DENNIS Chan Sui-pun is the first industrial designer to be selected in the competition's 23-year existence. It is seen as a recognition of the improvement of the territory's designers in recent years. Mr Chan graduated from Hong Kong Polytechnic in 1981. He was offered a job by a Japanese design company, Shimasaki and Associates, in Hong Kong. Mr Chan worked there for nine years before leaving to set up his own company, Longford Industrial. Longford is a design manufacturer that creates products from the concept stage through design, manufacturing to marketing. 'We have 100 products divided into three categories - for use at home, at the office and while travelling,' Mr Chan said. 'Our main theme is to create lifestyle products for the younger generation. 'During the design process, we choose materials such as glass, metal, wood or leather. For our latest range of clocks, we use limestone.' Most of the products are sold to importers or distributors, although the company does direct selling. The shops of the Louvre in Paris and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney are among 10 that stock Longford's products. 'The museum shops only stock well-designed high-quality products. 'One of the benefits of selling through such outlets is that it has raised awareness of Hong Kong products. 'As an industrial designer, I'm trying to change the image of Hong Kong overseas as a producer of junk.' Mr Chan designs products and then finds a market for them. 'We rarely get an order and then produce the product. However, I travel a lot and try to ascertain trends. Of course, I have my own feeling about the market.' Most of the manufacturing is subcontracted in China, although an office in Wan Chai is used specifically for clock production. Originally, Longford was a design consultancy for overseas companies in Hong Kong, including Sanyo, Melitta and Panasonic. Mr Chan, backed up by six designers, has a long list of awards. They include merit awards for consumer products and consumer electronics in the old Governor's Award for Industry, merit awards for houseware design from the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, and a product merit award from the Hong Kong Designers' Association. 'Winning an award motivates me to try to create something different,' Mr Chan said. 'Awards also help promote a product.' His most outstanding achievement was being selected over 1,200 entrants to design telephone booths in Taiwan. The competition was organised by the Taiwanese Government in 1992. Mr Chan believed he won because his design was simple and straightforward, easy to manufacture and instal. It suited the Taiwan environment. 'I was inspired by the architecture of the Ming Dynasty which was famous for its simple form and simple lines.' There are openings on the side of the roof to facilitate air flow to help counter the high humidity. Without such ventilation, it would be impossible to close the glass-panelled doors to make a telephone call. Mr Chan said he found the project interesting because he was doing something for the Chinese community. About 300 booths have been installed in major cities in Taiwan with more to follow. As a spin-off from this project, Mr Chan is now designing a wall-mounted booth. 'In Hong Kong, industrial design needs a lot of improvement, particularly in public awareness,' Mr Chan said.'It is all around and can create a better life,' he said, referring to Citybus bus shelters as an example of something attractive and ideal for advertising. 'In the 1970s, Hong Kong's industry was famous for its OEM [original equipment manufacture] capability but now production is moving into China. 'Thailand and Malaysia are also cutting down on manufacturing. 'Design will, therefore, be the competitive edge for our industry during the next 10 to 20 years as Hong Kong becomes more important as an information and design centre.' Creating awareness is proving to be an uphill battle and designers are fighting for recognition from the Government, according to Mr Chan. 'Design is not expensive - it can cut manufacturing costs by cutting down on parts and create added value. Everybody should be able to enjoy design.' Hong Kong's Chartered Society of Designers is organising a series scholarships for design students in China and Hong Kong.