Design week focus on art of business

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


An annual design extravaganza taking place next week will showcase the best of local and international talent and their work, but it is not an all-purpose event for everyone, the organiser says.

'The Business of Design Week is a large-scale international event which showcases talent as well as facilitating the networking between designers and the business community,' Hong Kong Design Centre chairman Victor Lo Chung-wing said. The centre organises the annual event, which begins on Monday.

'Some people want to attend the conference,' he said. 'Others focus on the networking and showcasing of talent. But [the design week] is an international event and overseas guests only come here for three to four days, so we are very conscious of who to invite to give speeches and which designers to feature.'

The design week has been running since 2002. Each year it features a partner country as the focus for its exhibitions, forums and panel discussions, which are helmed by top world figures in design. This year's partner is Germany. Last year it was Japan, and more than 96,000 people attended its 12 events. CreateHK, the government agency promoting creative industries, is sponsoring the week with HK$8.5 million this year through the CreateSmart Initiative.

But local budding designers have said they cannot benefit directly from the event because it caters to big, well-established firms. Lo said he understood their needs, 'but one event cannot be created for all purposes. The Design Centre has other programmes aiming at different levels of practitioners all year round'.

Such support would be more in demand as companies came under pressure amid the grim economic outlook, Lo said. Many firms facing rent increases tended to cut costs by slashing their headcounts, but that was a mistake Hong Kong's design industry should not repeat yet again, he said.

'The coming few years will be very important for Hong Kong's design and creative industries. When business is not good [for the time being], it's important to invest more in product creation and innovation for the long run,' Lo said.

'Rents may be high, but for companies in creative industries and technology, rent is not the greatest deterrent.

'Talent is the most expensive thing. Even with free rent, if you don't have good talent it's still not going to work.'

However, Lo acknowledged that rent could be a major issue for start-up companies that needed retail traffic to sustain their business, such as fashion and other retail outlets.

He said he hoped the former police married quarters site in Hollywood Road would become an incubator for those in need of retail traffic. The property will be co-developed into a creative cluster by the Musketeers Education and Cultural Charitable Foundation, Polytechnic University, the Design Centre and the Vocational Training Council, with HK$110 million in seed money. It is expected to open in 2014.

Lo, who is on the board of the West Kowloon Cultural District, said arts, culture and design were inseparable, and that the arts hub would also become a big consumer of design - possibly in areas ranging from architecture to the stage and marketing.

'Other than arts and culture, [the arts hub] will also have to promote the development of creative industry,' Lo said.

'I expect great connection between [art and design], and there will be lots of future interaction with West Kowloon.'