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Old March 7th, 2009, 06:26 PM   #1
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Designing a Better Hong Kong

Passion brings out best in creative sector
7 March 2009
South China Morning Post

Key events such as last year's Beijing Olympics and the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai have stimulated the need for design services in the region during the past decade. The upcoming East Asian Games in Hong Kong has seen sporting venues upgraded, while the expertise of the design and engineering sectors and the continuing work on the West Kowloon Cultural Development Project has also seen a need for design ideas and practices.

International design companies see Hong Kong as a prime location with its proximity to the mainland and the Pearl River Delta where manufacturers require more design management and consultancy services. The design sector is so varied that it can be difficult to decide which area to enter.

Steve Fore, associate professor and programme leader of the master of arts in media cultures at City University, said that digital media technologies were evolving faster than previous media forms but that in order to succeed you needed good ideas and not just a knowledge of software programs. "Having a solid foundation of knowledge in conceptual areas of design gives you the flexibility to adjust no matter how fast the technology changes. And being engaged with the world around you is the best way to keep your creative imagination fresh."

Dr Fore said content for mobile media was fuelling growth in the design sector. "Cellphone technology is becoming more powerful and flexible and this is the next major stage in the computer revolution. As a result, interface design and content-games, ads, short films, news for phones and other mobile devices have been a growth area."

The top-up degree programme in digital media at Polytechnic University is designed for those with an interest in content design.

"Content design is an expanding area. The prime movers in this field generate ideas and carry the technology forward, but the sustainability of the industry depends on the concept of ownership," said Anthony Lee, deputy programme leader of the BA in digital media at PolyU. "It's important to look at how ownership of technology is evolving.

"Twenty years ago you paid to go into the cinema. You didn't own anything. You just bought the enjoyment. Within a few years people could record the material and own it. The rights of ownership are being changed and defined by what is available to you. Whether that is appropriate or not is now a focus."

Ip Yuk-yiu, assistant professor and programme leader of the master of fine arts in creative media at City University, teaches media and digital art. Professor Ip said there was a huge emphasis on the use of technology in design and digital media. "The integration of art and technology is integral. You can't divorce the two any more," he said. "Most artists should have a base of media and computer literacy so they have more freedom in their work, whether it's in design or art. You have to have some basic understanding about how the medium works.

"It's not just about learning how to use Photoshop but how to write Photoshop, so to speak."

Professor Ip said that, just as in art, you could only succeed in design if it excited you rather than studying it purely to enhance your job prospects. It had to be something you were passionate about. "You can't just learn in a classroom," he said. "It's a lifelong process but I think study will help you refresh your perspective in a creative field."

In the medium and long term, most areas of design are likely to grow, including visual and sound-based media forms, said Dr Fore.

"There is belt-tightening in all sectors, but there will continue to be a demand for talented people in all design areas, simply because design is a crucial part of the public communication process."
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