A group of eight Hong Kong-based emerging designers are visiting Melbourne during Design Week to showcase their work as part of the Hong Kong Design Centre’s (HKDC), Business of Design Week (BODW) initiative at the NGV. ADR caught up with the Chairman of HKDC, Professor Eric Yim, to find out his aims for the pilot program and how he plans to put Hong Kong on the design map.
Can you tell me a little bit about BODW and the Melbourne exchange program and how they both came about?
BODW is our signature programme of the Hong Kong Design Centre. We have been organising this since 2002 and every year we work with either a partner country or a partner city.
Last year we partnered with Italy and this coming December we will partner with Melbourne. In the past we’ve always invited designers from different disciplines to come to Hong Kong and take part in our summit. That’s the highlight of BODW and we always do this so that more designers from outside of Hong Kong can come to inspire our designers.
But what we haven’t actually done is take our designers abroad. So working with our partners the design exchange programme can also offer a platform for our designers to showcase their work.
Melbourne Design Week is basically our first time working with one of the BODW partners to showcase the work of our young designers. So this is the first one, I’m sure it will not be the last one and we hope that it’s not only a showcase of the work; hopefully there are business opportunities and it could be a platform for our designers to share their thoughts with the audience.
This is a good opportunity to let our designers showcase their work so that they can test the waters of the Australian market. Our designers can hopefully meet up with potential customers where there is an end user or importer who may be interested in their work and they can hopefully represent their products in this part of the world.
What are the aims for the exchange program? How would you like to see it evolve in the coming years?
Hopefully it’s not just the duration of this exhibition or showcase, hopefully this is the beginning. We’d also like to try to get some feedback from Melbourne citizens and see whether our designs would have a market here. If yes, that’s great, if not, why not? And see whether our designers need to modify their designs a little bit to suit a different market.
Hong Kong is a small city; we have a population of only 7.3 million so if we just rely on the local market I don’t think that is the way to go. I think we should actually look beyond our own territory, whether that’s China or other countries like Australia or America, I think we should be a little bit more adventurous and use our enterprising spirit. A lot of designers like to concentrate on the creative side of their business but I think they should also learn how to market their own products.
Tell me about the design industry in Hong Kong – What’s new and exciting and how is the industry changing and growing?
Hong Kong is a small market but it’s near to a very big market- China. Obviously we can tap in to this very big market. But at the same time, it’s not necessarily just China. The Beijing government has a policy to encourage enterprises in different sectors – not only design – to export to other parts of the world. So Hong Kong is naturally the window to take our designs or other exports to other parts of the world.
Speaking more broadly about design, which themes and trends are piquing your interest this year?
I think now we are talking more about experience, rather than just the look of the product. Obviously these are important factors for designers to consider, but it’s not just about the product it’s how people use the product.
So experience is important and so is the user interface. Nowadays there are so many digital interfaces and in Hong Kong most of our industry is the service industry. About 30 percent is manufacturing, but now over 95 percent is services, so how we can use design to improve services is very interesting.
I’m talking about restaurants, theatres, and also services of the public sector; how that can support our everyday lives. Is it user friendly, for example. How a normal citizen can understand this is also a design challenge.
Do you think the public is more aware of the impact of design on public services now?
Gradually. A good design does not necessarily always need to say ‘hey look at me here I am’. Sometimes it can be very subtly embedded in to different areas. So I’m not sure whether people need to be aware of all the details but I think people will see the changes. They may not fully understand why it is like this and what has been done, but they can see the benefit of these changes.
In fact at the Hong Kong Design Centre we are promoting design thinking not just among designers, but with the idea that design thinking is for everybody. It can help companies to improve their services, to improve their products, and it applies to the public sector too.
How are you seeing the design world evolving with the advancement of technology?
I think definitely innovation is a marriage between design and technology. It has to be. Nowadays if there is no technology embedded sooner or later it will not be used by people. Also, products that are embedded with technology are now a reflection of our age. I think different times of our lives have different signature products and so in the coming years, technology integrated into design will be very important.
Designers participating in the showcase include; Polly Ho, Chan Po Fung, Ricky Lai, Jackie Luk, Max Lam, Joe Kwan, Nelson Leung and Raft Wong.