Designed for the bottom of the pyramid : a case study of a Chinese phone brand in Africa

Miao LU*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Through the case study of itel, a low-end Chinese phone brand, this article examines the cross-cultural design for the bottom of the pyramid population in Africa. Focusing on the process that an artifact comes into existence, this article shows that itel’s design practice has been shaped by local culture, infrastructure, and social structure, which may challenge, modify, and reshape global design norms. Being cost-sensitive, context-conscious, and demand-driven, itel develops a place-based design approach and business model. Through mapping and elaborating itel’s design network, this article demonstrates that design is not only about making artifacts but also about designing ways of knowing, seeing, and being. This study calls for a Southern perspective of design to acknowledge the heterogeneity of design culture and rethink the geopolitics of design.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-39
Number of pages16
JournalChinese Journal of Communication
Issue number1
Early online date15 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Centre for Chinese Media and Comparative Communication Research, The Chinese University of Hong Kong.


  • Africa
  • bottom of the pyramid
  • China
  • design
  • mobile phone


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