Joey Ho is the design partner at P A L Design Group, a prominent, award-winning interior design consultancy firm based in Hong Kong. Born in Taiwan, raised in Singapore and graduated in Hong Kong, Joey is not new to diverse cultures. Today, Joey has projects in markets include Hong Kong, Greater China, Singapore, Australia and India, and has bagged many design accolades over the years. Asia Designers Directory interviews Joey Ho to glimpse insight into his career and his approach towards design.
You were born in Taiwan and received an education in both Hong Kong and Singapore. How do you think this has helped shaped you as an interior designer and architect?
Being rooted in various cities of Asia has given me a more global outlook and a good mix of east and west perspective. With Hong Kong and Singapore being a melting pot of cultures, I am influenced by different takes on our environment and human behaviours.
To me, the design process is an amalgamation of our thoughts, encounters and experiences – projected into an environment for others to experience. Even though I have always been based in Asia, there are subtle differences between these cities and this has helped shaped my appreciation towards different unique landscapes and heritages, as well as enriched my outlook on life.
Living in different cities has also broadened my circle and professional circles. This is why I never feel limited by geographical boundaries and am happy to undertake projects extensively across Asia.
You have won many international accolades in the course of your career. What is your design philosophy and what keeps you inspired as a creative?
Personally, accolades and recognitions demonstrate market acceptance. I am honoured to have received various accolades in my professional career. But more important than these recognitions are how our designs influence the environment and behaviours.
As a designer, my focus is really on positively impacting lives through my creations. Each project gives me new realizations and helps me hone my abilities to create better the next time around.
I believe that every design is essentially an extension of myself. Beyond the technicalities and aesthetics, design is a form of storytelling that narrates my encounters when I embark on each project. Inspiration then comes from every encounter – be they interactions and dialogues with my clients, suppliers or other project stakeholders. And since no two projects or team is the same, I find myself inspired differently and enjoy the creative process as I will never repeat myself.
By being immersed in varied projects across hospitality, residential, retail, I expose myself to different people and settings, which help shape my designs and make me a more wholesome designer.
How do you approach each project? Can you tell us about some of your memorable projects to date?
Personally, my approach is taking an interest in my client and what is important to them or their business. It is not about asserting my position as an architect to influence a design, but placing myself in the users’ position when calibrating a space.
For a kindergarten that I designed, I played the role of a spokesperson for the children. Instead of approaching the design from the client’s perspective. Essentially, my role is to arrive at a common understanding with the client and co-create a space that is optimal for its users. I did not set out to impress through design, but by considering the space from the users’ perspective – in this case the children – the design tends to be more powerful.
In fact, influencing a client’s decision to make a shift, not just in terms of aesthetics, but operations, can have a profound impact on a space and the business; it is not about blindly following trends, but pushing boundaries with the users’ interest in mind. I believe that as designers, we can be change agents by shaping better environments, and hence behaviours. By doing so, this process then becomes more meaningful, impactful and gratifying.
Over the years, you have played an active role in advancing the design industry in Hong Kong. How do you think the design scene has evolved and grown over the years?
Through my various roles in design associations over the years, I have had the opportunity to connect with many designers in the region. Collectively, I feel that designers in the region are more open-minded than before. In Hong Kong, for instance, the designers are very versatile. Designers’ pace tends to be faster and can adapt to changes very well.
In the past, access to China’s burgeoning market has allowed Hong Kong designers and firms to work on large-scale projects and grow in terms of depth and breadth. Today, there is a gradual shift towards Southeast Asia, where many cities are quickly emerging. Amid these shifts, Hong Kong continues to enjoy a competitive edge with its east-meets-west influence. Increasingly, there is no doubt that Asia is becoming a design force to be reckoned with, and this provides many opportunities for the profession to evolve and grow.