Showcase has designs on cultivating asia's rise

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 November, 2011, 12:00am


'I think it is a great effort to try and close the gap between design and business,' says the award-winning anonymous Japanese designer behind the Nosigner label, just one of the high-profile international names taking part in the coming Business of Design Week.

'The age of Asia is rising - and everything is centred on mainland China. The surrounding Asian countries are eagerly trying to cultivate a design culture, and Hong Kong is one of the most important cities in terms of business and design,' the Nosigner leader says.

Running from November 28 to December 3, this year's Business of Design Week ( will highlight the international creative superpower of its partner nation, Germany. Bringing the best of the global design world to Hong Kong, the event encourages business to consider the power of design and focus on the relationship between the two.

When it began in 2002, the show's goal was 'to create a 'must-attend' platform in Asia that allowed the exchange of ideas for the world's most innovative thinkers and business leaders and upgrade the skills and knowledge of the local design community,' says William To, project director of the Hong Kong Design Centre, which organises the annual event.

Nine years on, the event consists of seminars, exhibitions and outreach programmes that target local design professionals, educators and students. 'It provides a forum for better understanding of the intricate relationship between design and business, offering an opportunity for designers to upgrade skills and knowledge to stay competitive,' To says.

Among this year's speakers will be designers from German brands such as Audi, Hugo Boss and Porsche Design, as well as internationally known architects and designers such as Dieter Rams and Ole Scheeren (a visiting professor at Hong Kong University), the typographer Erik Spiekermann, the eco-design guru Werner Sobek and the new media artist and designer Joachim Sauter.

Other high-profile speakers include Anthony Lo, the Hong Kong Chinese designer who heads the design department of Renault in France; the Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, most famous for his innovative cardboard buildings; Nosigner, whose latest project, Olive, a wiki-style web site that anyone can access to help people in disaster-stricken areas, was conceived in response to Japan's earthquake in March; and the legendary Italian furniture designer Antonio Citterio.

The Berlin-based architect Jurgen Mayer H, whose portfolio includes an abstract fashion runway for Calvin Klein, a sculpture for this year's Burning Man Festival held in August, and the undulating design of Seville's new wooden Metropol Parasol (the world's biggest building to be held together by glue), is a key speaker at this year's event.

'BODW is an important platform for exchanging ideas and developing collaborations on all levels for dialogue and exchange,' he says. The celebrated architect is excited about visiting Hong Kong: 'It's lively, it is surprising and we want to know more about it,' he enthuses.

His advice to local designers? 'Not to be too limited. Design is continuous, it flows.' In his seminars, Mayer will focus on encouraging designers 'not to be anchored in one discipline ... whether you are an architect or an interior designer, [the world of design] is all explorable'.

His intention is to show local designers that 'technological innovation and design evolution are interdependent parameters. German designers work closely with companies and manufacturers besides experimenting and researching.'

Nosigner concurs. 'Design is not just about beauty but also function. The challenge is working behind 'visible' design to create something useful and functional that doesn't just concentrate on appearance.'

To says bringing design talents such as Mayer and Nosigner to Hong Kong is vital for local designers and the community as a whole. 'As our understanding and use of design matures, I see Hong Kong moving on to the next level, following other countries to use design as a social tool to improve the well-being of users and the social structure of our city.'

The strong design and business cultures of Japan and Europe are a great combination of form and function, To says. 'This sophistication comes from having a very strong design culture but this needs to start with the basics: education and a creative environment. In order to nurture a strong design culture one needs to start training from a young age, not after secondary school. Personally I would like to see a change in our education system in terms of offering more courses that will trigger creativity at a young age. Then with the support of the government in terms of building new cultural projects around the city, the younger generation will benefit.'

For the local and international design community, BODW 'raises Hong Kong's profile as a design hub in Asia', To says. 'It's the place to network and learn, and to celebrate those who have demonstrated outstanding work.'