The Hong Kong SAR has designated 2012 as "Hong Kong Design Year", and has allocated HK$50 million to support design-related activities and programmes. The aim is to use design as a driving force, turning Hong Kong into the world-class creative city that it can be. All of this is uplifting news to local designers; even the least ambitious among them are dreaming a little bit bigger.
Anthony Lo, 47 and vice-president of exterior design at Renault, travelled around the world to pursue his childhood dream of becoming a car designer, after completing an industrial design course at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Lo obtained a master's degree in transportation design from the Royal College of Art in London before stepping into the car design business in 1987.
Lo worked for Lotus, Audi and Mercedes-Benz. In 2000, he was put behind the wheel of advanced design at Saab Automobile in Sweden. Four years on, he took up the post of advanced design director for Opel and Saab at General Motors in Germany. He joined the Paris-based Renault, his sixth car brand, in 2010.
When did you realise that you wanted to become a car designer?
Cars have fascinated me ever since I was a little boy. Growing up in a family of car enthusiasts in Hong Kong, I was able to get up close to numerous cars, and to ride in many of them.
Cars are so dynamic, and their designs so very linked to their brand, culture, heritage and philosophy. Other than performing the task of transporting their occupants and belongings from A to B, cars can be objects of desire given their various expressions and characters.
Car design has become an obsession, and it was this obsession that fuelled the dream of becoming a car designer. After all of these years, I really can confirm that this is the best career in the world for me.
How did you get to this point of your career?
Through car design, I got to meet the most inspirational people, who love their jobs and welcome challenges. I learned a lot from these people about facing new challenges in different areas.
What do you do as a car designer?
I thought car design was only about having the best ideas, but it is not this simple. Having ideas is only the beginning.
Car design is highly competitive. One bad decision and you have to suffer through the car's entire life cycle of six to eight years. After all, we are dealing with one of the most complex machines in the world, which has over 35,000 components on average, per car. Investment is huge and we have to fulfil all the technical requirements that make the car move, stop, protect its occupants and the surroundings. No other transportation is as demanding.
What are some of the criteria of a good designer?
As most professional designers will agree, we can be very stubborn about our ideas. We don't always like to listen or react to other people's comments. This stubbornness doesn't get you far.
A good designer needs to be calm, especially because not everyone sees things from a designer's perspective. A calm yet confident and passionate designer will easily influence and persuade people to do things their way.
What is the unique challenge of the car design industry?
In car design, there may be 30 people submitting their designs, but only one design will be chosen. You may not have any of your designs chosen throughout your career, after 10 years, you may realise you haven't had a single car produced.
It can be very frustrating, but car designers need to understand that they are part of a team, and that all abandoned designs help to designate a winning one.
What do you find most interesting and challenging about working in France?
That holidays and lunch hours are greatly respected. Food is very important to the French. My secretary tries very hard to prevent me from having lunch in the office. Everyone takes at least an hour for lunch.
August in France is not the best time to be productive as everyone is on leave. I took three weeks off last year, and I may take a few weeks off to do an intensive French language course this coming year.