Design Research and Writing

During this course you will be guided by professor Hua Dong in the development of a design research project.

The course is composed by six theoretical lectures and during each meeting you will have the possibility to check your work with the professor and with your classmates.

Aims of the course are:

- To introduce key elements of the process of design research

- To introduce common methods of design research and writing

- To compare different approaches to research

- To apply theories to practice through assignments

- To plan, conduct, and communicate design research projects with efficiency

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Research Poster (40% of the grade)

Writing Assignment (60% of the grade): write a paper 2-4 pages


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This course is offered by D&I – Design and Innovation – department and held in Sino Finnish Center once a week. It is not a normal lecture, but an Open one, where during the first few classes some external lecturers are invited to talk, then, for the rest of the semester students hold the lectures by presenting a paper per group (two groups of two-three people each class) among the ones published on the platform and inviting the other students to an open discussion on the topic presented. Discussion is encouraged by the teacher, always supervising and sharing his perspective.
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Open Design Now is a collaborative book of Creative Commons Netherlands, Premsela, the Netherlands Institute for Design and Fashion and Waag Society.It was published and now is also available online at the link specified above (check it!), usable for free under a creative common license.


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Emotionality is not a real lecture, is the possibility to experience collisions between Chinese and foreign cultures.
The professor, Richard Hsu, will go through all his works showing to the students where and what is emotion in 10 pro key kaufen
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The course is composed by lectures and some practical meetings between the class and external tart-up, design studios and companies.
The students are asked, during the semester, to create a collection of interesting projects, campaigns, case studies form all over the world explaining why they have chosen them.



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Environmental Graphic Design

Environmental graphic design embrace different design disciplines mixed toghether, includin communication and environment (such interior and landscape), all concerned with the visual aspect of wayfinding system in order to create an experience that connect people to places.

The course is divided in two main part:

  • the first one is theoretical and concern the history of signs, from prehistory to nowadays, orienteering systems and wayfinding criteria.
  • the second part is a group project, that we develop during the last three weeks, regarding a wayfinding system; this semester we develope a concept of a wayfinding system for Tongji University. Each group had ha different sub-topic: sustainability, interaction or service wayfinding system.


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History and Culture

China is the world’s oldest continuous major civilization, with written records dating back about 3.500 year and with 5.000 years being commonly used by Chinese as the age of their civilization. The development of a state ideology based on Confucianism (100BC) and a common system of writing (200BC) both strengthened Chinese civilization. Politically, China alternated between periods of political union and disunion, and between periods of political union and disunion, and was often conquered by external ethnicities, of which many were eventually assimilated into the Chinese identity. These cultural and political influences are decisive to Chinese identity. These cultural and political influences from many parts of Asia as well as successive waves of immigration and emigration merged to create the familiar image of Chinese culture and people today.
By the end of the course, students should:
1. Have a good knowledge of the history of Chinese Ancient Dynasties, imperial China, the republican ear and People’s Republic of China.
2. Have a good understanding of the important Chinese historical events and influential figures, understanding Chinese ancient culture and modern civilization, as well as Chinese international relations.
3. Have a good understanding of the Traditional Chinese Culture, such as Names of the Han Nationality, Dress, Chinese Tea and Wine Culture ,Traditional Festivals, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Martial Arts, Chinese Buddhism and Taoism, etc.


Assignments: three papers related to the different trips joined during the course and a final long paper about a specific topic you choose.

The course is mandatory and the presence compulsory.

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PDP – Product Development Project

PDP – Product Development Project is a very hands-on-course held by Matti at Sino-finnish centre.

The centre is located at the Aalto-Tongji Design Factory, within Tongji University’s Zhangwu Road Campus in Shanghai and is about innovative interdisciplinary education, research and practice through bringing universities, industry and government together.

Within this fascinating environment, PDP course is thought to be experienced by the student as a real opportunity to challenge with projects sponsored by well-known companies – such as Audi and Hayer – and to deal with real clients, outside the university field.

This is why I am glad to had taken part to the course: for the first time we developed a project with a clear brief provided by a company, we had some meetings with them and we experienced how to relate within the world of work. Moreover we learnt to drive a project in a very multidisciplinary (designers, engineers, economics) and multicultural team (italians, germans, french, indians, chinese…) which is a very appreciated skill to own among design field.

Every year, depending on the sponsor who is searching for a collaboration with the sinofinnish centre, the course is shapen accordingly. This year we were able to choose to apply for one options out of three different ones: Sharping team, sponsored by Audi to develop a new car for the chinese market and a car sharing system; Good Speed, sponsored by Audi as well to design the interaction among the car and the driver; Kool, sponsored by Hayer to develop a new generation fridge.

During the SFC Annual Gala, we  celebrated the hard work done during the year. Final results of the interdisciplinary Product Development Project course are featured to the public. In addition to seminar sessions, the audience was welcome to get familiar with the teams and take a closer look at the prototypes.

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Dian racing

This course module offers students the opportunity to take part in the exciting phases of conceptualizing, designing, manufacturing and marketing of a high-quality formula car in one team to attend Formula Student Competition worldwide.

Driven from Godert,  the team has to deal with the branding of the team, organization of events, updating the website and make Dian racing team famous among students and also outside. Is a multidisciplinary team made not only by designers but even engineers, economics, languages, ext.

Is not a course in which the teacher is giving lesson but is more a weekly meeting in which the team discuss about the strategy and what to do in order to reach the final goal: win the trophy.

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Sustainability consciousness 2014

The aim of the course is to amplify your idea of what sustainability is. Pius and Godert have a great experience in this field and they make your best to explain all the features of this difficult discipline. Through frontal lectures they present case studies divided into different topic each lesson.

The presentation and explanation of different themes aim to enlarge your vision on the actual world and how is the sustainability movement going on and getting more famous and strong. Every week teacher asks to elaborate a paper or a small presentation on the topic presented in class in order to enforce your “sustainable tools” and create a “sustainable collection” to use during your career.

Sustainability consciousness is a smart and intelligent class that deal with themes that should be taught since the first year of university in a much stronger way.


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Books I read before coming in China

In this list you will find some of my favorite books that may excite or enlighten you about China and Shanghai.
Cigni Selvatici: tre figlie della Cina / Wild Swans: three daughters of China
Jung Changh
One of the most fascinating books I have ever read. Not only do I feel I got an honest history of communist China, its story plays out like a novel – I never wanted to put it down. Chang excels at pulling it together for you – showing you the differences between her Grandmother’s life, her mother’s life and her own, moving chronologically in a manner that makes such good sense. I completely followed it despite my absolute dearth of knowledge on the subject of China. I wept with her and felt an almost physical pain at the loss of such an ancient culture during the Maoist regime. Reading her family’s story can help everyone looks with a different perspective at our own life and the community and culture in which we was raised.
L’uomo che allevava i gatti e altri racconti
but also:  Sorgo rosso, Grande seno fianchi larghi, Cambiamenti, Il supplizio del legno di sandalo…
Mo Yan (he has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature 2012)
A deep and authentic glimpse of rural China, crude, cruel, revolutionary and archaic, perfectly portrayed in these stories that are merciless; where a doctor can perform abortions in an industrial way, as required by the planning policy of the birth. You can notice the absolute lack of consideration for the human being, which means that no one will ever pay for the lives lost and, also, that no one has the slightest consideration for their own life.
Sabotaggio d’amore / Le Sabotage amoreux
Amélie Nothomb
I’m not very sure how this book made me feel: I just find myself unable to describe her personality. But I think this book is a little treasure. It is a self-told story of a seven-year-old girl’s that stayed three years in China, living in a diplomatic compound in the 1970s. There are some good observations about China and the Chinese. This is a brilliant, engrossing little book that portrays the self-centered, omniscient bliss of childhood in the setting of Communist China. China is not so much a driving force or a character in itself as a spectre in the background, tainting all of the narrator’s experiences ever so slightly. Descriptions are passionate and vibrant, and the narrator embodies childhood perfectly: idealistic but without pretense or illusion, and comfortable in the belief that their little world is all that matters.
L’impero del sole / Empire of the sun
J.G. Ballard
The classic, award-winning novel, made famous by Steven Spielberg’s film, tells of a young boy’s struggle to survive World War II in China (during the Japanese occupation of Shanghai). In streets full of chaos and corpses, a young British boy searches in vain for his parents. Imprisoned in a Japanese concentration camp, he is witness to the fierce white flash of Nagasaki, as the bomb bellows the end of the war and the dawn of a blighted world. Ballard’s enduring novel of war and deprivation, internment camps and death marches, and starvation and survival is an honest coming-of-age tale set in a world thrown utterly out of joint. Ballard does an amazing job at capturing a period of time that still pervades the Chinese psyche. When you will go to Shanghai, you should plan to spend some time retracing Ballard’s steps.
La ragazza che danzava per Mao /
Qui Xiaolong
It’s an interesting book more as a sociological treatise on Chinese customs, for example the convivial way they behave around a table, always in the presence of a good cup of green tea or a ten-course banquet to share. Yes, the story is a bit flimsy.
I keep on reading books that talk about China. I’ll try to update this list as soon as I can.
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How to find and rent a house in Shanghai

If you are not taking the place in the house of a previous politonger now leaving, it’s not that much simple to find a house in Shanghai.

Nothing impossible of course, everybody of us did it! I found a house thanks to a real estate agency, and it was quite easy. Some info and tips for you.

- There are many real estate agency, but very few of them have English speakers. So, if you have a Chinese friend (maybe a previous politonger that came in Milan) you should ask his help to be a translator.

- In each case (both if you find an English speaker or a Chinese one), tell him how much money would you like to pay for the monthly rent, the area, the features of the house. Remember that it’s easy to rise up the price: starting from low prices it is always a good idea.

- Forgot the European standards, remember you are in another country.  I don’t mean Chinese houses are worse than the European one: they are just different! So don’t compare and just choose what reflects your wishes :-)
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- Chosen the house, come back with the landlord and the real estate employee to check the details and if everything is working. Ask where is the gas counter, where is the hot water heater, the electric counter and so on. Check if the hot water is working, if the heater system is working and if the flush is working. They seem stupid things, but once you are in a new house you want everything to work, right? So you should check everything before, specially if to call a plumber you need a translator!

- Once checked these stuff, you can try to bargain the price. If the house has some lacks and they are not important to fix (ex. some tiles are broken, the furniture is not in very good conditions) you can lever to them to ask a lower price. And don’t forget to say you are a student, if you are lucky can happen that the landlord could be more flexible. If you don’t need the “fapiò”, their “fattura”, the price can also be less.

- At the moment to sign the contract, you should have in cash the money of the first month’s rent (used as deposit, to give to the landlord: he will give back to you when you will leave) and the 35% of the monthly rent to give to the real estate agency. Then, you should pay the landlord three months in advance, by a bank transfer on his bank account.

That’s it from my side! I would like to recommend you the real estate agency where I found the house and the employee who followed me step by step. He is also available now for any explanation, translation and information I need.
His name is Young and he works for Dooioo Real Estate in 292, Madang Road.

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2014/15 China’s Foreign Affairs and International Relations

The course describes the major elements of Chinese foreign policy today, in the context of their development since 1949.

It looks at China’s relations with various countries and regions, as well as Chinese policy toward key functional issues in international affairs. It analyzes decision-making processes that affect Chinese foreign policy, and relate Chinese foreign policy behavior to theories of international relations and foreign policy.

It looks deeply at how the rise of China is affecting global power relations and how other actors are responding. The course pays attention to the application of different international relations theories to the problems we study, and also takes an interest in policy issues facing decision-makers in China as well as those facing decision-makers in other countries who deal with China.

Professor: Prof. QIU Hua-fei

Work to do: Divided in different group, every team has to present to the class a research about China and its relations with another country or group of countries. At the end of the course, every student has to deliver a paper with depth study about an argument, faced during the semester.

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