Sunday, June 3, 2007

旁觀者 I

原文載於 NewDesignMagazine HKArticle, 2007 April14:

Opportunities. That is what defines life as a student industrial designer in Hong Kong. Everywhere there are chances, new possibilities and open doors. Young designers are in demand and whilst students in the UK can struggle to find the most mundane of placements, opportunities for talented designers are abundant in Hong Kong.

Our class had only 45 members (compared to the 150 in Coventry) and tutor contact time was twice weekly for each subject. Local students almost lived out of their studios, each work space not only containing piles of work, but dozens of personal possessions. It was no wonder that many of them would often not go home during the week and sleep at their desks.Expectations on students are different in Hong Kong. Whilst in the UK our experience has been one where lecturers are passive and allow students to mature and develop on their own, here the information and technical knowledge is force fed into students, producing young designers who posses immense levels of computer-based design skill but also all share the same design philosophy. This apparent lack of individualism and even creativity is not so much through the teaching at the university, but more through the general education system in Hong Kong.

Indeed, the broadly experienced international lecturers actively encourages in-depth thinking and concentration on a strong concept over superficial aesthetic details, but are constantly fighting the ingrained conformism that seems to be a product of the secondary education in Hong Kong. Consequently, local work was very different to what we knew and we had to make a significant shift in our style to fit into the course. Hong Kong students have a love of technology and anything computer related and this translates into CAD skills that put many UK professionals to shame. Likewise, their presentation skills were initially in a different league to what was expected in Coventry and although this often came at the expense of strong concepts, it is a design approach that suits Hong Kong.

For us, it was a surprise to find so many of the local students taking freelance design work: they would be designing USB sticks and other small products in their spare time, as well as using their significant graphic design skills to create packaging and advertising. This ability to find quick, simple and well paid design work part time was perhaps the biggest shock for us and the most encouraging development of our time in Hong Kong. However, the blurring of the boundary between student and paid designer came at a cost: the local students work so much harder than many of their contemporaries in the UK yet often lacked clear, directed conceptual ability in favour of design for quick, cheap manufacture.The reason for the amount of available work, especially for young designers with fresh ideas is simple: Gunagdong Province of China is just across the border and is the largest manufacturing hub in the world. A product of this is dozens of busy, profitable design consultancies in Hong Kong actively seeking international design staff and students like us were in a perfect position to find experience.There is a strong ex-pat community, many of whom are senior designers in local consultancies and all were looking to hire both local and foreign students.

The compact nature of Hong Kong means that networking is easy and it didn't take long for our names to be passed between designers and for internship interviews to be set up with very little pestering on our behalf. This nurturing, friendly attitude towards young designers is so refreshing to the closed-door policy adopted by firms towards students in the UK and over the next few weeks, we have interviews with several major companies, something undreamt of for inexperienced designers like us.

No comments: