Lenovo, which became the world’s third-largest PC maker when the deal went through in May, hired Portland, Oregon-based design consultancy ZIBA to study how Chinese consumers use electronics. A team of five U.S.-based designers and researchers won highly unusual access to private homes where they were able to document Chinese attitudes toward the use of technology. The goal? To give Lenovo, historically a copycat manufacturer, fresh perspective on cultural traits that could inspire new designs.
One of the first things the designers noticed was the extreme care Chinese consumers took of their electronics. Remote controls were tucked away in plastic sleeves, while cloth doilies covered televisions and computer monitors. “They still regard electronics as very precious items,” says Doug Cooke, a senior design planner at ZIBA who ran the ethnographic study. “They treat them the way our grandparents might have thought about that stuff.”