DISPATCHES FROM CHINA: A HARLEY-RIDING EX-PAT DESIGNER

DISPATCHES FROM CHINA: A HARLEY-RIDING EX-PAT DESIGNER

In 2008, Columbus College of Art & Design alum Devin Mize had a problem — a good one. An internship in China led to more and more work there, and he’d become a frequent flyer between China and the U.S. The economy at home was in dire straits, and the opportunities in China were plentiful. He’d met his wife in China. All signs pointed to a move.

“It was kind of a jump-in-and-hang-on thing,” he said. “The opportunities for design in China are enormous. There’s a ton of money to be made.”

Mize (Industrial Design, 2008) remembers getting a key piece of advice from then-CCAD President Denny Griffith. “He was like, ‘You have to do the work yourself in order to land the job you want. It’s all on you.’ Denny did have something for me to push on and say, ‘I’ve gotta go out and do this myself.’ I think I’ve always wanted to make some decent money, so I started to figure out how to do it.”

Mize now employs about 25 people at Dmize Dzigns, a studio that offers product design, packaging, web design, branding, and even the occasional office interior design service, in Hangzhou City. He’s worked with startups and with big-name companies like Coca-Cola, KFC China, HTC, and Nokia.

“We’re still leading the way in design education,” Mize said.

Though his practice is expanding and his job title is CEO & Principal Designer, Mize is still very much involved in the designs at his own firm, educating artists at local high schools in China and also a partner at two other Chinese enterprises.

“At CCAD, we had a manufacturing class taught by Tom Williamson, but you don’t really understand it until you see it first-hand,” he said. “Then it all starts to come into play. No matter what, for the rest of your life as a designer, you’re going to work with sales and marketing.”

When Mize gave this interview, he was packing for his annual trip back to Nashville, his hometown.

“I get homesick for the strangest things, like biscuits and gravy, or being able to travel down a lonesome road with nobody on it. That said, I’m one of very few foreigners who rides Harley-Davidsons in China. That’s my release here. I get out of the city and hit the road,” he said. “And I ride my Road King every day. When my clients are introduced, I’m the foreign boss who rides a Harley and does great design.”