Following the winners announcement of Making Matters, China Design Challenge, the British Council has organised a series of miniature showcases in Shanghai and Manchester. Under the theme of “Fall in love with the future through circular design”, the Challenge aims to explore how the principles of a circular economy can be a catalyst for creativity, collaboration and regenerative thinking within architecture, design and fashion practice through its multi-disciplinary programme. The Challenge also recognises young creative talents by facilitating an exchange of dialogue around circular design. Launched in 2021 for Chinese university students in Mainland China and the UK, the Challenge is a part of the global initiative of Making Matters, sponsored by IM Motors and co-developed by Manchester Metropolitan University and Young Green Tech.

Circular design involves the elimination of waste and pollution at source through designs, promoting the revival of nature via recycling products and materials. The 14 selected finalists were offered knowledge-buildings activities, tutorials, and workshops with professional advice to refine and develop their ideas and proposals from the last 10 months. The robust group of finalists gathers talents from different specialties, including industrial design, engineering, business management as well as education and computer science, who come from Tsinghua University, Renmin University of China, Central Academy of Fine Arts, Royal Academy of Arts (UK) and other universities across China and beyond.

The judging panel is comprised of a group of esteemed professionals and scholars from China and the United Kingdom, including FAN Chuan, Project Manager for Learning and Design, Ellen McArthur Foundation; FENG Yi’an, Designer of Colour, Material and Perception, IM Motors; Sarah MORIARTY, Design Educator, Member of the Product Design Team, Manchester School of Art; Lucy SIEGLE, Journalist, the Guardian and Chair, the Real Circularity Coalition; and WANG Xi, Founder, VLOOP. The winners were judged based on five key criteria including social impact, communication skill, critical thinking, innovation, as well as achievement and improvement.

“We received a diverse array of project submissions for this challenge. The students’ passion and commitment are evidenced through the strong insights and detailed thoughts in their circular design projects. They have also made significant progress in refining and developing their projects in the last 10 months. We are excited to see what lies ahead for these students,” commented the judging panel.

Seven award recipients have been selected from the shortlisted projects for the Challenge, which include: two Grand Champions (individual entry and team entry), two Merit Awards for the runners up (individual entry and team entry), a Highly Commended Prize and two Commended Prizes.

The Grand Champion for Individual Entry was awarded to project “Sustainable exploration programme for the whole process of aluminium metal production” by TU Junjie from Central Academy of Fine Arts. The project aims to achieve ecological, economic and social sustainability by reusing bi-product and waste product from aluminium production.

The Grand Champion for Team Entry was awarded to project “Research on sustainable applicability of circular design on the recycle of lens thermosetting materials in optometry industry” by GAO Jie and DUAN Limin from the Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology. The project aims at effective recycling of waste materials by customising the modular components of glasses, taking into consideration glass designs, material choices, user experience and the most fundamental aspect of vision protection.

The Merit Award for Individual Entry was awarded to “POO-BANK” by LIU Ruitong from Renmin University of China. Through recycling waste, the project converts organic compost from pet dog excrement to create a healthier and sustainable urban environment. The project was also awarded the Choice of the IM Community by IM Motors.

The Merit Award for Team Entry was awarded to “Extreme-Ride” by LI Jiaxiang, MO Wanying and SHEN Yuhong from Tsinghua University. Based on the 4R strategy – Redefine, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle – the project involves the design of an electronic SUV-camping car for the “urban nomads” belonging to the Generation Z.

The Highly Commended Award was awarded to “Campus Waste Recycling Incentive Platform for Universities” by ZHANG Man from South China University of Technology while the Commended Awards were given to “Life in Wax” by LIU Ziyi, ZHANG Ting, WANG Qin and ZHANG Xiaoman from Shandong University of Finance and Economics and GAO Zixiang from the University of Glasgow; and “Be the Master of Your Own Memory” by JIN Hongyi from Tsinghua University.

The Grand Champions and Merit Award winners receive a prize of CNY 24,000 (~GBP 2,960/ USD 3,500) and CNY 12,000 (~GBP 1,480/ USD 1,750) respectively, and all award winners receive a trophy and certificate made from regenerated materials. The winning project of the Choice of the IM Community will receive a Thomas Heatherwick-designed Spun Chair as a special prize.

About Making Matters, China Design Challenge

The British Council’s Making Matters, China Design Challenge seeks to unlock the creative talent of future generations of designers through a student focused initiative. This edition of Making Matters is, sponsored by strategic partner IM Motors, and co-developed by Manchester Metropolitan University and Young Green Tech.

The circular economy requires moving from the current linear model of take, make, discard to a circular system that regenerates natural systems and keeps materials and products in use.

Moving toward a circular economy requires global cooperation and an industrial-scale response that can be supported by a community and locally-based approach to encourage more sustainable design and fabrication solutions. The concept of circular design is a relatively new term, but circular systems and practices have existed in different forms around the world for centuries. Research from organisations like the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, highlight the power that circular design has in shaping a more positive future for our planet, but to have more meaningful regional and global impact, circular design and making practices need to be shared more widely.

Designers around the world require more support to understand the impact of their design and material choices, and the public require more information to make informed decisions, as citizens, rather than consumers. How can the principles of circular design be expressed in new ways internationally between different countries and cultures? Making Matters will foster a global dialogue around circular design. The multi-disciplinary programme explores how principles of the circular economy can be a catalyst for creativity, collaboration and regenerative thinking within Architecture, Design and Fashion practice. This programme aims to provide a space for an international exchange of knowledge and expertise, exploring how design & making can respond to global environmental challenges, to support restorative and alternative futures. Currently the Architecture Design Fashion team at the British Council has run Making Matters projects with practitioners across East Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and EU Europe, with several UK and international partners.

This year, sponsored by IM Motors, the British Council is collaborating with Manchester Metropolitan University and Young Green Tech, to invite Chinese university students from design, engineering, and related disciplines to join forces to explore how designers can communicate the principles of the circular economy internationally. 

LIU Tao, co-CEO of IM Motors, said: “As the world faces increasing challenges brought by climate change, we are prompted to adopt new practice from a new perspective that would help create a more restorative and regenerative future for our planet. Through Making Matters, China Design Challenge, we hope to encourage young students worldwide to leverage the power of design to conserve energy, materials and reduce environmental pollution. By integrating circular economy and the concepts of innovation, cooperation and regeneration, we can ensure environmental impacts are fully taken into account when designing new products, services and systems for the future."

Sevra DAVIS, Director of Architecture, Design and Fashion at British Council said, “Our work in the architecture, design and fashion team at the British Council is centred on a long standing and growing ambition to support emerging designers and to see sustainability and circular design embedded in the work that we do, as well as supporting that in the architecture, design, fashion and peripheral industries and communities. Young designers are crucial to this work. We all know that innovative thinking lies in those who have the ability to think systemically and through complexity in new ways. The Making Matters, China Design Challenge builds on the circular design momentum already inherent in so many young designers today, so we can see these ideas brought to the fore. I want to thank IM Motors for their support of the Making Matters, China Design Challenge as well as Manchester Metropolitan University and Young Green Tech for their co-development of the program, and a particular thanks to all the young designers who took part and who worked to develop ideas for a circular design future.”

Following the winner announcement, British Council is hosting a project showcase at IM Motors Experience Center in 1000 Trees in Shanghai that is currently on view until February 2023 with the theme of ‘Fall in love with the future through circular design’, including an extra section of recycling materials for display and experiment by REDO Design Studio. As a complementary event succeeding the campaign “IM Here” presented by IM Motors, the showcase will be relocated to URBANCROSS Gallery on Wukang Road in Shanghai in late December, with an aim to raise the awareness of circular design among the young generation and encourage more of them to join the initiative. The project showcase will be on view at Manchester Metropolitan University in early December alongside academic panel discussion on 16 December.