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Our History of Research

Our History of Research

Six Design Research narratives summarises PolyU Design’s past research incentives. PolyU Design has made a substantial contribution to society in three main research areas: Asian ergonomics and lifestyle (stories 1-2); universal design (stories 3-4); and creative art work (stories 5-6). Meant as reference, they provide details on the School’s work on, amongst others; 3D printing, Asian lifestyle research, ageing within the South East Asia and multimedia research and production as part of the School of Design legacy and design endeavours.


(1) Embracing a new wave of industrialisation from 3D scanning to 3D printing

Few design research stories are more compiling than that of SizeChina, led by Professor Roger Ball in the School of Design of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, whose development of an ergonomic database of Chinese populations has gain worldwide recognition in a surprisingly short period of time, with numerous awards and prizes, including the prestigious award by the Industrial Design Society of America. The crucial factor for the success of the project was that its problems and contexts for research were identified by Dr. Ball, a designer by background. The research was driven by a creative design process in which designers’ instinct played a decisive role on identifying the nature of the research problem and the need for stylish and ergonomic differentiation based on concrete scientific data of qualitative nature in the products to be designed for users. The successfully integrated technology for 3D scanning of ergonomic data of Chinese populations was not the end of the story. Rather, it was the beginning to break a new ground for more exciting and ambitious attempts in new research and new designs that link will 3D scanning directly with 3D printing. This will change the process of design and making with greater possibility for creativity and innovation in design beyond Chinese populations.


(2) Life styles and sustainability leading the way for product, system and social innovation

The Asian life style research laboratory in the School of Design of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University led by Mr. Benny Leong has become an attractive centre for user centered research for leading giant high-tech players in China such as Huawei (Beijing and Shenzhen), and major domestic appliances company such as Philips and Cuckoo. Over the years, Asian life style laboratory has recorded a large number of stories of life of Chinese families across Chinese Mainland. These story cases gave clear paths of the evolving life styles of people, which in turn, provided guidance and principles on the creation of products, systems, accommodations, transports, and services for an innovative and sustainable future in China and Asia. Benny Leong, as a talented designer who once worked in Phillips, provided a designer’s perspective and high aesthetic standards in transforming the research data of life styles into product guidelines and evaluation criteria. The laboratory has also linked the School of Design to the Milan based International Association for Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability, and to leading design institutions in mainland China for a joint international effort on the research in design for sustainable life styles and environments.


(3) From a local expert to the Champion of Universal Design of Helen Hamlyn Center

Professor Michael Siu served many local design organisations and engaged himself in design activities applying his knowledge and expertise to the problems in public space and public furniture in Hong Kong. He was considered as a local hero, who embraced the challenges and tackled the design issues benefiting the community. He once served as the Chairman of Hong Kong Toilet Association. Many of his designs have now been implemented by local organisations and authorities, which have produced design patents and won awards, based on his research findings and design projects. Through his academic involvement in the School of Design of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, he generalised practical design knowledge into the principles of universal design which can be applied to similar problems in other regions. As a result, he was awarded the Champion of Universal Design, by the Royal College of Art in the UK, which is one of the world’s top design schools in research on universal design. He is the first Asian researcher awarded with this title. This is a typical story of how academic research can be integrated with practical design requiring strong local characters and knowledge, resulting in internationally recognised achievements for the contributions to a field of design with convincing academic and scholarly qualities.


(4) Creating excellence in the research of active aging where both local and international design needs converge

Active aging is a design research topic where both international relevance and local urgency converge. Dr Jackie Kwok has been working in this area throughout her career in the last 20 years. Her passion and focus on the elderly living culture in HK, mainland China, and the region have gained her wide recognition beyond local or regional standing. Her research was guided by rigorous methodologies and approaches with international standard. In the meantime, her advantage of local experience of working with large numbers of elderly and institutions created unique and valuable case studies and findings that can also influence international design research communities in this challenging aging problem facing the world. Among many of her publication of books on design for the elderly, is a recent book on “Humanistic Gerontology: New Direction of the Ageing Society”. In this book she aimed at achieving a unified standard for scholarly research output on the topic of aging. It provided fresh stories of Hong Kong elderly people in their struggles to cope with aging problems, for the researchers in the same field in the Hong Kong, Taiwan and mainland China for their pursuit of better design solutions to the problems. Her story is that of a highly focused research, which tackled the universal problem of active aging with historic and philosophical design thinking.


(5) Creating a virtual design world of creative minds, young hearts and explorative spirits in multimedia research and production

Hung Keung is a local icon in creative media for young design students. His endless list of creative work, ranging from video, film, digital installation, computer simulation, is firmly based on the research on the integration of technology, art and design, influenced by the highly dynamic life styles and urban culture of Hong Kong. His virtual world is full of characters of stunning visual impacts, often resulting from explorations in storytelling and technical experimentations. His work is shown in many ranging from Hong Kong to Portland USA, and from Shanghai to Jordan. The highly creative impact produced by his artwork has been achieved with a good research on the state of the art technologies and on the contents that differentiate his innovative touch on visualisation and interactions with others. His work always contained strong and unique local characters, but he also impressed the global research community on media arts by his strong commitment to challenging the limitations of the technologies. In recent years, his contributions to the art world in Hong Kong and beyond have been highly recognised by the Hong Kong Arts Development Council, and Hong Kong Home Affairs Council. In 2010, he was the recipient of the best artist award in Hong Kong.


(6) Design leadership through creative culture industries in western China

The School of Design played a leadership role in the collaboration between The Hong Kong Polytechnic University and Xian Jiaotong University on the joint Research Centre on Creative Culture Industries for Western China. The rich cultural resources and heritages in western China provided inspirations for the local design professionals and design students including PhD students in their attempts to create high level brands with strong cultural identities. Professor Ming Xi Tang led the team in the production of a documentary “The Masters of Faces” in March 2014 with overwhelming acclaims and responses from the mass in western China. An exhibition on “Heaven and People in One, Generation by Generation – Shaanxi Culture and Design Innovation” was held in May 2014 in the Innovation Tower. This exhibition involved 11 handicrafts masters and artists of national standing in western China. It attracted the participation and collaboration of a major international association of Ars Mathematica in France, a pioneer in the world on research in digital sculpture and 3D printing. This adventure is to be continued in Rome, Italy in December 2014, with an invitation from International Conference on Generative Art, which promotes the integration of art and computing in an evolutionary approach to generating new products and systems for future.


See also: Research & PolyU Design | Design Labs | Research Centre for Future (Caring) Mobility


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