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30 Most Valuable Brands of the Year 2023

RAC STUDIO has a global perspective, excellent scientific research capabilities, and enduring relationships with leading universities and scientific institutes around the world: Hongfei Ji

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“We offer consulting and training services to thousands of design students each year, as well as online courses and short-term workshops for tens of thousands of users, assisting them in getting into the best design schools and firms in the world.”

RAC STUDIO was founded by a team of young, creative designers who graduated from international top schools such as GSD and UPENN.

Hongfei Ji, who graduated from the Harvard Graduate School of Design, co-founded RAC STUDIO with Lifeng Lin and hundreds of other highly talented designers from leading universities around the world. RAC has grown into China's largest spatial design education institution and is dedicated to cultivating young designers with an international perspective by building an integrated design academy that combines industry, academia, and research.

RAC STUDIO was founded in 2015.

The Silicon Review reached out to Hongfei Ji, and here’s what he had to say.

Interview Highlights

Please provide a summary of the events that led to the founding of RAC STUDIO.

Back in 2015, we started recruiting partners every weekend to conduct workshops on topics in spatial design. Then we found this approach efficient in addressing practical concerns and facilitating both education and careers. With the positive feedback on this mode from our experience studying abroad, which was an innovative practice in China, we started to treat it as a viable entrepreneurial option.

Q. In what industries are your clients? Can you provide us with one or two success stories describing the challenges your clients faced and how RAC STUDIO helped them overcome those challenges?

Prior to 2022, RAC mainly offered individuals professional training and consulting services for study abroad and career development in the field of spatial and interactive design. We offer consulting and training services to thousands of design students each year, as well as online courses and short-term workshops for tens of thousands of users, assisting them in getting into the best design schools and firms in the world. As the company evolved, we, taking education as the starting point, invited international cutting-edge universities, professors, and research organizations to participate in our programs through our international teams. At the same time, we began exploring an integrated solution for spatial and interactive design that combines industry, academia, and research, catering to the needs of governments, businesses, and individuals. In many areas, researchers often struggle to find the scenarios for experimenting with the latest design, education tends to lag behind industry advancements, and the industry demands pioneering talents. As such, we decided to develop educational solutions that meet industry needs while bridging the gap between industry, academia, and research. These comprehensive, cross-disciplinary solutions aim to seamlessly combine education, industry, and research. For instance, our educational solutions often involve real clients to help teachers and students in academia stay informed of real-world scenarios. Furthermore, our programs also cover roles such as governments, businesses, universities, and nonprofit organizations at home and abroad.

In recent years, RAC Studio has focused on the urban micro-renewal, rural revitalization, sustainable development, heritage conservation, interactive design and technology, and other topics through our educational solutions and services, and meanwhile, we have been concerned with the latest policies and changes responding to emerging challenges and issues. To better achieve our goals, we have invited academic researchers from top international design schools such as MIT, UCL, AA, TUD, and Politecnico di Milano to participate in our programs (with the government and enterprises). We have led college students on field trips and participated in research projects such as the "World Natural Heritage" China Yellow (Bohai) Sea Migratory Bird Habitat, and the "World Endangered Site" Yunnan Shaxi Ancient Town. We also have held and completed dozens of renovation and art installation projects in urban and rural areas in China. Through these endeavors, we not only help students understand the entire process and various stages of a project from research and design to implementation, from conceptualization to realization, but also effectively integrate research, educational activities, and the practical needs of local programs.

Currently, RAC's practical projects have received numerous high-level awards and garnered media exposure both domestically and internationally. These realized works have been featured in major international art exhibitions, including the "SHANGHAI DESIGN 100+" at the World Design Cities Conference 2022. We have been nominated for the Architizer A+ Awards in the Small-Scale Projects category (Pop-ups & Temporary), and received the Social Space Winners at INDE.Awards, and achieved recognition such as the Gold and Silver Awards in the Space Creative Design (Professional Group) at the Golden Panda Tianfu Creative Design Awards 2022. Our projects have also been shortlisted for the LOOP Design Award and have made it onto the 2022 Dezeen Design Awards Longlists: Architecture-Small Building. Additionally, they have received extensive exposure from over a hundred international media outlets, including prominent publications like ArchDaily and Gooood.

In 2022, in collaboration with government departments and businesses, we led hundreds of college students in designing and building six installations in Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. Focusing on an ecologically fragile conservation area, the program provided low-cost experiments about rural ecological sustainability and poverty alleviation for governments and businesses, as well as rewarding experiences for the students. Recently, the program has also been shortlisted for the Shanghai Design 100+ at the World Design Cities Conference 2023.

Q. Tell us about the RAC STUDIO team. What value do they bring to the company?

We have dozens of full-time designers and hundreds of part-time designers, all of whom have completed graduate-level degrees abroad. RAC, therefore, has a global perspective, excellent scientific research capabilities, and enduring relationships with leading universities and scientific institutes around the world. As the company evolves, we provide services for tens of thousands of clients every year. Over the past two years, the team started dealing with more diverse clients and providing various educational products. In the face of growing business challenges arising therefrom, our team fully taps into the potential of digital operations and has completed the digital transformation and online collaboration in the past three years, with each partner tracking the real-time dynamics of clients and the company with a digital dashboard currently. We design and provide services in the most detailed manner possible, enabling RAC to steadily expand while earning positive market feedback.

Q. What new endeavors is RACstudio currently undertaking?

This year, we are implementing our integrated industry-academia-research model in companies and government departments in a more systematic manner.

Q. Is there anything you would like to add before we wrap up?

We believe that RAC’s growth model, which incorporates industry, academia, and research, provides an innovative, pioneering approach for today’s world, where sustainable development represents an urgent need. We also hope that more domestic and foreign government departments, businesses, universities, and nonprofit organizations will join our education programs. Through this interview, we are looking forward to extending an invitation to more international organizations.

“At the same time, we began exploring an integrated solution for spatial and interactive design that combines industry, academia, and research, catering to the needs of governments, businesses, and individuals.”