Project / Colours of Asia, Hong Kong
Task / Research, Exhibition, Student Workshops, Forum, Seminar, Exhibition Book, Research Papers
Year / 2012
A Project by The Design Alliance Asia
(China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Laos, Lebanon/Middle East, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam)
Curators: Prof. Ahn Sang-soo (South Korea) and William Harald-Wong (Malaysia)
Co-organisers: Hong Kong Design Institute (HKDI) and Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education (IVE)
Colours of Asia is a programme of Hong Kong Year of Design 2012
The project won the Special Award for Culture at the prestigious Design for Asia Awards 2014
WHW & Associates participated in the Colours of Asia (CoA) research project through its affiliation with The Design Alliance Asia (tDA Asia). The research covered the whole spectrum of life across 13 Asian regions: from colour symbolism and beliefs from ancient times still evident in the customs and rituals of today; to colours, patterns, motifs, materials and forms in indigenous crafts and objects that have inspired and shaped contemporary design.
The project aimed to generate informative and insightful content for design students, professional designers and entrepreneurs who can benefit from the knowledge of colour meaning and preferences in Asia.
The 13 participating associate companies of tDA Asia submitted more than 3,200 information cards, each containing a colour image with a caption to explain its significance. These were narrowed down to a few hundred cards containing stories or information that are believed to be especially meaningful to the project.
Given the complexity and subjectivity of colour perception, the project’s wide geographical spread, and the diversity of cultures and languages, it was a challenge to complete the research within the stipulated six-month period; but we were confident of having established a base of information from which further research in specific areas can follow after the project.
Five colours were chosen as a basic palette for the research and exhibition: three primary colours (red, yellow and blue), a secondary colour (green) and the fifth, the pair of black and white. No less important were saffron, gold, indigo and multi-colour, which have their own significance in Asian societies.
Under each colour, shortlisted submissions were organised under various topics, such as Life Rituals, Textiles, Built Environment, Food, Masks, Art and Crafts, Literature, Contemporary Design, etc.
Under each topic, we further did an analysis of the colour relationships between different cultures to determine its similarities and differences.
The exhibition was opened on 3 November 2012 by Susie Ho, Permanent Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development (Communications & Technology), at D-Mart of HKDI & IVE. It ended, after an extension due to rousing reception by the visitors, on 22 February 2013.
The exhibition was divided into five sections—one for each of the dominant colours—and a special section entitled Life & Rituals (Weddings, Textiles and Masks). The Mezzanine floor housed two special thematic sections: The World Marketplace (contemporary objects inspired by indigenous design) and China Red (a study on the evolution of ‘Chinese Red’ in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan).
For the Hong Kong Design Institute, located at the far eastern end at Tiu Keng Leng, the exhibition drew a record crowd of 26,034 visitors from a range of backgrounds and age groups, including school children, students, families, designers and the curious. To facilitate appreciation of the exhibition, HKDI students served as docents to introduce the themes and exhibits for each of the eight exhibition areas.
Besides the exhibition, tDA Asia conducted two students workshops, a forum and a public seminar to discuss the cultural significance of colours in the Asian region.
The information gathered from the CoA project was published as research papers (one from each of the 13 regions) and a book, with specially commissioned articles from colour and culture experts from Japan (Gentarow Ohmi), Taiwan (Tseng Chi-Hsiung) and India (Subrata Bhowmick).
TDA ASIA INTERNAL WORKSHOP
tDA Asia organised special workshops or design tours for our associates’ staff working on the organisation’s projects. After the opening, Mr Chim Kim Chuen from Stechol conducted a cockerel bowl workshop. His great-grandfather created the first cockerel bowl, a traditional tableware now found in most parts of Asia with many new adaptations.
The original cockerel was drawn with only 13 strokes and is a unique technique originating from Chaozhou. It is now an indispensible cultural heritage of China.
The sampul duit raya is a Malay adaptation of the Chinese red envelope (ang-bao). During the religious festival of Hari Raya Aidilfitri (Eid ul-Fitr), Muslims hand out money in green envelopes to guests (especially children) who visit their homes. This sampul duit raya was an unexpected hit in Hong Kong as most local visitors could not imagine a green version of their red ang-bao.
in the following year at the Business of Design Week Conference in Hong Kong, William Harald-Wong gave a talk on colour and symbolism in conjunction to product packaging for the Malay-Muslim market in Malaysia. (PDF of a summary of the study downloadable here).
Colours of Asia won the Special Award for Culture (one of the three Special Awards given annually) at the Design for Asia Awards 2014.