Yanta Lam, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Industrial design in Hong Kong was originally introduced to support the development of local industries, and as such industrial designers were nurtured to practice in a supporting role. After years of hard work and gained experience, and subsequently owing to the economic changes in Hong Kong in the late 1970s and 1980s, industrial design has become a profession in its own right, and now plays an important role in the economic development of Hong Kong.
China’s Open Policy of the 1980s changed the characteristics of Hong Kong industries and allowed product design to become more diversified—from solely consumer products in the past to the present wide range of products that cross the entire spectrum of consumer demand.
In recent years, some overseas design firms established their businesses in Hong Kong and worked their way into Mainland China. Local manufacturers at the same time are developing and many have become internationalized, with strong cross-disciplinary in-house design teams to develop new and innovative products.
Hong Kong designers are therefore facing challenges and opportunities coming from the Mainland, and from overseas. On this assumption, the Hong Kong’s design education and practices are preparing for these challenges. Among the many considerations, the method of reinforcing understanding of users in the PRC is taken as a new tool in design process. It probes user’s relevant cultures, the living habits and behaviors, and how such information could relate to design. To ensure success of the method, cross-cultural experts of design and nondesign disciplines would have to work together to bridge many gaps of knowledge.