The grand story of the rise of China often focuses on huge infrastructure and technical leaps. However, far less is made of one of the most essential elements – human capital.
The central government has long recognized the importance of investing in people, in terms of their skills, potential and networks.
One of the most exciting and extensive efforts in this arena comes from DeTao Masters Academy – a forward-thinking education strategist and provider. This is thanks to its wide range of knowledge and unparalleled network of experts – whom it terms ‘Masters.’
DeTao’s Masters hail from across the planet, and are leaders in their respective fields – including art, design, business, academia and government. They include luminaries such as Frog design consultancy founder Hartmut Esslinger, Zhangjiajie Glass Bridge designer and architect Haim Dotan, and Hollywood veteran Roger Christiansen (directing big-hit sitcoms including Friends and Hannah Montana).
Now, one of DeTao’s most exciting initiatives is going to see its first cohort of graduates begin their journey into the wider world. The Shanghai Institute of Visual Arts (SIVA)-DeTao Brand Strategy and Management Program (BSM) was set up 2014, under the aegis of Institute of Swiss International Branding (ISIB), launched by Professor Florin Baeriswyl of Switzerland.
A milestone event on May 25, 2018 was an opening ceremony of the SIVA-DeTao graduation exhibition at the campus in Songjiang. Then, in June, the first 4-year class of the BSM Program will graduate.
It is one of the 11 undergraduate programs that have been jointly developed by DeTao Masters Academy and SIVA.
As the first bachelor program of its kind, BSM is a highly innovative key plank in the nation’s ‘Made in China 2025’ mission. This initiative seeks to promote not just China’s manufacturing prowess, but enhance creativity and innovation, and demonstrate to the world that the country has the soft power and human capital to be a leader in fields such as design, fashion, culture and technology.
The BSM program intends to address the demand for high-value, coveted Chinese brands by developing the nation’s future experts in brand strategy and management. It does this through a combination of academic and practical learning.
The talents that the program produces will in turn be highly sought after not just in the local economy but on the international stage. They will also serve as the educators of future generations.
“The education is based on the Swiss dual system called ‘teaching and training,’ meaning the students also get involved in case studies and business-related assignments,” Professor Baeriswyl said. “Training my students over four years, I can see them thinking long-term and more strategically.”
For his master class in Shanghai, Baeriswyl combined advanced methodologies and popular industry case projects with such global brands as Bosch, Apple and K11. Graduates receive a Bachelor of Arts degree that is recognized by China’s Ministry of Education.
Forthcoming graduate Li Xiaoning plans to pursue post-graduate education in Europe. She has been offered places at The University of Leeds, University of the Arts London and Loughborough University – all in the UK.
“All the 4 year experiences I have gone through – the hands-on projects, research, internship, thesis – collectively worked towards this pursuit of mine nicely,” she said, adding that the internship she took as part of the course at British fashion brand Superdry was of particular value.
“My thesis topic was ‘Taking a Sustainable Development Approach to Brand Luxury Fashion Products.’ It looked into factors such as increased population, resource consumption and ecological environment and proposed optimization in the fashion-product branding,” she added.
Professor Baeriswyl added that, as it is run by a State-owned college, the course is very competitive in terms of fees, which amount to some 25,000 RMB per year. “There is high-demand for this type of talent – they know how to think conceptually, how to think structurally,” he said. “In future, Chinese consumers will demand truth, quality and consistency from brands…this is what the students learn.”
Ian Town, Peking University’s guest professor at the School of Journalism and Communication and judge of the first SIVA-DeTao BSM thesis defense, said: “I‘ve been deeply impressed by the students’ performance. This excellent program meets both the business trends and academic foundation. It is one of the most unique bachelor programs in China.”
Such has been the success of the first group of students on the BSM program that plans are already in effect to greatly expand its reach and depth. The ambitious target is to extend the program to other institutions, with the goal of seeing 5,000 students in the 2023 academic year.
DeTao’s partner schools other than SIVA include Peking University, Beijing Institute of Technology, Beihang University, Hong Kong Baptist University, Said Business School at Oxford University, and Goldsmiths, University of London.
Professor Baeriswyl has advised numerous clients – including Nestle, Swissair, Red Bull, UBS, and Deutsche Bank. He has won plaudits for his efforts to integrate design with communication throughout his 30+ year career. International brands turn to him to ensure they are seen, felt and remembered by consumers.
He is also active in the civic sphere, including the design of an official project entitled “City Branding of Shanghai.” Other recent projects include Zhejiang Made and CEC Rebranding.
DeTao has also been active in promoting non-traditional education programs via other avenues. One example is its involvement in PwC’s You Plus Program, which incorporates a unique mentorship and corporate networking element. DeTao and PwC joined together to cultivate young strategists at the sixth ITALK, an international speech event initiated by Professor Baeriswyl. It took place at PwC’s Innovation Center in Shanghai on May 11, 2018.
As for what ISIB has planned next, Professor Baeriswyl says: “We want to enable better connection with the world, so we will soon be launching the ISIB International. We will expand into Switzerland via a student exchange program, Hong Kong and Hainan.”
Professor Baeriswyl added that Hainan makes an ideal target for expansion as it enjoys Free Trade Port (FTP) status, meaning the visa requirement for foreigners is less of an issue.
The efforts of DeTao and ISIB have been drawing eyes and plaudits from industry leaders across the world.
“This new bachelor in brand strategy and management creates an important platform for building up sustainable brand values in future,” said Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, Chairman Emeritus of Nestlé S.A.