RMM Interview

How does a low profile designer like yourself feel about
being one of the favourite local designers in HK?

What an embarrassing question! While I’m certainly delighted
by the kudos and greatly appreciate the recognition, this question
seems to be more fiction than fact.

What do you look for when hiring young designers?
A passion for design. To have dreams in one’s life… Of course
they have to be interested in working with me.

OK. Lets start afresh.

What is the ‘right attitude’ to learn design?
Spontaneity is one of the most important. If you like it,
you’ll naturally study it seriously and even become obsessed by it.
Also, honesty is just as important… when you’re creating
you have to truly express your own viewpoint and preference,
and not be swayed to change in order to gain the approval
of others.

What is the best and the worst conditions
for designing in Hong Kong?

The best is that Hong Kong is a very unique and interesting city.

There are plenty of bad conditions, for example, our society
is too materialistic, we lag behind in our appreciation of art
and its endeavours, our understanding of design is
not comprehensive enough, rents are too expensive, etc.

How did you enter London Central Saint Martins?
It was my art teacher for A Levels who suggested that I study
graphic design. I’ll tell you something funny – I was the only
interviewee who wore a suit and tie at Saint Martin’s.
It was embarrassing. I’m not sure why I was accepted. In the
mid 80′s Saint Martin’s hadn’t merged with Central School
of Art yet, we had classes in the school building at Covent Garden.
It’s no longer there. I was the only Asian student in the class
at that time. Alan Fletcher was our external assessor. David Ellis
from Why Not Associates and Nick Sharratt, the illustrator of
children’s books were my classmates. In fact, fashion design was
St Martin’s most famous faculty. John Galliano’s fashion show
caused quite a stir in his final year.I chose Saint Martin’s
because it had a stronger creative environment.

But to me, the culture of graphic design in England at that time
was more inspiring than the course itself. Neville Brody,
Pentagram, 8vo, Peter Saville, Minale & Tattersfield,
David King and Trickett & Webb, etc… all of their unique
talents flourished and bloomed.

Henry Steiner when he once mentioned your name spoke very
highly of you. How do you feel about it?

Really smug! (I’m joking.)

I am very happy although I believe there might be others who would
disagree with him.

I still remember being overjoyed for a whole week when I first read
Henry’s prologue in my book ‘The Last Designer’!

Could you tell us some unforgettable phases during your
studies in design?

I loved to attend workshops when I was still studying.
For example, the Graphic Workshop sponsored by D&AD. I could
directly communicate with outstanding designers and learn from
doing projects. Among them were the now deceased Marcello Minale
and Martin Lambie-Nairn who designed Chanel 4 identity. I loved
the design of that certificate very much and still keep it.
I started to develop an interest in Typography in the library
of Saint Martin’s.

In my days of working at advertising agencies, I came to
understand the importance of conceptual thinking. Working for
Mike Chu had broadened my horizons. Design is a profession
which requires life-long learning.

Any favourite local designer(s)?
Without a doubt, Henry Steiner is certainly the most
representative Hong Kong designer.

I also have a great respect for all enthusiastic designers,
particularly those working under an environment in Hong Kong
which is not particularly conducive to creativity –
it’s not easy.

I appreciate the young generation as well like Hung Lam, Milkxhake
and pillandpillow who are completely devoted to creativity.

What is your favourite Hong Kong culture? What is your
least favourite Hong Kong culture?

I like its colonial character and the local cafes.

I dislike its ‘culture of buttering up’, dislike the tastelessness
of Hong Kong’s luxury residential properties and their penchant
for ostentation.

What advice can you offer to design school graduates?
I would quote a line from the deceased designer Tibor Kalman,
“Rules are good. Break them.”

What would you like to say to Hong Kong?
This topic is too big. I can only hope that Donald Tsang
can really do his job well.

It’s soon going to be the 11th Anniversary since Sandy Choi
Associates established. What prospects are you looking at
in the future?

Time flies and we’re stepping into our 11th year. We have
no plans to expand our company and will maintain an operation
of about 10 people which we think is more suitable for the
way we work. In terms of creativity, I find myself at a crossroad
and desperately need some excitement. I also hope I can
have more opportunities to communicate with young designers
and students.

Describe a typical day for you.
I go to the office around 10:00 am but the work and time
spent varies daily. At home, I always catch up with Angela for
a drink and chat after 11pm.I really enjoy this time together
with her. Then it’s off to bed around 1am. I try my best not to
work during weekends as it is always my family day.

What do you usually do when you fail to come up with
any ideas?

I do nothing. I go to sleep if possible.

What kind of plans do you have in the future?
I have this urge to organize a Sandy Choi exhibition, an overview
of certain periods. Please let me know if you have a suitable
venue and sponsor.

What kind of a child were you back in the old days?
I was very naughty from P.1-P.3 but my academic result was very
good and I was always in the top three in the whole year.
My mother was my form master at that time. She once locked me
in a dark room for playing truant. In retrospect, I really have
no idea how my mother felt at that moment. By the time I was in P.4,
my conduct had improved however my academic result was just
average –very strange. Also, I had a passion for football since
childhood. I would kick anything – beach balls, table-tennis balls,
soft drink cans and caps, paper balls… even slippers, etc.

Where is your favourite place in Hong Kong?
I like to be at home and in the office.

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