If you know about design, you've probably heard of the renowned design institute Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). Khoi Vo, the Vice President of SCAD Hong Kong, shared his story with us.
1. What and who first influenced you to become an educator in design? Can you share how you changed course in your professional training, from an architect to now as the Vice President of SCAD Hong Kong?
My father and brothers are physicians and my mother was a lawyer turn high school principal. I guess you can say they all influenced me in some way to become an educator! However, after spending a summer with a friend’s brother who was studying architecture at university, his passion for the subject inspired me. Architecture, combination of art, engineering and sociology infused with the opportunity to work with different materials and light seemed like the perfect degree to enrol in.
After graduation, I began practicing as an architect but maintained some involvement in academia by returning to review student work as a studio critic. I always knew I would come back to teaching one way or another. I’ve had some really wonderful teachers and hoped to one-day influence the next generation of students as my teachers influenced me. The transition from practitioner to professor was gradual, it started off by coming into studios as a guest critic, before being asked to teach a class “here and there” as an adjunct professor.
Back then my career involved both practice and teaching, with the teaching role eventually taking over. I joined SCAD as a full-time Professor of Interior Design at SCAD’s campus in Savannah, Georgia. I’ve always been an advocate for sharing experiences and nurturing talent and am humbled to offer strategic leadership in the continuation to grow the campus and academic leadership as we continue to raise the bar on the level of academic excellence, and build bridges between SCAD and the Hong Kong community and global industry partners.
2. How do you measure what is a well-designed space or product?
A well-designed space is one that enables cultural exchange of ideas and interaction with others. The intrinsic value of the place or product is what matters to me and that every design element serves its own unique purpose. A well-designed space of object has the power to change the quality of one’s life. So, it is this responsibility to enhance the world in your craft that we instil in our students at SCAD
3. What is the best advice you’ve ever received? And any advice/ tips to new designers just starting out?
A few tips for new designers just starting out:
(I) Don’t forget to tell your story – the most important part of designing and becoming a designer is the ability to story tell, and along with this to develop your brand. As individuals we are all unique, and should use our personal experiences and interests to form concepts and ideas, which can then become designs.
(II) Continually challenge yourself - attempt the impossible, you have to take the shot. You learn so much more from failing than succeeding, so don’t be afraid to make a wrong turn.
(III) In this line of work, I get to meet a lot of diverse and talented artists and designers. The one bridging element between them is that they are always constantly curious. They never learn enough. There is no substitute for it – you just have to work hard and pursue your passion in what you want to study. I think if you can do those two things, you will be successful in whatever you do
4. What are the main challenges you have encountered in your post so far? Can you also share your most profound experience in the course of your career?
SCAD opened the Hong Kong campus in 2010 and over the past 10 years the university has established itself as a leading art and design university in the region. My job as Vice President of the Hong Kong campus has been to expand on this and make sure SCAD continues to be the preeminent source of knowledge in the disciplines we teach.
Soon after taking on the role as Vice President, I introduced the first Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.) in User Experience (UX) Design at the Hong Kong campus. The program was the first of its kind in the region. Our academic leadership collaborated with Google to develop the program’s ground-breaking curriculum focused on four foundational pillars – human behavior, technical proficiency, aesthetics and collaboration.
5. Can you share any plans you have for SCAD’s future development?
Our unique SCADpro program gives participating students authentic work experience directly with industry professionals from the world's most influential brands to provide creative design solutions, and deliver design concepts that pushes innovation. Most recently, SCAD Hong Kong collaborated with The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong on designing their special edition designs for mooncake boxes, and we are currently working with Hasbro on an exciting project. We have many exciting engagements planned for this year, so stayed tuned!
Here at SCAD Hong Kong, we make sure our students are future-proof with a repertoire of skills, including imaginative and critical thinking, storytelling, problem solving and design innovation, as well as polished ideation, presentation and communication, ensuring they are ready for their creative careers.