“Mi Ecosystem has its own design style, and our designers have their own bottom-line,” according to Li Ningning, Senior Director of Industrial Design of Mi Ecosystem and the 79th employee of Xiaomi. Li shared her unique perspective on Mi Ecosystem’s design style and provided an inside look into her journey on the Xiaomi team from the company’s infancy to now.
Why did you join Xiaomi?
Xiaomi co-founder Liu De was my senior schoolmate, and almost two years after I graduated from Art Center College of Design, he came to me and asked whether I’d like to join the startup.
I learned design strategies at school, so I hoped to apply them in the workplace after graduation. I also thought it would be great to work with a group of talented people.
Frankly speaking, I didn’t consider too much and simply took a leap of faith on the opportunity. I joined Xiaomi in February of 2011, becoming its 79th employee.
How do styles of different brands in various industries look alike today?
First, I think we need to differentiate aesthetic trend from design style. Simplicity is a general aesthetic trend of our time. Most people like it, so most companies and designers follow it.
That’s why when you see today’s home decorations, fashion trends, and things in other areas, their designs are very simple. But style is different. Style can’t be copied.
How would you describe the design style of Mi Ecosystem? How does Mi Ecosystem’s design stand out among others?
I would use three words to describe Mi Ecosystem’s design style: Simple, peaceful and humble.
By simple, we are saying that 80% of our customers can accept our design style. We always use white or other neutral colors so as to suit most of our customers’ tastes.
Peaceful means that we are reasonable and efficient in balancing between designers’ professionalism and products’ functionality.
Humble means our products won’t clash aesthetically in an environment. They can easily fit in almost all kinds of home decoration styles.
Mi Ecosystem has its own style, and our designers have their own bottom-line. The first principle is to never copy. The second is that you should take pride in your own designs. If you copy others or you don’t devote yourself fully to your designs, you won’t take pride in them.
We take ourselves seriously as engineers and keep crafting our designs hundreds of times, until eventually we are satisfied.
Xiaomi’s design style and ability have been recognized by more and more authorized third-party design associations – Mi LED Desk Lamp was awarded the prestigious Gold iF World Design Award and Mi Electric Scooter won the Red Dot Best of the Best 2017 Award. What stood out to you about these two products?
Smart LED Desk Lamp’s design greatly balanced functionality and appearance. It has a maximum opening angle of 135 degrees, which is enough for all types of daily usage. The revealed red wire gives the lamp some characters. In addition, it is priced competitively at RMB 169!
Scooters used to be very bulky, but Mi Electric Scooter is not. Its body uses super light aluminum that is primarily used in the aviation industry, so it only weighs at 12.5 kg and is easy to fold.
The criteria for industrial design is subjective, but good industrial design needs to be two things: balanced and simple. Good industrial design can influence or create some changes in the industry.
What Mi Ecosystem products do you use at home?
A lot. Mi LED Desk Lamp, Mi Motion Sensor, Mi Smart Power Strip and others. They have very simple and well-knit designs.
One of my favorite products is our power strip. In the past, power strips were ugly. People didn’t realize that this device could be well designed. However, we believed that everyday products should be aesthetically pleasing and we made great efforts to innovate power strips’ designs. You can see that the three-in-one holes on Mi Power Strip are neatly aligned. We changed people’s perception about power strips and we have led the industry. Now, you can see other brands’ power strips also look better.
What’s your favorite design style?
I like very simple styles. My home decoration takes a simple design, and most of the furniture has a light color. I also prefer simply designed clothes and other fashion items.