WHETHER YOU know it or not, you will have seen an Alan Chan design in the last week. Chan came up with the logo for Hong Kong Seibu. And for Star's Chinese Channel. And for Sunday, the mobile phone company. He did the packaging for the Mandarin Cake Shop. And for Lee Kum Kee XO Sauce. And for the Optical Shop. He sells a range of products - mugs, umbrellas, tea, posters - in Seibu which carry his name. He designed Selina Chow's election poster. There seems no limit to his abilities; a couple of months ago he even redesigned a newspaper in Seoul. He brought this paper, The Kukmin Daily, into his conference room so I could assess it. It looked good to me but then I don't read a word of Korean. Neither, it transpired, does Chan. 'These are like scientific symbols,' he mused, pointing to the hieroglyphics which might, or might not, have constituted a headline. So how on earth did he carry out the commission? 'Even the Korean newspaper team ask this question, they feel they are losing face with me. But I say to them, 'I'm not designing Korean, this is international, for the 21st century'.' Chan talks often about the future but there is, strangely, a faint air of quaintness about him. I couldn't decide whether this was owing to the goatee beard, the sweet voice or the fragile way he hugged his jumper round his narrow shoulders, but it was like chatting to an exhausted-looking student. I was so struck by this unlikely image (he is, after all, 48 and a father of two) that I felt I had to point out the resemblance. He said: 'I think I have a very curious mind about everything. I still want to know a lot.' This was towards the end of the interview. At the beginning, he told me what an exceeding amount he knew, which is often the way with people used to pitching to clients (or talking to journalists). But he managed to extol his own work in a tone which wasn't offensive, and if ubiquity connotes success then he's very successful. He told me he felt at home in Japan because 'I'm recognised and popular and I have a lot of respect and I'm treated like a VIP. I probably have more Japanese friends in Japan than Hong Kong friends in Hong Kong'. So why does he stay here? 'Well, I was born here. It's geographically very convenient.' He rattled off the flying times to a variety of Asian destinations, and I said I thought that was a rather cold-blooded reason to stay anywhere. (And along the same lines, when I asked him later what desirable object he would snatch to safety in a fire, he replied, 'I'd take my passport first, right? If I don't travel, where can I get inspiration?' Mind you, he's never been to New York, which seemed an unusual omission.) 'Of course, I love Hong Kong. Customers look at me as an international design firm, but they feel more comfortable with me than going to a gweilo. In the 1970s, design was dominated by gweilos.' In fact, Chan started out in 1970 in the gweilo-dominated world of Hong Kong advertising. That professional legacy - a certain slickness, an insight into Western sensibilities - has stood him in good stead. Despite the fact that his only formal design training was a 10-month evening course, he set up his own award-winning company with his wife, Sandra, in 1980. 'Of course, I have achieved a lot. Alan Chan Design is the most satisfying thing I've done. Ten years ago, the foreigners could only buy junk, cliched and cheap. I was able to recorrect the way they look at Hong Kong merchandise.' Would he like to create a business called, let's say, Shanghai Chan? 'It has to be Beijing Chan - bigger!' he cried. 'A lot of people compare me to David Tang ... Yes, I want to do it. But when? How? I don't know. David was smart enough to use someone's money. I need someone with know-how to take me to the world market, to make it global. We make a good profit but we should make a much bigger profit with our merchandise.' The mention of money made him thoughtful. 'The whole design business will be in China. But my worry is that they will not be able to differentiate between an A, B and C-grade designer. And they'll give the work to the C-grade. But they're improving very quickly and they recognise us. I know, up to this minute, I know that I'm good. I know when I see other people's work that we are still the best in town.' And what if one day, like Snow White's stepmother, he discovers he is not the best? 'Maybe that's the time I retire. But my design lasts longer than others'. I admire architects because their work lasts forever and I want to achieve that level, that satisfaction.' This sounded like internal yearning. I'd read in a press cutting that Chan liked to hide things in his work - subtle images in his logos, for example - and I wondered what he kept hidden from others. He suddenly brightened at the question, as if the chance to move beyond the shiny side of himself was a relief. 'I don't know. I always believe I'm very famous and successful, that sort of thing. But I always complain to my wife that I can't be more laid-back. I've worked so hard, for 28 years, but I didn't get enough of what I've contributed, I didn't get the return. My wife says I enjoy working but ... yes and no. I have to deal with really silly clients who think they know everything. They think they want something different but they want the same old thing.' Does he turn them down? 'All the time. I say I'm too busy. Or that I'm working with a competitor. That's always easy to say.' We did a tour of the office which is - oh ironic juxtaposition - situated above that emporium of good taste, Joe Banana's. A few pallid workers, looking scarcely younger than their boss, sat at their desks. Is he a nightmare to work with? Chan smiled. 'My wife sometimes says I'm too meticulous. At home everything has to be put back in exactly the right position. So, in that sense, I'm a nightmare. But I believe my designers enjoy working for me. I'm exposed to the world, I have more antennae, I can pass on information. To be frank, it's very interesting for them.'