Interview with Prompong Hakk

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Editor Frank Scott (FS) from DesignPRWire has interviewed designer Prompong Hakk (PH) for A’ Design Awards and Competition. You can access the full profile of Prompong Hakk by clicking here.

Interview with Prompong Hakk at Tuesday 15th of April 2014
Prompong Hakk
FS: Could you please tell us more about your art and design background? What made you become an artist/designer? Have you always wanted to be a designer?
PH: I remember the moment I decided to become an Industrial Designer. It was in my 8th year of school when our teacher gave us little red book with all the registered professions in Germany and a quick explanation. In it I found the purpose of an Industrial Designer and it hit me like thunder. From that day on I knew I wanted to become an Industrial Designer. I was 14, and every decision I made afterwards was to follow my path to realize that dream.

FS: Can you tell us more about your company / design studio?
PH: shakes bkk was born out of the desperation of me and my co-founder to establish a professional Design Consultancy that would go beyond the stylistic measures that we found in other Thai agencies. Both of us had worked in places where we weren't happy so we decided to put our heads together and create a place where Design, Engineering, Function and Aesthetics merge and where it's more about the team than an individual.

FS: What is "design" for you?
PH: A difficult question to answer. I think design is ability to solve any given problem under a context. It is also the ability to see more than the eye can see. Like singing or performing, Design is also a creative talent that requires that intangible "x" factor to create something outstanding. Having said that, Design for me is an emotional and physical medium to touch people's lives and make a positive difference in the world.

FS: What kinds of works do you like designing most?
PH: Myself I enjoy the kitchen and I enjoy cooking so kitchen products come naturally to me. However, over the last three years I was also intensively involved in designing electronics consumer products from mobile phones to stereos. However I do feel like that design for electronics lives mainly from the stylistic choices we make as Designers and lacks the soul that comes from both a functional and beautiful object.

FS: What is your most favorite design, could you please tell more about it?
PH: I have quite a list of favorite Designs but among the top of that list would be Richard Sapper's 9090 Espresso Maker for Alessi which won them their first Compasso d'Oro in 1979. Sapper's clean lines and uncompromising less is more approach in the pursuit of functional perfection makes for an astonishing piece of art both in the kitchen and on the table. One of the greatest.

FS: What was the first thing you designed for a company?
PH: My first patented Design was for a trivet called Catena - Spanish for Chain. It resembled a bicycle chain made of silicone giving users the flexibility to create many different sizes and shapes.

FS: What is your favorite material / platform / technology?
PH: As Designers we constantly evolve to adapt to new materials, platforms and technologies so I have no preferences for any but only thirst to know more about the latest changes.

FS: When do you feel the most creative?
PH: Actually I feel most creative under pressure. Stress is the mother of creativity. However that's when I'm designing for clients. I also really like sketching and thinking about new things while on the road, traveling on an airplane or just sipping coffee in a new place.

FS: Which aspects of a design do you focus more during designing?
PH: Before I start designing an experience I like to have used the product myself for at least a month and know what it feels like, what its problems are and see if I can make a change in it. So I really do focus on the functional aspect first to see how I can make things work better which then leads me to think about integrating the form. Sometimes I also like to think about them or story that I can develop from an initial problem that I encountered from using a product.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when you design?
PH: Design is both my choice of work but also my most passionate hobby. The process of creation and being creative flows in my veins and it makes me who I am. And for most of the time when I'm not under immense pressure I feel pretty good about it, that is until I realize all the problems of my own Designs and try to solve them again. So with me Design brings out the best and the worst in me.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when your designs are realized?
PH: The first time I saw one of my Designs in the window shop I felt quite proud. However, that was a mobile phone and that pride was rather short lived, three months to be exact or just as long as the next one replaces it on the shelf. So from there I wanted to do things that would give my Designs a longer life of not stick with people.

FS: What makes a design successful?
PH: Many things can differentiate a successful Design, differentiation being the key. I consider successful Designs commercially feasible, well communicated and fitting to the user. But ultimately people will have to fall in love with what it stands for physically and emotionally. A successful Design creates a dialogue and a relationship with its user and just in real life looks are not everything. Good Design isn't just skin deep.

FS: When judging a design as good or bad, which aspects do you consider first?
PH: First and foremost I consider functionality, interaction with the user and production execution of a Design. Secondary criteria are how aesthetics fuse with the overall product purpose, are they only there to look good, do they bring something new to the table or are they mere copycats of Zeitgeist.

FS: From your point of view, what are the responsibilities of a designer for society and environment?
PH: Since we have the power to influence how people use and shape experiences we ought to think about all aspects of our life and the impact we have on our environment. So yes we should be responsible, if not for ourselves then for the generation to follow.

FS: How do you think the "design field" is evolving? What is the future of design?
PH: Designing is on the verge of household main streaming. It has finally garnered its long deserved value. The last decade was defined by leaps of consumer technology including the 3D printer. Such leaps will probably slow down a little now putting more energy into large tech projects in energy. Thus Design will become more apparent as a means of brand differentiation and Designers will heavily compete globally. The introduction of 3D printing will also open up new dimensions of product delivery and business logistics. However I believe for that to pick up it will take at least another 5 years. Imagine that the production floor is right at your retail outlet. Goodbye to "Made in China".

FS: When was your last exhibition and where was it? And when do you want to hold your next exhibition?
PH: We have never held an exhibition before.

FS: Where does the design inspiration for your works come from? How do you feed your creativity? What are your sources of inspirations?
PH: I look at my environment, my family, my friends how they interact with daily objects and the world. I look back into myself and my own roots, my memories and cultural experiences. Coming from a mixed background I have experienced both complications and benefits which give me different perspectives on how to approach not just Design but people in my life.

FS: How would you describe your design style? What made you explore more this style and what are the main characteristics of your style? What's your approach to design?
PH: Having been raised in Germany, most of my Design choices are heavily influenced by German characteristics. Striving after the ideal of Dieter Rahms where less is more my Designs also seek a balance between Originality and Feasibility.

FS: Where do you live? Do you feel the cultural heritage of your country affects your designs? What are the pros and cons during designing as a result of living in your country?
PH: I currently reside in Bangkok, Thailand's bustling capital. I've recently moved here in 2007 and actually spend my childhood in Germany and my teenage years in Britain. I'd say that even though Thailand is a city full of creativity most of my Design language is predominantly influenced by my upbringing and my studies in the UK. Thailand has great creativity on 2D level starting from Graphic all the way to Media where its production houses are among the world's elite. However, in terms of industrial product design there is a valley of challenges ahead. Despite a strong industrial capability Thailand's never managed to evolve further than the OEM state with no significant product development until a couple of years ago. Now we see gradual changes but Thailand still remains a trading economy with a special creative niche. As a result the sourcing of talented industrial Designers is often challenging.

FS: How do you work with companies?
PH: As a Design Studio we treat our clients with the highest respect and always try to put ourselves in their shoes despite the creative conflicts that occur along the way. I'm always convinced that our clients have a certain vision that they simply don't know how to realize which is where we come into play. And our job is almost always the mission impossible where we turn the most horrifying idea into something in fact quite beautiful.

FS: What are your suggestions to companies for working with a designer? How can companies select a good designer?
PH: Designers are a difficult breed. I suppose the most important thing to decide for companies is whether they are looking to work with a star Designer or a Design consultancy. A star Designer can give prominence and brand value to companies but doesn't necessarily deliver an innovative Design as a result of research or experience by a Design consultancy. Sometimes it's simply chemistry between a Design team and a company's R&D/ Marketing team that brings the magic. I suppose that just like in every relationship communication is the key.

FS: Can you talk a little about your design process?
PH: At shakes bkk we are not part of certain schools that build on huge research data and strategies. As much as we agree that it's a vital part of the business most of our client's do not set aside a budget for such process. Therefore we rely on our wits and ability to process user observations and self-learned experiences. Our Designers at shakes come from all ways of lives and bring essential life qualities with them that ultimately form a pool of great Design knowledge. Armed with that knowledge our creativity is the limit to our imagination and passion to make better products for people. However, we did develop a framework that we call shakeology to define vital parts such as WHO, WHAT and WHY.

FS: What are 5 of your favorite design items at home?
PH: My ThinkPad and Wacom Intuos that I carry in my Tumi Alpha, my Pixie Nespresso machine and my HTC One. Gosh, there's not a single Apple product in them...

FS: Can you describe a day in your life?
PH: Well I get up early to look after my newborn son who just turned 6 months old and then leave for the office around 9.30. It takes me an hour to get there so I'll be in around 10.30 making my rounds through the graphic department and then the industrial Design department to review our current jobs. Then it's emails follow up time and tackling my own work load. On a non-urgent project day work ends at around 7pm when I head home through annoying Bangkok traffic to have dinner with my wife. All of this changes when there's an ongoing urgent project and work extends to 10pm or midnight.

FS: Could you please share some pearls of wisdom for young designers? What are your suggestions to young, up and coming designers?
PH: When we hire Designers for shakes they all need to be equipped with solid 3D skills and sketching skills. For us it's vital that a Designer can realize his own Design from start to finish, from paper to CAD. In many cases Designers lack a total understanding of parametric CAD architecture which allows on the go changes and time savings when experimenting with Design features. The perfect combo would be to have knowledge of both parametric software such as SW or ProE and knowledge of more free form packages such as Rhino. The next most important thing Designers should acquire is knowledge, knowledge of everything in life and Design. Build a library of usages, record how people interact with objects in their lives, may it be drinking wine or shooting guns. Be an observer of life and build a solid foundation of products that you can get back to when looking for inspiration. The internet helps but hands-on look and feel is irreplaceable.

FS: From your perspective, what would you say are some positives and negatives of being a designer?
PH: Sometimes I think that Designers live a miserable live simply because we have to be so self-critic about our work. The moment we finish with a Design we'll be looking at it in joy for a moment before picking out all the things that are wrong with it. However, there will also be times when we really get it right which is truly rewarding especially when we designed something to really make positive change in this world.

FS: What is your "golden rule" in design?
PH: There are no shortcuts!

FS: What skills are most important for a designer?
PH: 1. Design Thinking, 2. Sketching, 3. 3D Creation, 4. Presentation, 5. Communication

FS: Which tools do you use during design? What is inside your toolbox? Such as software, application, hardware, books, sources of inspiration etc.?
PH: Our office has several iMacs for our Graphic team and some work stations. It's a small studio!

FS: Designing can sometimes be a really time consuming task, how do you manage your time?
PH: I don't, my wife does.

FS: How long does it take to design an object from beginning to end?
PH: Every project has its own timeline. The standard duration is ASAP.

FS: What is the most frequently asked question to you, as a designer?
PH: What do I do?

FS: What was your most important job experience?
PH: My first internship at Studio SOTA!

FS: Who are some of your clients?
PH: You can find out on our website!

FS: What type of design work do you enjoy the most and why?
PH: I guess that I love to design things that utilize new technology and provide room for functional improvement and not just stylistic choices.

FS: What are your future plans? What is next for you?
PH: Building shakes bkk into one of the best Product and Packaging Design Studios in South East Asia.

FS: Do you work as a team, or do you develop your designs yourself?
PH: As Creative Director I oversee my team of Designers and also design by myself.

FS: Do you have any works-in-progress being designed that you would like to talk about?
PH: Unfortunately everything we're doing right now is confidential!

FS: How can people contact you?
PH: You can find our contacts at or email me directly via

FS: Any other things you would like to cover that have not been covered in these questions?
PH: I think I covered everything!

FS: Thank you for providing us with this opportunity to interview you.

A’ Design Award and Competitions grants rights to press members and bloggers to use parts of this interview. This interview is provided as it is; DesignPRWire and A' Design Award and Competitions cannot be held responsible for the answers given by participating designers.

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