Hong Kong should develop its own design identity, instead of mimicking ideas from abroad, a top interior design student has said. The warning came from Lemon Lau Lee-man, a Hong Kong Polytechnic University student, who was chosen as Asia's sole representative on a four-week professional training course in the United States this summer. She said students should make the most of college to develop work with a Hong Kong flavour as they faced a certain amount of commercial pressure once they entered the workforce. Ms Lau also warned that the territory's identity could be hit by designs from burgeoning mainland cities. Ms Lau, 21, was one of five international students who attended the course in Michigan, which was organised by furniture designer Steelcase. She said she struggled during her first week to overcome her initial reaction to US corporate culture, which she saw as 'rigid, rational and conformist', compared with Chinese values of tolerance and compromise. 'At first I didn't feel there was anything to learn. There was so much theory about teamwork which didn't relate to the more personal style of working in Hong Kong. 'But later I began to see the advantages of a step-by-step structured style in a fast-moving commercial world. However, I want to strike a balance and preserve the personal touch, too.' The experience helped define her sense of local identity by seeing Hong Kong from outsiders' points of view. 'If I had not been abroad, I would not have realised Hong Kong's qualities as well as starting to observe and admire other countries. 'Hollywood thinks Hong Kong is a romantic place, which it is. There are all types of people . . . dynamic and spirited. You can see it in the sprawling untidiness and melange of shops on the streets.' She said speakers on the course warned against relying too much on computer-aided design. Two weeks spent at prestigious firms in Chicago gave her a chance to admire the city's architecture and visit a museum housing famous furniture designs, which before she had only seen in magazines. She said there were big differences between Hong Kong's space-conscious designs and the open spaces of a US city. The territory knew how to get the best use from every available space by building skyscrapers and designing special devices. 'I was really surprised when it was a US student's first time in a 30-floor building. It was nothing compared to skyscrapers here. It made me really glad our teachers had the foresight to include vertical planning in our course,' she said.