Ron Arad gets audience thinking about what makes good design

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 December, 2012, 4:10am

What if you built a ping pong table with a belly and a reflective surface? What if you built a bicycle without wheels? What if you built a building that you would be proud to put on a postage stamp?

"Whats and ifs" was the title of Thursday's talk by renowned architect, artist and designer Ron Arad at the Business of Design Week, and it set the tone for the rest of the conference.

Designers and businessmen were tossing around ideas, specifically: what is good design and a good design process?

"I used to think that boredom was the mother of all creativity. Now I think curiosity is the mother of all creativity," said Arad. The 60-year-old, known for his whimsical designs, said many of his creations came from asking questions, from playing with materials and pushing against conventional wisdom.

"I thought: so many [car] seats are dying in scrap yards, why don't I make furniture out of it?" That was how his iconic Rover Chair was created.

While Arad is more about experience and pushing boundaries, Danes are generally more cautious and conscientious.

"We believe less is more, form has to follow function, and we try to reduce instead of blowing up," said Jacob Holm, president and CEO of The Republic of Fritz Hansen, which produces high-end utilitarian but elegant Danish furniture.

They spend much time ensuring quality to keep Danish consumers happy.

They also think about the product and its intended use rather than jumping straight into the manufacturing process, said Nicolai Hansen, a 35-year-old design student from the Danish Design School, which collaborated with students from Polytechnic University.

This is in contrast to how Hong Kong designers work.

"They don't seem to spend as much time thinking," said Hansen. "One guy said he had to say to them: whoa whoa, hold up there, let's think about this a little more, about what this is for."

It might be from the city's former heyday as a manufacturing hub.

"Businessmen in Hong Kong built wealth on other people's ideas. Because the idea generation didn't happen here, they only saw the value of half," said Lawrence Chu, an industrial designer for American vacuum and cleaning products manufacturer Bissell in Shenzhen.

"So they won't invest in the design half, because they don't see the value of half."

But Chu says the market is changing, and the city has grown in its creative output. That was being reflected in consumers, who were now more discerning.



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