Design students Brittany Keane-Murphy ‘21, and Diane Park ‘21, spent seven weeks as industrial design interns for Topsun, one of the leading camping and outdoor leisure manufacturing companies in China. After completing the first week orientation in Beijing with other participants of the Notre Dame Global Professional Experience Program (GPE), they traveled south to Hangzhou, where they spent the next six weeks interning. Although Topsun has design offices all around the world – their nearest location is in Indianapolis – the primary research and development team resides in China.
Most of the internship experience was focused on one main project assigned by Topsun. Keane-Murphy and Park were not only responsible for product innovation and ideation, but also for the completion of the entire design process. They were directly involved from the initial stages of conception all the way to the physical production of a working prototype. Despite their language and cultural barriers, collaborating with other designers, engineers, and marketers at Topsun was a rigorous professional experience. Not only were the students able to grow as designers, they also experienced the unique cultural and beauty of Hangzhou, China. Weekends were spent traveling to see famous Chinese sites including the Great Wall, The Forbidden City, and Hangzhou’s West Lake. Their Notre Dame peers based in Beijing joined them on one of their weekend trips to downtown Shanghai and the Shanghai Disneyland Resort.
Brittany: “I found that the experience was a real eye opener for me, as I got to see a side of China that is so rarely shown on Western media. Where I used to think of China as a very tradition-oriented country with tight limitations on personal freedoms I now think of as a very modern and industrialized place more like New York or LA, and it’s people being just like any other people, only with a different set of social media apps. I truly loved my GPE experience and all it taught me, from the friends to the adventures to the experience, and I can’t wait to see where I’ll end up next.”
Diane: “It was invaluable to not only see the culture of the design industry abroad, but to also be able to personally work within it. Experiencing the nuances of the Chinese culture as a whole, both more generally and professionally, was a truly interesting experience. Especially considering the current political and economic events between China and the U.S., it was also such a unique educational opportunity to consider what influences these have on the design world. Overall, I was inspired by this first encounter with the entire design process – fromideation to production – and I’m excited to further develop myself from this experience.”