Taiwan Designers’ Week Organizer Timothy Liao: Make Design Thinking a Mindset


On the busy Aiguo E. Road on a midsummer day, yellow cabs pull over for people on the curbs. Old plaques are displayed on all sidewalk trees, and one of them reads: “Autumn maple tree, also known as red cedar. Approximately 350 years old.” It seems like a reminder of life, which reminds us that it was already standing here long before the city became great.


The ID card of the autumn maple tree provides an opportunity for people to learn the different species of trees around us, and how to protect them, achieving the purpose of ecological education. The bright yellow color of the taxicabs facilitates easy recognition, making it more convenient for people to hail a cab. In fact, these are all designs that aim to “solve problems.”

“Design thinking” is a trendy term people began to talk about just recently; it actually refers to “the ability to solve problems.” What is so intriguing about it is that, not just designers, but everyone possesses this power—everyone can physically practice the design process of observing phenomena, discovering demands, finding solutions, and optimizing through continued adjustments.

Design triggers impact

When we consider the essential question of “what is design?” The answer is surprisingly simple. “Taiwan Designers’ Week” organizer Timothy Liao logs onto his Facebook page and shows us the answer.

An album he named “design behavior” features a collection of eye-catching designs by ordinary people. For example, when he went for a midnight snake, he saw a canvas bag hung on the wall with holes at the bottom poked by the vendor, turning it into a container for tissues. Or, turn a commonly found red plastic stool upside down and you have yourself an umbrella stand on rainy days.

Having grown up in Taipei, Timothy likes to turn ideas into reality. So he entered the design industry, hoping to realize designs in all details of daily life. He believes that design does not mean unbounded imagination; instead, design is demand-oriented. “If a beautiful mug does not feel right in your hand, or it leaks, then it is not a good design.”


In the past, as Taiwan’s economy relied on OEM and ODM models, designers often hid behind the brands, and their names or design philosophies were rarely mentioned. In 2006, the foreign idea of designers’ week impacted Taiwan, creating a series of ripples in the originally calm Taiwanese design community. The private “Taiwan Designers’ Week” was thus founded against such backdrop, and is now in the tenth year of existence, accumulating abundant energy. Taiwanese design showcases more and more local cultural features, and designers convert own life experience into creative designs; things like iron window grills from military dependents’ villages and glass mosaic have now become classic materials innovated by designers.

“Designer’s power is not limited to designing products; they also convey ideas through design, achieving the purpose of interacting with the public and changing the status quo. Designers also try to exert influences so that design thinking can become the habit and instinct of every person.” Timothy points out that this is the meaning embodied by the theme of this year’s Taiwan Designers’ Week, “impact.” Design not only meets commercial demands, but it can be influential and instrumental in transforming social dynamics.

Design empowers Urban Transformation

“Design thinking” is an effective medium for solving problems. When a person finds inconvenience in his or her living environment, that person will try to change the status quo through design, hoping to make life better.

Design thinking can be a product, a service, a method, or even an idea. When people can pay attention and observe the life around them, and have ideas or contribute to the transformation, their efforts will then converge into a powerful force that propel changes in the society. These proactive acts of autonomous transformation pose as challenges to designers, but to a city, they are also opportunities to turn things around.

Design thinking can also be the driver that elevates a city. “The essence of design is to create unlimited possibilities in limited conditions,” said Timothy. The essence of design responds to the topics of urban renewal—how to continue optimizing urban development with limited resources.

Taipei has been designated WDC 2016, and like a switch that connects past and future, this is when Taiwanese design community fully showcases the energy and opportunities accumulated over the years. “I hope to turn design thinking into a mindset,” said Timothy. WDC Taipei is not just a series of events over a specific period of time; it could be the seeds planted in the heart of every citizen, which would germinate, grow, and sustain the force, turning design thinking into life education, so that everyone can experience personally the convenience and wonder in life design can offer.