend design exhibitions, such as Tokyo Designers’ Week and London Design Festival, Chiu said.
This coterie began to wonder “why can’t Taiwan hold an expo for Taiwanese designers?” And from this question and this group emerged the first ever TWDW in 2007, Chiu said.