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Interview with Tom Chan & Melanie Man

Home > Designer Interviews > Tom Chan & Melanie Man

Editor Frank Scott (FS) from DesignPRWire has interviewed designer Tom Chan & Melanie Man (TCMM) for A’ Design Award and Competition. You can access the full profile of Tom Chan & Melanie Man by clicking here.

Interview with Tom Chan & Melanie Man at Saturday 2nd of May 2020
Tom Chan & Melanie Man
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?
TCMM: I've been a self-taught graphics designer for 15 years now. I would like to say I've always loved creating eye-candy, and that's somehow true, but more specifically, teenager me used to browse razorart.com (now defunct), then deviantart and drool over the works by the masters there. I thought if one day I can make something of those calibre I would be a very happy guy!

FS: Can you tell us more about your company / design studio?
TCMM: hazuto Ltd is a design-focused company that I set up to execute on ideas that I think people will share love for. I'm also blessed to have Melanie, my wife, on board as the marketing guru. Maybe it sounds cliche, but we want to deliver products that is truly meticulously designed, deliberated, and work that is done from the heart. Secondly most important is to have fun!

FS: What is "design" for you?
TCMM: Wow there are many answers for me. I agree with many that design is a solution to a problem. Something has to work well to be good design. In particular, the person using it should use it with ease and the product should make his life easier. A better design should provoke attractive emotions through visual appeal. Sometimes a design is good design because the user "just like it". A great design will continuously excite the user nearly every time he uses it, and make him look forward to using it, too. I think if a majority of people say something is a good design, it probably is. Ask me again in 10 years time and maybe my answers become completely different!

FS: What kinds of works do you like designing most?
TCMM: I am most at home working on graphic design. I do a lot of logos, covers, catalogues, one-off graphics. However, in my day job and hazuto I work with some niche product and accessories, too.

FS: What is your most favorite design, could you please tell more about it?
TCMM: I want to say something pretentious and obscure but for me it will be iPhone 4. The flush form factor, the groundbreaking glass sandwich profile, the metal rim, the cool tactile feel of it... for me iphone 4 is the perfect design. It's my favourite because I'll never forget the awe and desire I felt when I first saw it in a New York subway train.

FS: What was the first thing you designed for a company?
TCMM: First thing I remembered was a t-shirt design for graniph Japanese t shirt company. It was a monographic pic of a set of shiny shades. Or it might have been a tshirt design for my university shop.

FS: What is your favorite material / platform / technology?
TCMM: I would say concrete. I love the coolness of it, the austerity of it, the neutralness of concrete. How it makes something feel and seem solid. There's a certain "safety" to a concrete room or corridor. It makes me calm. I can't really explain it.

FS: When do you feel the most creative?
TCMM: Sunday afternoon.

FS: Which aspects of a design do you focus more during designing?
TCMM: I think it is very important that the design firstly works well and functions well, everything else comes after, for me. The "solution" side of things is the first basic pragmatic requirement.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when you design?
TCMM: Some disappointments when things fail but super elation for a few "ahha!" moments. The eureka moment may come quickly or never come though.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when your designs are realized?
TCMM: Aside from relief, sometimes it is indifference. Because you've been working with the design and developing it for so long you become a bit numb even when a physical form is realised. In fact, sometimes it is anticipation, because you want the design to be successful and work well.

FS: What makes a design successful?
TCMM: I think there are many factors: it has to perform the function perfectly, look desirable, produced consistently well, and marketed smartly so people know its value. Any one missing and the design may not last or take off.

FS: When judging a design as good or bad, which aspects do you consider first?
TCMM: Please refer to question 3 above!

FS: From your point of view, what are the responsibilities of a designer for society and environment?
TCMM: I think designers are empowered to do good for the society and environment. At the core they are solution providers. If the materials are harmful to our world, designers are one piece of the puzzle to give an alternative that nudges people to choose a better option. However, i think everyone is involved, from the consumers, policy-makers, regulators to academics, media and enterprise.

FS: How do you think the "design field" is evolving? What is the future of design?
TCMM: I think more people are becoming refined, sophisticated and demanding in terms of their tastes and what they look for when they are using / buying something. Perhaps it is due to the free-flow of information at their fingertips allowing them to be better-informed. I think brands that can communicate an almost artisanal level of quality will find it easier to survive.

FS: When was your last exhibition and where was it? And when do you want to hold your next exhibition?
TCMM: All my work is exhibited online!

FS: Where does the design inspiration for your works come from? How do you feed your creativity? What are your sources of inspirations?
TCMM: I have to say deviantart.com has been my inspiration for many years. Most of my inspirations come from online, though I keep a keen eye when I am out and about, too. Especially when I travel, where I can find novel ideas in new strange places. Design awards like Reddot, iF, A' Award and others are great places to go too. When I create a piece, I start with my trusty pc collection folder with thousands of art bits, which I've collected for years.

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?
TCMM: Modernistic, simplistic, bold, tidy are some words I might use to describe my pieces.

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?
TCMM: I live in Hong Kong, but now that we live in a global village, I'd like to think I get my ideas from anywhere in the globe. The internet is an unlimited free resource so I think it will be too restrictive to think locally only. The pros of designing in Hong Kong is the proximity to China, so you can source materials and production relatively closely. The con will be the high living costs that drives up wages and prices of contractors, partners.

FS: How do you work with companies?
TCMM: Corporate clients do have slightly different needs than individuals. There is sometimes more a need to provide more options and concepts before finalising a solution. An individual may already know what they want from the start. I guess it depends on the style of the main stakeholder.

FS: What are your suggestions to companies for working with a designer? How can companies select a good designer?
TCMM: Quite often the quality of the deliverable and output will partly depend on the input of the vendor. We can only do what the vendor communicated to us, so please be as specific as possible in terms of what you want. Nowadays with the internet it is very easy to have many designer options, and I found face-to-face meetings reveal a lot about how good a designer is. Many times it is evident if he knows what he is talking about after a 30 min chat.

FS: Can you talk a little about your design process?
TCMM: I start with brainstorming and daydreaming. Lots of blue sky thinking. Just doodling shapes, forms, dimensions. Then it is deep dive into the category, to find out concrete details and specifications essential to the category and client. These include interviews and meetings, too. For me it is paramount that I address all the client's concerns, it is easy to get sidetracked sometimes. Then I take some of the best ideas and develop them. I will share reference photos with client to see if the direction is agreed. Finally, I will put more meat onto one of the ideas until we have a full solution. It's a rather organic process, and details differ by project.

FS: What are 5 of your favorite design items at home?
TCMM: 1. Kenwood glass square kettle 2. Brighttech eclipse LED floor lamp 3. Braun wall clock 4. Our bespoke armchair 5. Tribu illum table. Too many to list!

FS: Can you describe a day in your life?
TCMM: I have a day job at a metal manufacturing company as designer and business manager, so my day looks pretty typical as an officer worker! But I spend my evenings cooking, working on my designs, playing games and reading.

FS: Could you please share some pearls of wisdom for young designers? What are your suggestions to young, up and coming designers?
TCMM: We live in a commercial world and I think sometimes, a wonderful design doesn't always win. People are affected by all types of biases, constraints, emotions. So don't take it personally. I think luck also play a part too.

FS: From your perspective, what would you say are some positives and negatives of being a designer?
TCMM: The positive would be the ability to reach a lot of people if you have a great piece. So many of us are in jobs that are a part of something bigger, and sometimes it is easy to lose perspective, or lose a feeling of existence outside of your circle. With a successful piece of design you can connect with so many people when your work is on display. Not every job provides that platform. A second positive is that working in design allows you to express yourself to the world, and not every job gives that opportunity. The negative will be that the design field is very competitive, and it is not always easy to make a good living in design, sadly. To be successful is so much more than just being able to come up with good designs.

FS: What is your "golden rule" in design?
TCMM: I think the golden rule is that there is no golden rule! I've broken all the "rules and principles" i thought I wanted to follow but i found that would be very restrictive in my work.

FS: What skills are most important for a designer?
TCMM: I think empathy and observation. Design without empathy for the market and user will lack reception and appeal. You need to be observant to the various functions / needs, context the product is used for to have a successful piece.

FS: Which tools do you use during design? What is inside your toolbox? Such as software, application, hardware, books, sources of inspiration etc.?
TCMM: Heavy user of photoshop, illustrator, inDesign. For 3D product, we partner with modellers.

FS: Designing can sometimes be a really time consuming task, how do you manage your time?
TCMM: I would say this question applies to all disciplines and professions. If I am on a deadline, anytime outside of my day job will be used in the project. Doing anything good in general is time consuming!

FS: How long does it take to design an object from beginning to end?
TCMM: I've done one in 2 months but also one using a year. It's hard to say.

FS: What is the most frequently asked question to you, as a designer?
TCMM: What's my favourite design is very common.

FS: What was your most important job experience?
TCMM: Working on our company's flagship power socket box is important because its success was a milestone after 2 long years of design work and manufacturing sourcing.

FS: Who are some of your clients?
TCMM: I've done work for my metal manufacturing company, for some online freelance job clients, a few friends and a lot of work for myself / own company!

FS: What type of design work do you enjoy the most and why?
TCMM: I like all types of design work! But most importantly I like areas I've never done before, they are most challenging and good for growth.

FS: What are your future plans? What is next for you?
TCMM: Firstly will be our launch-to-market for the award winning hazuto board! We also have some next product ideas which we are mulling about.

FS: Do you work as a team, or do you develop your designs yourself?
TCMM: I don't think I can develop all the designs myself! Feedback and collaboration is so very important. One man working alone could be very risky because I never believe that one person has all the answers.

FS: Do you have any works-in-progress being designed that you would like to talk about?
TCMM: I have a personal piece that I am finishing but I also have many ideas that I haven't gotten round to doing yet.

FS: How can people contact you?
TCMM: I'm available at tomstchan@gmail.com. or ig @tom.st.chan

FS: Any other things you would like to cover that have not been covered in these questions?
TCMM: Shoot me a message on ig or tomstchan@gmail.com, I love meeting all types of new people!


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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