I was (and am) extremely grateful for the opportunity to visit Hong Kong as part of my participation in the DesignEd Asia Conference held at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. The conference was structured around the theme “Delimitation – Creating with Constraints” and featured engaging presentations surrounding culture, space, business, design process, and curriculum development.

Two excerpts from the call for papers helps to put the conference into perspective:

“Constraints provide the challenges that make the design process invigorating and delineate a realm of free play for the exercise of creativity. Budget, manufacturing processes, cultural norms, societal values and many other factors are sources of contextual constraints on design. Every designer also sets constraints on his or her own designing based on their ethical stance, ideological allegiances and stylistic proclivities.”

Constraints abet the design process in providing a delimitation of the realm of possibilities to be explored. They can provide guidelines for what is desirable or relevant to the goals of the design process. Design methods can be derived, and design tools developed, based on a codification of the constraints (both imposed and chosen) within which the design process unfolds.”

In this way, I believe the conference theme was an invitation for designers and educators to shift our perspectives on perceived or real constraints. Rather than viewing constraints as obstacles, we can view them as opportunities for innovation and creativity.

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Alongside my colleague Adina, I shared my research on technology as a tool to mitigate cultural constraints and teach social design in the MENA region. For 3 semesters we have team-taught a ‘design for social design’ course implementing these ideas and we were proud to share this work with the receptive audience.

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The conference was held in the futuristic new space of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University design school’s Innovation Tower, recently opened and still under construction in some areas.

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Designed by architect Zaha Hadid, I imagine the building’s futuristic lines will serve as inspiration to students for many years to come.

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Inside the Tower are lecture halls, classrooms, studios, workshops and labs, along with public-oriented spaces including a design museum and exhibition hall.

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Zaha Hadid writes:

“The fluid character of the Innovation Tower is generated through an intrinsic composition of its landscape, floor plates and louvers that dissolves the classic typology of the tower and the podium into an iconic seamless piece.  These fluid internal and external courtyards create new public spaces of an intimate scale which complement the large open exhibition forums and outdoor recreational facilities to promote a diversity of civic spaces.”

A few of the exhibitions on display during our visit to the design school included work from the Social Innovation Festival, Design for the Real World from London, and Rejuvenation.

Social Innovation Festival

Keep Changing: A Flash Point of Evolution

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Tooly Journey Play

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Seeding in Hong Kong

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Design for the Real World

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Rejuvenation

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The DesignEd Asia Conference was also part of a larger event – the Business of Design Week – held concurrently at the (huge) Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. An engaging event with its own lineup of speakers, workshops, and exhibitions – the week  was was inspiration-filled to say the least.

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There were signs, posters, and banners throughout the city promoting the design event (including the airport!)

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The Business of Design Week was one of those events that exceeded my expectations. Held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, the week-long event had an exceptional lineup of speakers, a strong academic component, and a well-conceived exhibition titled “Inspiration Hall.”

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The exhibition hall showcased a range of designers and programmes from across the city. Very inspiring indeed!

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