• Interview Excerpt: Michael Young, Founder, Michael Young Ltd., Hong Kong

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    You have stated that, “It is design as industrial art that interests me, not in a limited edition, but in mass-production.” How does this guide your design approach and design solutions?

    Simply that I want all my design to have the same empathy and love that one associates with art, but in a commercial mass-market process. It means we design finely manicured industrial products which are invariably of better quality than competitors, but at a lower price. I love craft design, but I save this for galleries. Art is of course conceptual and design is not, but the empathy of art is an emotional subject that people feel and are inspired by. I wish design to be this soulful.

    What motivated you to open your own design studio?

    Lack of alternatives. I have never had a job and this is all I know. I made one light in 1993 and then I made another, then I made a chair, and then I made a desk, and here I am now—now, I am driven by a greater wisdom and passion to explore the industrial universe. I am driven and feel in a good place to offer large companies a good service.

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    You have been designing for the Chinese market with the expertise of local industry and manufacturing capabilities for some time now. Can you share some of your insights or experiences that may be of benefit to budding designers?

    Don’t copy my mistakes, make your own. You’re only going to be able to offer anyone anything by way of experience or interest in the subject, so you just need to throw yourself at it. Young designers tend to be proud and wary, but really they should be wiser than that and understand that other people can teach them a lot more than they expect, if they meet them half way—not to compromise, but to listen. Things you take for granted others may not even know exist.

    What kinds of portfolios get your attention these days? What brings in an industrial designer for an interview?

    I have known my staff for years, but it would I guess be fluid computer skills and a pleasant attitude. Most European designers know nothing about production, and most interns end up with a whole load of renders in their portfolios, that turns out they did not do, which gets frustrating and results in a ticket home. We actually have no interns as I speak; we do not like the mayhem they cause. We made a few mistakes in our time but now the office is peaceful. We all love it even if it does mean grabbing the milk yourself.

    Have you seen a portfolio recently that resonated with you, and what about it stood out?

    If you’re referring to interns, I don’t do the selection process; the staff selects whom they can work with. As for any additional staff, I am not looking for any at the moment. Basically, no. I don’t have the time. They should send a portfolio that takes 10 seconds to look at, a mood experience, not all this: “I like walking in the Alps in my time off and have a keen interest in teamwork.”

    …Wow, I’m so mean.

    If a product design student came to you looking for advice on how to prepare their portfolio to get an internship or a job, what would you tell them to do? What should be in their portfolio?

    It should be all their own work and they should make sure if it’s not, to make it known. On a personal level, they should express their life through the portfolio.

    What are some common mistakes you see students or junior designers make in their portfolios?

    Poor design solutions are quite common but not being concise is the most frequent mistake. A picture says a thousand words, as they say.

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    Michael Young of Michael Young Studio

    Michael Young of Michael Young Studio

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