Design Legends ("DL") had the distinct honour to interview legendary designer Shaun Lee ("SL") for their original perspective and innovative approach to design as well as their creative lifestyle, we are very pleased to share our interview with our distinguished readers.

DL: Could you please tell us a bit about your design background and education?

SL : I studied at the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts in China, majoring in oil painting art and space design. I used to be the chief designer in citygroup and presided over the interior design of many landmark buildings in China. Later, I founded ADDdesign with my partners. The company's business scope covers hotel, catering, luxury house,etc. and provides services of international architecture, interior, soft design, devoting itself to providing professional and integrated design solutions for customers at home and abroad. We provide design services for more than 20 international brands under more than 10 international hotel management groups, search for possibilities between culture, art, and aesthetics, break through the inherent setup, and create complete and eternal spaces with investors and management companies.

DL: What motivates you to design in general, why did you become a designer?

SL : Creation and innovation can generate new value, and this process will bring about self-renewal and upgrade. The realization of self-worth and the sense of accomplishment obtained from creating things from scratch, as well as the pleasure of pursuing beautiful things, are the main motivations that make me a designer.

DL: Did you choose to become a designer, or you were forced to become one?

SL : I have been very passionate about painting and art since I was young. After being exposed to design, I was attracted by the timeliness of design and its enabling us to apply our understanding of art to the transformation and creation of the world. So my design career is actually a process of changing from my love of art to my passion for design. This is a process of self-discovery and a process of actively choosing to refine self-positioning.

DL: What do you design, what type of designs do you wish to design more of?

SL : Hotel design is my main design category now, and I enjoy it very much because the hotel space is a comprehensive and diverse space. It contains a variety of scenes related to human experience, such as living space, office, social scenes or sports, recreation, leisure, entertainment, etc. The design needs to switch the atmosphere according to different needs in different scenarios. Compared with other types of projects, the emotional factors of the hotel space are fuller, and pay more attention to people's feelings. The space also needs more interaction with human emotions. We need to implant more emotional factors in the space to connect with people, so this is one of the reasons I prefer hotel design. In addition, hotel design is a design type that requires relatively diverse knowledge structure support, and also needs to combine more social resources. This process allows me to learn a lot, obtain more lasting industry development space and higher professionalism and professional value.

DL: What should young designers do to become a design legend like you?

SL : "All wonderful things come from sufficient accumulation." My suggestion for young designers is to stick to your love and passion. Persevering in what you love is a happy thing. Don't rush to pursue fame and fortune, but invest more time and energy in what you love, and there is no shortcut.

DL: What distinguishes between a good designer and a great designer?

SL : Good designers solve problems, and great designers establish new orders, set new standards, and create new systems. On the basis of human cultural consensus, a great designer can produce a systematic solution to the new problems brought about by the living environment that will exist for a long time in the future.

DL: What makes a good design a really good design, how do you evaluate good design?

SL : The first is that this design must be able to accomplish all the goals you set before and solve all the questions you raised before. The second is to have a certain forward-looking outlook on this basis, that is, whether there is an innovative component and whether this innovation has a positive value. Third, there must be a higher artistic and aesthetic value. Fourth, good design requires logical self-consistency and smoothness. In the design process, add your own understanding of the world and present these views in a form that the public can understand. Fifth, the opinions embodied in the design can reach consensus with most people, and influence the public from cultural, aesthetic, technical, and lifestyle levels.

DL: What is the value of good design? Why should everyone invest in good design?

SL : Design is the pre-planning of creation activities. A good design can make reasonable use of resources, find better possibilities at a limited cost, and maximize value. The timeliness of good design can be validated before coming into existence, provide a feasible basis for manufacturing and construction, and speculate and predict the future actual results. Good design creates new things and new values from new combinations of elements in the material world, creating new categories and better lifestyles. These are all manifestations of value. Investing in good design is investing in a better world in the future.

DL: What would you design and who would you design for if you had the time?

SL : If I had the time, I want to design the living environment suitable for future human beings.

DL: What is the dream project you haven’t yet had time to realize?

SL : A project that gives me enough time to reflect and reflects my design theory as much as possible. I think it should be a resort hotel project that includes everything from architecture and landscape to interior space and furniture and accessories.

DL: What is your secret recipe of success in design, what is your secret ingredient?

SL : The ability to observe details, the ability to think logically, and the grasp of sensory feelings. But these must be based on the perspective of providing diversity and more possibilities to find a better answer. I think there is no right answer to design, because design is not a mathematical formula. What we are looking for is not the only answer, but a better solution.

DL: Who are some other design masters and legends you get inspired from?

SL : I really like Louis I. Kahn's architectural works, his space construction logic and the influence of space on people's mood and emotions, which are all parts I love and are exploring.

DL: What are your favorite designs by other designers, why do you like them?

SL : I also like the hotel design works of Yabu Pushelberg. Their application of contemporary art in the space is worth learning.

DL: What is your greatest design, which aspects of that design makes you think it is great?

SL : Aoxin Holiday Hotel is a representative project in my work. In the existing hotel market in China, most works use more traditional and conservative strategies, pursue universality and universality, and meet basic accommodation needs in an efficient manner. Through this project, we want to provide another possibility to provide this market with a strong experiential, dramatic and immersive design work. Bringing more vitality and multiple choices to the industry is the original intention of our design.

DL: How could people improve themselves to be better designers, what did you do?

SL : Maintain curiosity about the world, keep distance from comfort zone, continue to broaden horizons and enhance cognitive dimensions, be brave to break through the inherent pattern, and find possibilities between culture, art, and aesthetics. And sum up experience in practice to perfect our own design logic, forming a systematic way of thinking.

DL: If you hadn’t become a designer, what would you have done?

SL : I would be an artist.

DL: How do you define design, what is design for you?

SL : I think design is the art of problem-solving, which is how to use the environment and resources to solve current problems. Including meeting individual needs in life, solving individual and common problems in society, etc. And how we use technology and art to meet these needs while pursuing a better life. For me, design is my life. Discovering problems and solving problems are the most important part of my life.

DL: Who helped you to reach these heights, who was your biggest supporter?

SL : Family members, colleagues, and investors in the project, users of the work, partners at work, and spiritual communicators in the books. Anyone who communicates with me and has an impact on me has more or less contributed to the formation of my thoughts. My partners are the ones who gave me the most support in my design career.

DL: What helped you to become a great designer?

SL : Perseverance and passion.

DL: What were the obstacles you faced before becoming a design master?

SL : Limitations of self-awareness.

DL: How do you think designers should present their work?

SL : Media and magazine submissions, participating in award competitions, attending industry and social activities, and conducting academic seminars are all feasible methods. Of course, the best is the communication effect that comes with the reputation of good works.

DL: What’s your next design project, what should we expect from you in future?

SL : The project we are designing is a very challenging and very interesting case. In Xi'an, China, the ancient city of Chang'an City, the capital of China's Tang Dynasty, a boutique hotel will be built close to the imperial city wall. The historical response to the Chang'an City of the Tang Dynasty and the special historical sites on the site's ancient city walls are challenges in this project. These challenges will also be the characteristics of this project in the design. Combining the most brilliant art and culture in traditional Chinese culture with contemporary needs, it will be a work we are looking forward to.

DL: What’s your ultimate goal as a designer?

SL : To establish a new order, set new standards, and create new systems like those great designers, and to produce a systematic solution to the new problems brought about by the living environment that will exist for a long time in the future on the basis of human cultural consensus.

DL: What people expect from an esteemed designer such as yourself?

SL : They look forward to more and better works from him, and he can share his understanding and perception of design with everyone, and use his work and personal influence to influence the industry and the world.

DL: How does design help create a better society?

SL : A very important purpose for designers is to create a better living environment for humans. How to create a better society? The answer to this question was originally one of the designer’s jobs. The process of creation and production is the reorganization of the material world and human society. This process must have to do with how the various factors of production relate and reorganize to achieve new cooperation. Is the production relationship coordinated? How does the relationship between people respond to the new environment? Is the use of resources reasonable? Is the iteration of the resulting new environment gradual and orderly to the old environment? As well as the costs and benefits of manufacturing and transformation, designers need to respond. The essence of design is to solve problems. Using design thinking that integrates the achievements of various disciplines, practical solutions are provided for real specific social problems and specific problems after subdivision.

DL: What are you currently working on that you are especially excited about?

SL : More difficult and challenging work is things that excite me, because it will stimulate my potential and enable me to achieve a better self.

DL: Which design projects gave you the most satisfaction, why?

SL : For me, every project is a creation from scratch, which will bring me a great sense of satisfaction. As a creator, this is a very touching moment. At the same time, as an envisioner, some regrets brought by unfulfilled wishes are often felt.

DL: What would you like to see changed in design industry in the coming years?

SL : Generally speaking, change is the norm. With the development of science and technology, new technologies and new forms of social organization will produce new philosophical and artistic views to adapt to their development, which will always be in the process of continuous iteration. Therefore, the design should also be based on different conditions to deal with the problems of different periods and provide responsive solutions. As the speed of human civilization iteration exponentially accelerates, the design industry's update iteration will also become faster and faster. I hope that in the new changes, we can see the rise of collective intelligence and the reconciliation of virtual and real environments at the design level.

DL: Where do you think the design field is headed next?

SL : I think the next phase of the design is to deal with the problem of latitude incompatibility between the virtual environment using data as the carrier and the inertia of human physiological genes and ideological civilization. How to transition and what kind of environment should be created to adapt to the new living conditions is the category designers to think about actively.

DL: How long does it take you to finalize a design project?

SL : Because I am engaged in hotel design, the design conditions between each project will be very different, so the design time requirements will also be quite different. It is determined by different requirements as well as the project's size, complexity, obstacles, political and economic aspects, so our project design cycle varies from three months to three years.

DL: When you have a new design project, where do you start?

SL : I will start with trying to understand it and conducting research.

DL: What is your life motto as a designer?

SL : Can it be better?

DL: Do you think design sets the trends or trends set the designs?

SL : Design leads the trend. It does not need to pay attention to the trend, or to care about what kind of trend it may drive. The essence of design is to solve problems and create, not to cater to and flatter.

DL: What is the role of technology when you design?

SL : Technology is the most basic condition and the most fundamental source in design. Without technology, it is impossible to talk about design. Design is the perfect fusion of technology and art, technology is a skeleton, art is flesh and blood, and both are indispensable. The design of all times must be based on existing technology to discuss possibilities and solve problems. It is ridiculous to depart from technical discussion and design.

DL: What kind of design software and equipment do you use in your work?

SL : 3dmax, SketchUp, Rhino, AutoCAD, and Photoshop.

DL: What is the role of the color, materials and ambient in design?

SL : The environment is the condition, the material is the most basic and most important element of creation, and the color concerns information and emotion.

DL: What do you wish people to ask about your design?

SL : What is the logic behind the design? What are the initial conditions for the design? What is the purpose of the design? What have you given up for better results?

DL: When you see a new great design or product what comes into your mind?

SL : Touched, the feeling of being loved and cared for.

DL: Who is your ideal design partner? Do you believe in co-design?

SL : The ideal design partner is the current partners. I feel positive about co-design, but would adopt it cautiously.

DL: Which people you interacted had the most influence on your design?

SL : Leaders in the same industry, and people with unique insights in different fields.

DL: How did you develop your skills as a master designer?

SL : The ability to observe details, the ability to think logically, and the grasp of sensory feelings are all abilities that designers should have. I really like art works, such as painting, installation art, photography, etc. So many of my design inspirations come from some appreciation and understanding of works of art. Comprehension and feelings brought by scenery or things, and reading other people's thoughts are also ways to nourish my creativity.

DL: Irrelative of time and space, who you would want to meet, talk and discuss with?

SL : Louis I. Kahn and G. W. F. Hegel.

DL: How do you feel about all the awards and recognition you had, is it hard to be famous?

SL : Of course it is a happy and exciting thing. Winning the award is a performance recognized by most people, which allows the work to have a wider exposure and be widely discussed under more attention. Based on these discussions and evaluations, we can draw feedback on design methods and design styles to verify our thinking and methodology and obtain soil for better design works in the future. Because the fame of an excellent work is a reward that few people can get. After all, it is not easy to be the best among many practitioners.

DL: What is your favorite color, place, food, season, thing and brand?

SL : White, China, Sichuan cuisine, winter, iPhone, and Apple.

DL: Please tell us a little memoir, a funny thing you had experienced as a designer?

SL : My first design work was not really a successful work. It was a small temporary car showroom. In this work, I used the concept of "light" as a visual expression to show the sense of speed and technology of the car in a fluid form. Although the errors in the implementation process of this project led to unsatisfactory design effects, this process allowed me to understand the design more comprehensively, and some of the perceptions at that time also became my enlightenment on the direction of future design work.

DL: What makes your day great as a designer, how do you motivate yourself?

SL : Discovering and solving problems are the most part of my day. In this regard, I am happy and full of passion. It is a happy thing to immerse yourself in your love. In this state, I don’t need to motivate myself in another way.

DL: When you were a little child, was it obvious that you would become a great designer?

SL : When I was young, I firmly believed that I would become a painter. I have been very passionate about painting and art since I was a child, until I was attracted by the timeliness of design. Being able to apply my understanding of art to the transformation and creation of the world fascinated me. So my design career is actually a process of changing from my love of art to my passion for design.

DL: What do you think about future; what do you see will happen in thousand years from now?

SL : To make a bold prediction, in a thousand years, humans should no longer need a biological body, and consciousness exists in another world (the so-called virtual world now may be the real world in the future) in the form of data or other things. However, the culture created by mankind will be inherited and survive for the purpose of self-survival. Like currently genes relying on living bodies, culture will use the data body to achieve the purpose of self-reproduction and continues to multiply, forming a new civilization. In a thousand years from now, human civilization will have entered the stage of interstellar civilization, but the carrier of civilization is no longer human in the present sense.

DL: Please tell us anything you wish your fans to know about you, your design and anything else?

SL : As far as I’m concerned, just pay attention to my work.



Aoxin Holiday Hotel

Aoxin Holiday Hotel by Shaun Lee

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