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Briton's eye keeps his design on track

By Tiffany Tan  (China Daily)

08:46, October 09, 2011

Paul Priestman believes that the new high-speed train is vital for the future of Britain and says his concept, Mercury (above), could follow in the design footsteps of the Concorde, the Spitfire, Rolls Royce and the Routemaster bus. (China Daily Photo)

Not many outside the design and transport industries know that Paul Priestman's firm is responsible for the look of what currently is one of China's fastest trains. And the Englishman prefers it stays that way.

"The train has become such an icon of China" that it wouldn't be appropriate to trumpet it as a British design, says Priestman, 50, in an exclusive interview during the first Beijing Design Week, which ended on Monday.

His London-based firm, Priestmangoode - founded in 1989 with former college classmate Nigel Goode - has designed a bewildering array of products for clients worldwide: hotel rooms, cosmetics packaging, restaurants and cafes, radiators, airport terminals, lighting fixtures, a water-saving device.

But in recent years the company has been concentrating on, gigantic projects for transport clients such as Qatar Airways, Kingfisher Airlines, Airbus, Embraer and Virgin trains. And then there's CSR Qingdao Sifang Locomotive, one of the world's largest rolling stock manufacturers and among the producers of China's newest trains.

"We're also now working on cruise ships - which I think is possibly a new area in China," says Priestman, the firm's president.

Because of this growth potential, as well as Priestmangoode's ongoing work with Sifang Locomotive (which started in 2009), the British firm will soon open an office in Qingdao, a major seaport and industrial base in Eastern China. It is Priestmangoode's first overseas office, and only its second base in 22 years in the business.

Priestman, who was part of British Premier David Cameron's 2010 trade delegation to China, says that penetrating the Chinese market is a longterm project, a process of relationship building and cultural understanding.

"Forming relationships on a personal level before you become business associates is essential," he wrote in a blog for Design Week magazine last year. One of the biggest things the British firm learned while working here is how its Chinese client comes up with its train designs.

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