Perspective 40 Under 40 award-winner and multimedia designer Kenji Wong hopes to elevate Hong Kong design by revitalising local craftsmanship
Hong Kong-based Kenji Wong aspired to become a comic artist before switching to design. His repertoire includes art, advertising and branding, commercial and product design. In 2008, he co-founded design studio WDSG, touching on rebranding, commercial and album design, and made his name by working with then-unknown Hong Kong rock group RubberBand on their image, album cover and branding.
In 2013, he founded design collective GrowthRing & Co and vintage furniture and fashion store GrowthRing & Supply, collaborating with world-renowned and local creatives on a variety of acclaimed design projects. Wong won a Perspective 40 Under 40 award in 2013.
You worked on a wide range of design and artistic projects, how do you integrate your style into each one?
If we start a design at conception, we can easily inject our own character, regardless of whether it is a graphic, commercial or interior design. But if it's only conceived to solve a problem, it will lack soul.
You co-founded creative studio Wudai Shiguo (WDSG) and, later, branding and advertising agency GrowthRing & Co. How have your designs evolved?
I set up WDSG in the hope of driving at full throttle through different working experiences. I tried to demonstrate modernisation and reformation through my work, from records to staging and from retail stores to product catalogues and fashion. When I founded GrowthRing & Co, I grew from trying to showcase what we could do to not over-thinking and starting to create designs that are not overtly pretentious. We also started to work alongside international brands on design collaboration, commercials and rebranding.
To transform Hong Kong design, we must accept local values as they are: cramped, chaotic and a sense of pressure
What is Hong Kong design and how can it be taken to the next level?
The term is misinterpreted by some designers and the public. It does not necessarily refer to the language we speak or the red-white-blue stripes design. Rather it can be a uniquely Hong Kong way of presentation. We're familiar with Japanese design that applies a minimalist, zen-like and collating aesthetic, which needs no explanation. To transform Hong Kong design, we must accept local values as they are: cramped, chaotic and a sense of pressure. If we unite to put these distinctive styles into our work, we could possibly take local design to a new level.
The Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) has invited you to showcase a new design installation at DesignInspire in December. What can you tell us about your concept?
My concept is to update an inconspicuously traditional craft with a modern interpretation. If we can bring traditional workmanship into stylish pop culture, there wouldn't be a need to defend local culture. I hope to promote the heritage of local craftsmanship.
Given the city's ongoing urban development, how can Hong Kong conserve its culture?
Can design inject it with new vitality?I suggest we put together traditional culture, craft and pop culture and operate local Hong Kong tradition in the way of a century-old brand, from a design perspective.
What's your interpretation of this year's HKTDC DesignInspire theme, 'Co-create a Happy City', in relation to Hong Kong urban design?
Good design does not only mean highlighting strengths and concealing shortcomings; it's more important for designers to be honest in order to face the world. Urban living can be improved through professional design but only when the public is able to read and understand the design and its beauty.