DeX: Young Design Forces Join the Creative Dots of the Asia Pacific

In its modern history, Hong Kong has always been the converging point of businesses and cultures. It’s where people get connected and opportunities spring up — trade, network and cultural exchange. Now backed by the spectacular rise of Asia, especially China’s go-getting Belt and Road Initiative, our city is brimming with the potential to become a design powerhouse of the region.

In such lies the spirit of DeX, a design exchange programme organised by Hong Kong Design Centre (HKDC) and supported by Create Hong Kong. As part of HKDC’s vision and endeavour to establish our city as a nexus of design excellence in Asia, the programme set out to strengthen the exchange between cities strategically. In the first half of this year, we cherrypicked and connected 16 Hong Kong design talents with their counterparts in Bangkok and Melbourne through exhibition, pop-up store and inspiration trips. As the two expeditions have come to successful finales, what have the participating designers learnt from the experience?

DXHK — BANGKOK: Creating strategic bonds along the road

The pilot was staged in January and February against the backdrop of the dynamic Bangkok Design Week organised by Thailand Creative Design Centre. As an important partner country of the Belt and Road Initiative, Thailand has been closely tied with Hong Kong by not just tourism but long-term trading partnerships. Themed “Pocket Worlds”, the core exhibition was curated by Prof Alvin Yip to unfold the idiosyncratic creative worlds of 8 young Hong Kong designers.

“I can feel how Thai people value slow life and their religion, and I hope to introduce my work ‘Memory Chest’ to them. I also expect to get in touch with potential partners and expand my business network,” said product designer Xavier Tsang, who designed a special scent for the design week. Having discovered the hybridity of Thai culture, Jim Wong exalted, “As a graphic designer, I find it very valuable to learn how cultures were hybridised and how the Thai design scene has developed and sustained in the Southeast Asian market.”

What made the experience even more exceptional was the exchange among the group of design hotshots during the 7-day trip. “In everyday work, we have enough on our own plate to take care of. But this time we got the opportunity to collaborate with designers from other disciplines and exchange our diversified views,” said interior designer Ken Cheung.

DXHK — MELBOURNE: Driving a creative Asia Pacific with design

The scene then shifted to another major international design event, Melbourne Design Week in Australia. This second leg of DXHK was also a lead-in programme of Business of Design Week (BODW) 2018, of which Melbourne is the partnering city. It is highly fitting to let our young guns pave the way for cross-city dialogues. Another eight young design professionals showcased their works at the Design Store of the National Gallery of Victoria in March and April.

The pop-up store was coupled with a 6-day trip for the participating designers to immerse in the local design scene. “We visited many places like furniture design and architecture firms and universities which inspired me a lot,” communication designer Ricky Lai recalled. Furniture designer Jackie Luk observed, “Australia is almost like a European country in Asia. There is a lot of optimism here, a lot of colours. It’s different and actually inspired me to design something happy and suitable for this kind of ambiance.”

At the end of the day, being in a new place is exciting because it gives you a fresh eye on your own practice. As fashion designer Nelson Leung reflected, “I think Melbourne is a good place for me to (think about) my own brand and my design development. There are so many cultures and different kinds of people here, so I can find new design elements here.” It can be foreseen that the DeX experience will be embodied in the works of these design talents’ works in the future.