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Interview with Shawn Shen

Home > Designer Interviews > Shawn Shen

Editor Frank Scott (FS) from DesignPRWire has interviewed designer Shawn Shen (SS) for A’ Design Award and Competition. You can access the full profile of Shawn Shen by clicking here.

Interview with Shawn Shen at Tuesday 5th of May 2020
Shawn Shen
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?
SS: I have a bachelor's degree in Construction Project Management. During my study at the university, I took many courses related to architecture and interior design. I have a great love for art and design since I was young. On one occasion, I saw a documentary about Mr. I. M. Pei. His masterpiece, characteristics, and life philosophy inspired me deeply. At the age of 18, I set a goal to become an architect.

FS: Can you tell us more about your company / design studio?
SS: Fifth Design Studio focuses on interior, architectural, and exhibition design. Our team manages all projects exclusively from design planning to completion. We also provide various project delivery methods, such as design-build, management at risk, integrated project delivery, and so on.

FS: What is "design" for you?
SS: Design is like a bridge, which is a platform for two different sides of parties to interact. Everyone has something to aim for, but the obstacles and trials ahead may prevent us from reaching the other side. Design provides the answer to that question. Designers solve current or future problems through thoughtful planning.

FS: What kinds of works do you like designing most?
SS: Educational institutions and public spaces.

FS: What is your most favorite design, could you please tell more about it?
SS: The Miho Museum is my favorite design. The museum was designed by I.M. PEI, an architect inspired by Tao Yuan-Ming's Peach Blossom Spring. For the first time, I saw how the designer translated the beautiful poems into the actual space. He also attached great importance to the relationship between the environment and architecture. After the building was built, the builders covered the building with grass and trees. The building seemed hidden away in the mountains. It's incredible to see how a designer combines literature, nature, and design perfectly.

FS: What was the first thing you designed for a company?
SS: Communication is the key to the successful completion of a design project; a full understanding of the client's needs and expectations will make the entire design process smoother.

FS: What is your favorite material / platform / technology?
SS: Wood, steel, glass, water, fabric, lighting, etc.

FS: When do you feel the most creative?
SS: I feel most creative when I am close to nature.

FS: Which aspects of a design do you focus more during designing?
SS: I mainly focused on achieving the balance between aesthetics and function.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when you design?
SS: I feel all kinds of emotions, such as anticipation, excitement, loss, peace, joy, and satisfaction, when I am designing a project. The same pattern has repeated many times throughout the design process.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when your designs are realized?
SS: It is touching to see the design drawings become real work. A completed project also represents the clients' approval and support.

FS: What makes a design successful?
SS: A successful design can bring happiness to people, build a good relationship with one another, and coexist with the environment.

FS: When judging a design as good or bad, which aspects do you consider first?
SS: There are three key aspects I look into when I am judging an excellent or lousy design. First, the design has to enhance one's life. Second, it has to integrate the surroundings. Last but not least, a good design should inspire others to do good.

FS: From your point of view, what are the responsibilities of a designer for society and environment?
SS: The responsibility of a designer is to destroy and then to build. We need to overturn old corrupt traditions to make a brighter future. Designers are a group of visionary people who can see what is going to happen in advance and are willing to walk extra miles to resolve problems. Designers can inspire others to pursue a better life through their design.

FS: How do you think the "design field" is evolving? What is the future of design?
SS: People pay more attention to the quality of life nowadays. There will be a huge demand for designers in the future. A lot of social issues can be solved through creative ideas.

FS: When was your last exhibition and where was it? And when do you want to hold your next exhibition?
SS: I am not planning to hold an exhibition at this point.

FS: Where does the design inspiration for your works come from? How do you feed your creativity? What are your sources of inspirations?
SS: Without a doubt, I am always inspired by other designers' works when I travel or go shopping. Another inspirational source is from nature. Sometimes, the inspiration can just come from a shadow or a mottled wall. These inspirations connect to the things that I want to design easily.

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?
SS: My design style is closer to modern, contemporary, and minimalist. By using contrasting colors and the uniqueness of material characteristics in a simple design can also touch the heart of people. The simpler the design, the longer it lasts. Each client has his or her preferred style. I will spend enough time to do research and integrate my style into the new project.

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?
SS: I currently live in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Hong Kong is a place with a rich historical background. In the modern commercial district, you can also see the century-old buildings and streets. This conflict often leads to a lot of design inspiration. Although Taiwan is small but rich in natural resources, these are the fundamentals of design; nature itself is the best designer.

FS: How do you work with companies?
SS: I first understand the missions, values, and expectations of the clients. Design is to increase the value of the clients' companies rather than being a stage show for designers. During the process, we need to discuss the plan over time and revised until we reach a consensus.

FS: What are your suggestions to companies for working with a designer? How can companies select a good designer?
SS: First, clients need to know their primary needs, preferences, taboos, budgets, and timeline. It makes the whole design process smoother when you have all the information. We can tell whether he or she is an outstanding designer by their attitude and response to the adversities.

FS: Can you talk a little about your design process?
SS: Preliminary discussion of design requirements → sign the design contract → space measurement → design development→ revision → completion of the design.

FS: What are 5 of your favorite design items at home?
SS: Lights, painting, cabinets, table, and sofa.

FS: Can you describe a day in your life?
SS: Thinking and drawing take up most of my day. Apart from the design, I also visit the construction site every day. I need to make sure that subcontractors are working according to my design standards.

FS: Could you please share some pearls of wisdom for young designers? What are your suggestions to young, up and coming designers?
SS: Use your time wisely and build up your skills and competitive portfolio before entering the workplace. Make some good friends and keep good relationships with them. Be the first person who your friends will think of when there is a business or job opportunity in the future.

FS: From your perspective, what would you say are some positives and negatives of being a designer?
SS: The advantage of being a designer is that you can see things from a broader perspective and provide various solutions to problems. The downside is not having enough time for sleep and family.

FS: What is your "golden rule" in design?
SS: First, think from the users’ perspectives. Second, pay attention to the surroundings and see things as a whole. Third, use the proper proportions of the design elements. Fourth, make sure you like the design. Finally, make people a big smile with your design.

FS: What skills are most important for a designer?
SS: The most important skill a designer needs is communication, i.e., the ability to communicate with clients, subcontractors, and manufacturers. A good designer always keeps a positive attitude to solve problems after communication.

FS: Which tools do you use during design? What is inside your toolbox? Such as software, application, hardware, books, sources of inspiration etc.?
SS: AutoCAD, 3ds Max, V-ray, Photoshop, Lightroom, Lumion, Revit.

FS: Designing can sometimes be a really time consuming task, how do you manage your time?
SS: Take a break when I am tired. Don't force myself to work when I am in bad condition. It is difficult to find a balanced lifestyle in the design field. Most of the time, I don't have enough time for myself and my family.

FS: How long does it take to design an object from beginning to end?
SS: It all depends on the scale of the project. The schedule may vary according to the size and difficulty of the project. Take 3000sqf. space for instance, we try to finish the whole design in two months. It includes the revision of the design, communication, and confirmation of all materials.

FS: What is the most frequently asked question to you, as a designer?
SS: Where did you get the inspiration for your design? How do you develop the skills that designers need?

FS: What was your most important job experience?
SS: When I was a teaching assistant in the architectural design course, I learned good work ethics and attitude from professors. Professors led and taught students preparing for the professional field by example. They set an honorable standard for me.

FS: Who are some of your clients?
SS: Seed Music Academy The Pitch Thai HOJA JTVFX Studio

FS: What type of design work do you enjoy the most and why?
SS: I enjoy designing spaces that are related to education and history. Such institutions have unique missions and stories as the core soul. The work with beautiful design and rich connotation can resonate with anyone.

FS: What are your future plans? What is next for you?
SS: I’ll expand the size of my studio and develop new designers both in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

FS: Do you work as a team, or do you develop your designs yourself?
SS: I develop most of the design and a small part of the work by the team.

FS: Do you have any works-in-progress being designed that you would like to talk about?
SS: Recently, I’m designing a children’s soccer field. Parents can relax and socialize with others while children are playing soccer. It’s quite an honor that I can design this project, which can help to build good family relationships.

FS: How can people contact you?
SS: Email: shawnshen@fifthdesign.co

FS: Any other things you would like to cover that have not been covered in these questions?
SS: I hope everyone can be a good designer who designs a suitable environment for themselves and their families. It is my hope that everyone can live and grow in a loving atmosphere.


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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