HK companies 'lack guts' in branding

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 November, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 November, 2004, 12:00am

Top designer Alan Chan says his colleagues are turning to the mainland, where clients are bolder

Hong Kong businessmen have less 'guts' when it comes to investing in branding than mainland counterparts, prompting local designers to shift their business focus north, award-winning designer Alan Chan said yesterday.

'Mainlanders are starting from zero; that's why they have the guts to take the risk,' Mr Chan said.

He was speaking after his works received a Distinguished Design From Asia prize at the Design For Asia awards, part of a four-day conference that began yesterday. He said half of his projects were on the mainland.

One of Mr Chan's award-winning designs was the rebranding of local fast-food chain Fairwood, which he said had since experienced double-digit growth.

Few Hong Kong companies recognised the importance of branding in the way Fairwood had, Mr Chan told the Business of Design conference, organised by the Hong Kong Design Centre and the Trade Development Council at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai.

He redesigned the Fairwood logo by converting the first Chinese character of its brand name, meaning 'big', into an orange jumping man to replace the old clown logo.

'The clown logo was slightly outdated and the interior design was all a hybrid mix,' he said. 'We needed a new logo and interior design which represents the new-generation spirit. To get a niche market share, I suggested reviewing the target group from 18 to 45 to about 15 to 35.'

Everything from utensils and uniforms to music and interior design underwent a makeover.

Architect Gary Chang's Suitcase House - part of the Commune Hotel at Badaling, near the Great Wall - was also named a Distinguished Design from Asia.

The Suitcase House is among 12 houses built by 12 Asian architects that make up what is described as China's first 'concept' hotel.

Mr Chang's design consists of a 40-metre-long empty space that occupants can convert into bathrooms, bedrooms and other facilities by opening and closing sliding panels. He said his style was in line with the ever-changing spirit of Hong Kong. 'It's flexible, ever-changing, experimental. I am concerned with using the space efficiently rather than showcasing my design,' he said.

Douglas Young, chief executive officer and founder of furnishings and homeware store G.O.D., won the same award with his Hong Kong street tote bags. The bags feature images from everyday scenes printed on undyed natural cotton that fades with repeated use and develops a vintage look.

'It's important to incorporate Hong Kong culture into design because it gives a feeling that it truly belongs to us, unlike things like Disneyland. It should also be showcased in everyday life rather than in a faraway museum,' he said.

An exhibition of the winning works and other outstanding Asian designs will run until Sunday at the Convention and Exhibition Centre as part of the Business of Design Week. Admission is free. For details visit