The highly regarded annual Business of Design Week (BODW), now in its fifteenth year, once again showcased a wide reaching programme of over 60 speakers and produced another ambitious line-up of design luminaries and attentive discussions.

Presented by the Hong Kong Design Centre, the anual leading-edge event on design, innovation and brands brought together international design connoisseurs, professionals, studios and business trailblazers from around the globe.

The Windy City meets the Pearl of the Orient

Chicago ‘The ‘Windy City’ starred as BODW 2016’s partner city, as a large group of Chicagoan designers, architects, artists and city planners visited Hong Kong under the tagline “ChicagoMade”. Martin Kastner, Scott Wilson, Raaja Nemani, Carol Ross Barney, Brian Lee and Zoe Ryan shared their experiences in various fields, such as urban planning, technology of branding, food design and museum management and firmly placed the spotlight on how great design is contributing to the future of the City of Chicago.

The director of Program Design at UI Labs, Katie Olson, best described the latest atmosphere of innovation in the city when she discussed her work at BODW, “The only way you can innovate is through collaboration – collaboration between business people and technologists. The biggest challenge is having competing companies coming together and giving up some of their proprietary information to work on a solution, while the problem has already been identified. We are a neutral ground, a facilitator, and a deal maker with whom different companies can come together to innovate.”

BODW 2016

This year’s conference focused on reinventing, conceiving and branding development through creative thinking and new ideas, while the sessions explored various topics such as the Brand Asia Forum, Communication & Design, Product & Design, DFA: Design For Asia, Tech & Design, Workspace & Design, Food & Design, and Culture & The City.

The eclectic line up of speakers and events explored the role design plays in everyday life, and how that role should transform in the future, with symposiums from design leaders such as botanist and artist Patrick Blanc who created the world’s first Vertical Garden, co-founding director of MVRDV, Winy Maas, known for promoting sustainable urban design and planning and Hong Kong illustrator Victo Ngai.

The week proffered an invaluable platform for innovation and inspiration, discussions spanning edifying and thought-provoking talks, exhibitions and award ceremonies honoring the best in creativity , ingenuity and business. It covered all aspects of design and where it might be bound for in the 21st Century and it’s wide-ranging programme of delegates and speakers, joined together to brandish a vast amount of stimulation and inspiration offering insight into their design and vocation success.

From designers creating cultural and architectural marvels, photographers and artists to innovators in technology and urban planning, the speakers shared their concepts, working processes and experiences as well as celebrating the lifelong achievement of a Korean master Mr. AHN Sang-soo; Having contributed in reinvigorating Korean typography, he has set his new intention of nurturing the next generation of designers. He said to the anticipating audience:

“I have had no money, but only dream. I gather designers to start my new school at aged 60. Not too late to start. The central tenet of Pa Ti (Ahn’s design school) is there is no competition, which kills creativity I reckon. Everybody wants to be the first. Everybody wants to star. I want to be better and make more money than my friends do. In short-term, competition works. But in long term, by avoiding competition we work better together. Compared with what we teach, teaching environment is more important for students. Education is the most powerful weapon by which you can change the world. Education gives me courage.”

BODW sees design as not just an industry but as a way growing cities can solve problems.

Organised by Hong Kong Design Centre, BODW is an annual international week-long curated programme of inspiration, exchange and opportunity in Asia at the intersection of design, brands and innovation. Every year, BODW brings together the world’s finest creative minds, thought leaders and innovators to explore the changing landscape of design, business and technology.

Business of Design Week 2016  gathers pioneering designers and creative executives from across the world and different disciplines to share their insights and stories, and to explore new ideas and trends in design, business, technology and branding.

Some of the stand out speakers included:

Emmanuel Pratt 
Emmanuel Pratt is co-founder and Executive Director of the Sweet Water Foundation. Pratt is also the Director of Aquaponics for Chicago State University. His early work was anchored in the field of architecture, Pratt’s work explored the role of art and social praxis as a key component of urban design, urban farming, and sustainability with a particular concentration on the creation of a new standard for 21st century city planning.


Emmanuel Pratt

Emmanuel Pratt

Minsuk Cho is an architect and founder of Seoul-based firm Mass Studies. He has been committed to the discourse of architecture through socio-cultural and urban research.
Active beyond his practice, he has co-curated the 2011 Gwangju Design Biennale, and was the commissioner and co-curator of the Korean Pavilion for the 14th International Architecture Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia (2014), which was awarded the Gold Lion for Best National Participation.

Minsuk Cho

Minsuk Cho

Carol Ross Barney has dedicated her career to the design of public places and spaces. From small, community buildings, to campus buildings for some of the foremost academic and research institutions, to groundbreaking new transit stations, riverwalks and recreational trails that connect vibrant neighborhoods; her exploration into the power of how architecture improves our daily lives has produced extraordinary structures that have become cultural icons.
Her work has an international reputation in design of institutional and public buildings and has been exhibited and published in national and international journals, books, newspapers and web media.  Her building designs have received numerous honors including 4 Institute Honor Awards from the American Institute of Architects and over 40 AIA Chicago Design Awards.

Artist Janet Echelman’s work traverses the boundaries of Sculpture, Architecture, Urban Design, Material Science, Structural and Aeronautical Engineering and Computer Science. She creates experiential sculpture at the scale of buildings that transform with wind and light. The art shifts from being an object to look at, to a living environment you can get lost in.
Recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship, Harvard Loeb Fellowship, Aspen Institute Henry Crown Fellowship, and Fulbright Lectureship, Echelman was named an Architectural Digest Innovator for “changing the very essence of urban spaces”. Her TED talk “Taking Imagination Seriously” has been translated into 34 languages with more than one million views.
Hong Kong was the city of her first solo museum exhibition, at the Fung Ping Shan Museum in 1990.

Janet Echelman

Janet Echelman

Swedish native Johan Persson has a 20-year track record of brand and design management. His creative consultancy in Hong Kong is strategy and research-driven, operating at the intersection of business, brand and design.
Johan is credited with being one of the early influencers to identify and tackle the challenge of a widening gorge between market insight and production output. He came to Hong Kong in 2004 with the backing of two pioneering Scandinavian agencies – No Picnic and Veryday. Positioned in Hong Kong Johan’s studio is poised to reap the geographical benefits by increasing speed, improving concept feasibility and gaining access to early idea validation to maintain design integrity throughout the Chinese manufacturing process.

Johan Persson

Johan Persson

Parisian Patrick Blanc is both a Botanist and an Artist and originator of the ’green wall’ or vertical garden. After his first public Vertical Garden created in Paris in 1986, Blanc has created about 300 Vertical Gardens all over the world, indoor and outdoor, under various climates, from Riyadh to New York and has worked with world-famous architects including Jean Nouvel, Kazuyo Sejima, Herzog & de Meuron, Tadao Ando and more.
His Vertical Garden was listed as “One of 50 Best Inventions of the Year”, Time Magazine in 2009. Blanc created the world’s tallest plant installation of climbers: Le Nouvel in Kuala Lumpur with Architect Jean Nouvel in 2015. Blanc’s book The Vertical Garden, from Nature to the City, Norton Press, 2008 and 2012 for the second edition, is the world’s major publication regarding the Vertical Garden.

Patrick Blanc

Patrick Blanc

Los Angeles-based illustrator Victo Ngai (read our interview here) was raised in Hong Kong and went on to Rhode Island School of Design, graduating in illustration. In addition to being a Forbes 30 Under 30 (Art and Style) honoree and a Society of Illustrators NY Gold Medalist, her work has received recognition from the New York Times, Communication Arts, American Illustration and many others making her one of the most distinguishable illustrators in the field today.

Victo Ngai

Victo Ngai

Hong Kong is firmly on the international creativity circuit. A major driving force of this is the BODW event with its aims to explore inspiration, exchange and opportunity in Asia at the intersection of design, brands and innovation and to communicate, collaborate and stimulate dialogue and relentless optimism centred on developing openings for the design and creative professions and to step up exchanges and discussions between East and West.

At the end of the conference Hong Kong Design Centre (HKDC) announced Italy would be its partner country in 2017. Renowned worldwide as a powerhouse in style and design, Italy boosts artists and artisans who have led the way in areas including interior design, fashion, automobile, architecture and many more. Prof. Eric Yim, Chairman of Hong Kong Design Centre concluded, “This year BODW has launched new sessions covering trending themes, such as FASHION ASIA, Food and Design, Workspace and Design. BODW 2017 will continue to explore in interesting topics. So, the partner country of BODW2017, Italy, will appeal to the most amazing talents to come to Hong Kong again.”

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