Designing the city's future

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 February, 2012, 12:00am


At least two exhibitors at the Education & Careers Expo are hoping to help train the artists and designers of the future.

'In the modern economy, businesses, companies and firms need visual people,' says John Paul Rowan, vice-president for SCAD Hong Kong, the first US-based art and design university to establish a degree-granting location locally. 'They need employees who understand the importance of good design, engaging presentations and tactile packaging. SCAD students and graduates fill these needs at every level. They envision and imagine solutions to everyday problems that lead to 'A-ha!' moments for their employers.'

Dr Edmund Lee, executive director of the Hong Kong Design Centre (HKDC), sees the same practical value in creative skills and abilities. 'The role of designers is gaining prominence in the creative economy, particularly as one of the new economic development areas in Hong Kong,' he says. 'Creativity and value creation tie into our ability to create and co-create across professions and disciplines. Various media provide society with a source of inspiration, such as science and technology, humanities and architecture.'

'In pursuit of our public mission - Promote Design to Society - we promote not only the artistic arena of design, but also a more sophisticated use of design to designers, businesses and the general public. We would like to have more creative and design talents who understand the power of design,' Lee adds.

So what courses are currently on offer for tomorrow's design professionals? SCAD Hong Kong offers 14 bachelor's and master's degree programmes in advertising, animation, graphic design, illustration, interactive design and game development, motion media design, photography and visual effects. It's the only university in Hong Kong which is focused exclusively on art and design.

'SCAD is recognised globally for its cutting-edge digital media courses,' says Rowan. 'The university's vision is for SCAD Hong Kong to become the leading site for the study of digital media in Asia, and this vision will play a valuable role in helping Hong Kong to develop into the leading centre for the creative industries in Asia.'

The HKDC is increasingly focusing on creativity programmes and entrepreneurship education, according to Lee. Creative programmes for youths include 'Discover Design' and 'Design to Empower', which had a successful run, with strategic partnerships with Ocean Park and Disneyland in 2011. These programmes aim to enlighten secondary students through the design thinking process, and encourage them to apply the acquired knowledge for problem solving.

Practical application is key. 'To nurture design businesses, the 'Entrepreneurship for Design and Creative Business Programme' aims to enrich the resourcefulness of young entrepreneurs in these fields, and hone their business acumen,' Lee says.

Also known as '7+1', this continuous multi-module certificate programme is organised by the HKDC with the Centre for Entrepreneurship at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Through a combination of taught modules in brand management, marketing and financial management, and one full-day field trips to design enterprises located in the Pearl River Delta, the programme aims to stretch the boundary of creative and design professional education in Hong Kong to keep pace with the rapidly changing business landscape. Experience-sharing and networking opportunities and hands-on activities are also organised to maximise its impact. The 7+1 programme had its fifth intake in 2011, and the taught modules featured acclaimed local designers.

'As a professional design promotion organisation, the programmes offered by HKDC are intended to inspire people across ages, and to advance the knowledge of design graduates and practitioners, as well as users of design - complementing academic training offered by design schools or institutes,' Lee says.

A case in point, Knowledge of Design Week (KODW) is a not-to-be-missed annual opportunity for industrial designers, product development and brand management professionals to share and learn with globally renowned design experts. It aims to highlight ways of using design strategically to create greater value for businesses and benefits for the community.

The theme for KODW 2011 was 'Design for Asia' and 'Design for China', with a focus on product and industrial design. The five-day gathering featured interactive workshops and networking sessions with the world's top design gurus and business leaders. KODW 2012 will be held in June.

Career prospects in design-related fields are strong. 'Nearly 500 companies from around the world annually recruit at SCAD,' says Rowan. 'Our students and alumni have found rewarding jobs and internships with respected companies such as Apple, DreamWorks, Electronic Arts, General Electric, Lucasfilm, Marvel Comics, Microsoft, Paramount Pictures, Pixar, Ralph Lauren, Versace and Warner Brothers.'

Over the past six years, according to Rowan, an average of eight out of 10 SCAD students responding to a survey said they were employed in their field of study or in graduate school within six months of graduation.

And with the vast market opportunities presented in mainland China and Asia, Lee believes businesses must enhance their competitiveness through design, branding and innovation. 'There will be an increase in demand in Hong Kong for the designer with professional and business knowledge, network, breadth of skills, international and cultural sensibility,' he predicts.

As one of the six pillars for economic growth put forward by the government, the creative industry is essential for the long-term sustainable development of Hong Kong, says Rowan. 'We are honoured to nurture Hong Kong's talents and to collaborate with industry partners to bring additional vibrancy to the local art scene,' he says.

The year 2012 has been designated as Hong Kong Design Year, and the government will bring forth events and activities to propel the development of Hong Kong as Asia's design hub and creative capital. The Creative Education Zone at the expo helps to establish contact between exhibitors and individuals keen on nurturing their creative skills and talents.