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Happiness By Design

Reno Yang 2016-02-20 11:45

Joey was busily planning for an exhibit in Shanghai when we met. As a man of many titles including Partner of PAL Design Consultants Ltd., vice chairman of the Hong Kong Interior Design Association, etc, Joey was often portrayed as “Serious” on the front covers of many magazines, but to the contrary, the Joey I saw wore casual clothing, our conversations were relaxed and often lled with Joey’s sudden laughter. According to Joey, he is fairly simple; all he wants is to design what makes people happy.


“When I was a kid, I loved drawing Yonkoma Manga (four cell manga) Comics, and I often included some critical thinking elements; it was a really satisfying process for me because I discovered that my work could influence others.” Joey was born in Taiwan, China and raised in Singapore. After obtaining his bachelor degree in Singapore, he went on to study Masters of Architecture at the University of Hong Kong. The three years of studies in Hong Kong left a big impact on Joey’s life, especially the advice he received from his advisor. Joey admitted that he loved playing with design in the early days. Upon graduation from his Masters degree, he already had offers from two top design firms in Hong Kong. Undecided, he went to his advisor for guidance on which one to choose. “My advisor really understood me, he hoped that I would not grow too far away from ‘design’ thus becoming unrealistic; he was concerned that I might forget practical difficulties.” Joey recalled with a smile. He took his advisor’s suggestion and went with the rm that allowed him to engage in more practical designs; it was this choice that would shape his design career.


Shifting from architectural design to interior design was another transformation Joey made. Architectural design can in uence people’s living environment and even a society’s structure. But interior design drives a designer to become a director of people’s lives. Joey felt that by comparison, interior design not only embraces a designer’s love for “materials,” it also calls for a designer’s ability to demonstrate “spirit.” A person’s living style, habit, and his or her living attitude can all be seen through interior design; interior design shares similarities with comics, but the former requires more thought of how to incorporate life into design; as a result, the complexity of interior design makes a designer a kind of director of life. Joey often asks himself this question, “How can my design be part of life?” Design concepts should not only stop at a trend or stay on the surface of emotions; rather it needs to go deeper, to reach the level that would solve people’s real problems. Following his school years’ wildly creative design storm era, and after three years of real-world design practices in Hong Kong, Joey has become calm and collected; what is more, he took the three years’ experiences and reinvested them into his interior design journey.


Joey’s multicultural identity has allowed him to be observant of the design differences between Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong and Mainland China. The design evolution in these places gave him abundant insights and thoughts. He said, “Designs from Taiwan are more subtle and mature, they demonstrate a heavier in uence from their oriental culture and people. But for Singapore, their designs are internationalised, which also pose limitations when internation- alisation dominates their design thinking. For Hong Kong, there are more possibilities; while competition is fierce, we can still see a variety of design styles. Mainland China is developing at a very fast pace in recent years, my concerns are to restrain the commercialisation of many designs and slow down a bit because developing too fast has its downside; the comforting news is that Mainland China adapts very quickly, even if there were problems, it is able to correct them promptly.” By observing the design industries in these markets, Joey is also able to gain greater clarity of what he really wants.


Regardless whether it is architectural design or interior design, the common goal is to serve people. Having practiced in both design industries, Joey believes the boundary between the two lies in “different types of thinking styles.” There is a saying in the two design industries, which believes an architect can easily transition into an interior designer, but the reverse is not true. Joey responds: “architectural design” and “interior design” require different types of thinking and viewpoints. “My first architectural design project was in Singapore. It was a result of my accumulated years of interior design practice; during my design process, the first thought that came to my mind was not ‘architectural theories’ but of a living environment for an ‘owner.’ My design thinking originated from a sensitive interior design point of view, and we were only able to achieve the nal design as it is today, after trying many ideas.” Joey added.


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