Insights of Other Design Cultures Brought by DFA HKYDTA Alumni

“He that travels far knows much,” the value of travel has been widely revered in many cultures. Recent studies show that travel does not only stretch our breadth of knowledge but also our creative mind. By examining the travel experience of hundreds of fashion creative directors, a Columbia Business School study found that the more a creative professional travels and immerses in other cultures, the more creative the outputs are . This serves as a scientific evidence for the premise of the DFA Hong Kong Young Design Talent Award (DFA HKYDTA), which has provided opportunities for over a hundred of talented local young designers to pursue work attachment or study abroad since 2005. The DFA HKYDTA community got together at the alumni sharing and networking night organised by Hong Kong Design Centre on 18 October at the Wool Resource Centre, The Woolmark Company. The 2018 winners met with past awardees and gained tips from six of them as they shared their overseas experience.

Awarded in 2016, Alvin Kung chose 3XN, an architecture firm in Copenhagen for his placement. He participated in projects such as public architectures in Belgium as well as contributed his expertise in building information modelling. The Scandinavian work-life balance culture prompted him to reflect on the pace of work in Hong Kong. “The shorter working hours give designers the space to think and recharge. When one has the time to develop different interests and passions, other sources of inspiration naturally come.” Travelling around Northern Europe also opened his eyes on how design is embedded in the ordinary life. “To them, public art and quality urban space are almost a given. While they enjoy and use design in their own ways, they also seem to understand the great efforts behind.” Returning to Hong Kong, he continues his cross-disciplinary approach inside and outside of his job, initiating projects like the art installation Scrabble Lamp in collaboration with a local galvanised iron and calligraphy artisan. “I now believe more deeply in the impact of design. I hope to become an influencer with architecture as just one of my areas of expertise.”

2015 awardee Cyril Lee underwent his attachment in Lagranja, a product and interior design company in Barcelona. There he had the chance to participate in many areas of their work, from drafting to prototyping to improving products. With a particular interest in the inclusivity and sustainability of design, he observed that these qualities, rather than being eye-catching novelties, “are the basic requirements of modern design in Europe.” He came to realise the social responsibility of designers, “we should think whether a design can actually improve the quality of life and push the society forward. If it is designed only to please clients or consumers, we are at the position to say no and initiate a change of mindset.” His learning lies not in picking up a Mediterranean design style but realising his own shortcomings and ways to improve — for example, by taking action, “only after trying things out will one know if an idea works.” After his overseas episode, he has been focused on developing his studio Blackbody Lab, experimenting with projects like Open Wallet, an origami wallet and also a design demonstration on how proper Upcycle should integrate with the product life cycle and the existing recycling system.

Having completed his bachelor's degree in the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Westley Wong won DFA HKYDTA in 2015 and gained the chance to further his studies in graphic branding and identity at the University of the Arts London. To open up new perspectives in his design practice, he investigated the origin and history of branding design in his Master’s dissertation. In the UK, he witnessed the importance of good social systems, “good systems enable a good ecology in the industry, assuring designers of a livelihood and indirectly facilitating the making of great designs.” He also saw how “good education empowers commoners to be good judges of talent. Good aesthetic education is not only about trends but the basic judgement of beauty, which can lead people to have a tasteful and quality life.” The experience broadened his understanding of design to a systemic level. “It has become part of my values, which I will spread to more people in different ways like in my designs.”

Besides Alvin, Cyril and Westley, Emily Tang, Comma Leung, and Nelson Leung also shared their experience in Spain, Japan, the US and Taiwan respectively. The alumni sharing and networking night was successfully held at the Wool Resource Centre  thanks to the support of The Woolmark Company. The Wool Resource Centre was established in Hong Kong in 2016 as a multifunctional space and a global hub to inspire, connect and educate international brands and the textile and apparel industries. It is also a dynamic platform and venue for cross-disciplinary meet-ups and exchanges, such as our alumni networking night.