When talking about design, many might think of the fancy product packages, visual design materials and distinctive design elements, etc. Some would even consider design as part of art. But for local designer Au Chon Hin, design is essentially different from art. “It is not art. It is a service,” he told us. “The most important thing for designers is to help their clients resolve problems.” With this design philosophy, the millennial designer and his team are able to break the boundaries between different regions and explore more possibilities.
Commercial designs are all ugly?
Au Chon Hin is one of the emerging young designers in Macao in recent years. Graduated from the Macao Polytechnic Institute in 2014, Au started working as an intern at companies in Macao, Guangzhou and Beijing to accumulate more experience. In 2017, he founded Untitled Macao with his friends and now serves as the creative director of the company. During these years, Au and his team had participated in a number of regional and international design competitions and did extremely well, winning over 30 awards. The awards they won include the Bronze Cube Award of Art Directors Club of New York, which is seen as the academy award in the design industry. Au is also the second designer from Macao to win Tokyo Type Directors Club Annual Awards.
“Many of the competitions we joined put great emphasis on the designs’ commercial value. The design works had all served actual clients,” Au said. “This means that high-quality design can solve real-world problems and bring about changes.” From Au’s perspective, design should not only be elegant but also meet clients’ demands. “Some people would think that commercial designs are all ugly. It is a very outdated impression,” he said.
Jumping out of the comfort zone and entering the global stage
Untitled Macao mainly provides services in visual design for events, brand image, publication design and web design. It has involved in the visual design of major cultural events like Encounter in Macao—Arts and Cultural Festival between China and Portuguese-speaking Countries, HUSH!! Full Music beach concert and Shenzhen Design Week Greater Bay Area Design Exhibition, etc., serving clients from mainland China, Hong Kong, Macao, Japan and the UK, etc. Besides going to exhibitions and participating in competitions, Untitled Macao is also good at building up a reputation on social media and other online platforms. For example, Untitled Macao will upload its design works to Behance, a social media platform for professional talents in the creative industry, to gain more exposure for Macao’s design scene. “To date, around 490,000 have seen our design works on Behance. Our works are relatively more popular when compared with other designs from Macao,” Au explained. “Some clients from the UK and Italy have approached us on Behance.”
Au believes that design firms in Macao shouldn’t limit themselves to the local market. From his perspective, local firms should try to jump out of their comfort zone. “Many design firms in mainland China will have clients coming from different cities. A successful design company does not focus on one particular region, but the global market,” he said. Au was previously invited to join the Shenzhen Graphic Design Association (SGDA). Through SGDA, which is quite a renowned organisation in mainland China, he gets to know more potential clients while having the opportunity to understand better the difference between the mainland market and the Macao market. Even though the market in mainland China is extremely competitive, Au still believes that Macao’s design firms will be able to find their own place in it. “Designers from Macao also have some advantages in the market in mainland China. They will offer clients another design solution,” Au explained, believing that Macao’s design industry is improving gradually.
More rewarding than winning awards
Of course, communicating with the clients well to understand their demands is extremely important. After knowing what the clients need, they can tailor an adequate design solution accordingly. This is a long process. “The design quality, good communication with the client and solutions that help them solve their problems are the three crucial factors. Without them, it is hard for us to convince potential clients to adopt our design,” Au explained. “Every time a client approaches us for cooperation, we would first get to know what that client wants to achieve. Does the client want more customers to their shop? Or is it something else?”
If the design plan is able to fulfil the expectations, everyone would be super excited. Untitled Macao has recently helped a local vending machine brand improve its brand image. It successfully helped the company expand its operation network and attract casinos and government departments to introduce its vending machines. “Some people might think that success means having cooperation with a number of big brands,” Au said. “But I personally find it more fulfilling to help my clients increase sales volumes and build up popularity using my design. This is more rewarding than getting the opportunity to work with big brands or winning major awards.”
Using design to improve Macao’s image
Untitled Macao did not just stop in Macao from its emergence in the local design industry. Instead, it is actively working to explore more in Macao and expand its operation to overseas markets. “Our goal is not to get more awards but accomplish influential projects and create a positive impact on more people,” Au said, revealing that the team is helping a local university reinvent the school image. Untitled Macao is hoping to further contribute to the development of visual aesthetics in the city and improve the city’s image by creating more design projects.
Before you save a computer file, it always exists as an untitled file. This also means there are unlimited possibilities out there. This is why Au named its company as Untitled Macao. “You have all the possibilities out there. But if you don’t take the first step, you cannot achieve anything,” Au said. “Failure is not the most disappointing thing here. What really upsets people is not even having the opportunity to fail.”