Tong for Midea

Three concepts for new consumer products based on Chinese cultural beliefs about health and wellbeing

Midea, one of China’s largest appliance manufacturers, wanted to identify growth opportunities in the domestic consumer market. It asked IDEO to help explore the possibilities.

The design team studied people’s cultural beliefs around health and wellbeing in China. Based on research insights, designers determined that Midea could play a key role in building a healthier nation. The team set out to design concepts that were not only desirable to consumers, but also enablers of positive lifestyle choices and behaviors.

To this end, the team developed three concepts for Tong通, which literally means “through, whole, and to understand.” These potential future products are built around the basic themes of eating, breathing, and being:

• A quick, easy to use, and hassle-free herbal tea dispenser (the “espresso machine” of Chinese herbal drinks).
• An air balancer that improves and balances the quality of air in the home.
• A body-balancing mobile phone app that encourages the user to rebalance their body condition, where needed, through movements created with the Chinese philosophies of wellbeing in mind.

One big challenge in developing these concepts was: How might we design products for modern-day consumers that also respect centuries-old cultural beliefs around health and wellness? Whereas Western approaches are often based on “adding and applying,” Chinese approaches focus on putting health “through” a person via eating, breathing, and being. So, designers asked questions like, How might we align the “function of food” to food preparation? How might we enable a healthy home through better “flow?” And, how might we provide monitoring solutions that leverage the Chinese health concept of “body re-adjusting?”

[Continue reading]

Project date: 2011