Reading Time: 7 min | Nov 2022

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Interviews

Taiwanese design student wins four iF DESIGN STUDENT AWARDS 2022

At this year's iF DESIGN STUDENT AWARD 2022 he broke a little record – Chien-Chen Lai, 23-year old design student from Taiwan, has been honored with four awards for his student concepts, one with prize money and the SAMSUNG Design Prize by iF. And he is not new to the competition!

His concepts range from a therapeutical toy for children's sight, to a farming aid, that is planned to go to Africa for testing and was doted with prize money and the SAMSUNG Design Prize by iF - Farmland Guardian. We asked the creative idea machine what motivates and inspires him and why he thinks, he will profit from winning design awards in his young career.

See all if DESIGN STUDENT Awards 2022 here!

iF: Congratulations on four iF DESIGN STUDENT AWARDS in 2022! A record in this year's competition. What was your motivation to participate in the first place and did you expect at least ONE prize?

Chien-Chen Lai: The iF DESIGN STUDENT AWARD has always been the highest goal for industrial design students, I have been using this as an annual goal since university. I rarely take breaks, under the guidance of Professor Kai-Chu Li I will start working on new projects as soon as I have time, and I have submitted a total of 40 to 50 design concepts in these two years.

When I first saw the four award notices, I thought it was a website failure!


Chien-Chen Lai, iF DESIGN STUDENT AWARD Winner

iF: Can you describe your first thoughts when receiving the info that four of your concepts will be recognized? And how did your fellow students and professors react?

CL: When I first saw the four award notices, I thought it was a website failure, and I asked other students and professors if they had received the notification also.

iF: The range of your awarded concepts is remarkable. From a therapeutical toy for children`s sight, an eating aid for the elder to a sustainable and original argicultural aid. And there is even a compact firefighting motorcycle! It seems that you could offer a great idea for any topic. How come? Can you describe the creative process that led to your ideas?

CL: In addition to international news, Yanko Design, Google Scholar, and United Nations information are all trend barometers that I pay attention to, and I think that we need a lot of thought and discussion in inspiration. One example: In the first three months of the year, I will first draw 200 - 300 sketch proposals, discuss with the professor, and then select 20 special and feasible concepts for in-depth research and prototyping.

iF: How much do you get inspired by trends? Where do you look for inspiration? Do you have some personal points of contact that led to the ideas? 

CL: The topic has not always limited my design concept, and I think that we should be bold to do different design projects as long as we are students. In the process of finding these inspirations, I will constantly browse relevant websites. I will organize these websites into four categories: "design website", "new technology", "international issues", and "medical & health", and examine them one by one – if I find a special issue, I will conduct in-depth research on it and boldly propose solutions.

Farmland Guardian is a piece of agricultural equipment that attracts locusts and converts them into fertilizer through bionic nepenthes, reducing economic and agricultural losses caused by locust plagues in the Middle East and Africa.

Farmland Guardian won the iF prize money and the SAMSUNG Design Prize by iF

Farmland Guardian is a piece of agricultural equipment that attracts locusts and converts them into fertilizer through bionic nepenthes, reducing economic and agricultural losses caused by locust plagues in the Middle East and Africa.

Farmland Guardian has won the SAMSUNG Design Prize by iF also!

Agricultural aid will be tested in Africa

It generates power mechanically and attracts locusts using infrared radiation and 4-vinylanisole. The machine is recycled from production to use and the main material is sturdy renewable bamboo.

iF: Do you have a favorite concept out of the four? If so, why?

CL: My favorite concept is E-YES, a vision training product for children with amblyopia. I started to build this concept three years ago, because of the topic I found during a chat with an ophthalmologist (interviewing people in different specialties around me is also my way to stimulate inspiration), the core concept of E-YES is to increase children's acceptance of amblyopia training, which is an urgent and meaningful topic that I continue to focus on developing.

iF: Farmland Guardian is aiming to reduce the locust plague in Africa. Currently there is a plan to go to Africa for testing. Can you tell us more?

CL: The products are currently being shipped to Somaliland and, with plans to work with the local agricultural authorities, and the expectation that prototypes will be conducted at the actual site at a later date.

iF: The concept is bound to sustainability. Why is sustainability in design important to you?

CL: Sustainability is even more important in resource-poor areas, and as a designer, I try to think as much as possible about the feasibility of products, materials, and energy, and how to design good concepts with the least amount of resources.

iF DESIGN STUDENT AWARD Winner Chien-Chen Lai at work in his studio
The more tools you know, the more novel concepts can be generated, I hope young designers are like modern magicians, more imagination and inclusive of all possibilities.


Chien-Chai Lien, iF DESIGN STUDENT AWARD Winner

iF: Your concepts are practical innovative designs, improving everyday lives for those in need of course. Are you more into the physical, the product design, or could you also imagine turning to digital design – if so or if not, why?

CL: As I mentioned earlier, I am not limited by the design topic, designers should continue to receive the newest technology and technology news, digital design is only one of the tools that can be used. The more tools you know, the more novel concepts can be generated, I hope young designers are like modern magicians, more imagination and inclusive of all possibilities.

iF: Is there a certain challenge of design you would like to take on in the future? Or a certain field that excites you and that you would really like to work on?

CL: The great progress of AI in the field of visual design is something that I am very concerned about and optimistic about. If one day AI can assist product designers in conceptual design, it will be a great thing.

Next to Farmland Guardian, Chen Lai's awarded student design concepts in 2022:

iF: What all of your designs have in common, is their innovative nature. How do you manage to keep this spirit up, in a world, that seems to „have everything“? And especially at such an early stage of your career?

CL: I have been very pursuit of knowledge since I was a child, I want to know everything in the world, and since I was 4 years old I have loved reading and audiobooks (even if I can't fully interpret words), I read everything I can at home, in the library, and anything I can see. In addition to this, there is a funny little story that on my 7-year-old Christmas wish card I did not ask for any toys, but instead wrote "Dear Santa Claus, I hope I can be smart!" The "have everything" mindset is what I crave, and this accumulated knowledge allows me to think flexibly and innovative at the age of 23.

iF: What are your goals and wishes for the future? And how could your iF DESIGN STUDENT AWARDS help?

CL: Now I am in design master courses, and I have also established a design studio "ToSky Design", the studio in addition to continuously generating concept designs, also accept design commissions from local companies, and I hope to bring these concept designs to mass production and truly create products that can impact the world. I will continue to participate in and help promote the iF DESIGN STUDENT AWARD, which is a big stage for emerging designers to be seen, and I will also fully assist if there is any help in the future such as "speeches, business trips, event promotion", thank you again to the organizers.

Chien-Chen Lai's other awarded student concepts in the iF DESIGN STUDENT AWARD 2021

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