AB Concept co-founder Ed Ng shares the firm's creative philosophy and how social media has shaped the design industry at large

Founded by Terence Ngan and Ed Ng, Hong Kong-based design firm AB Concept had already been creating photo-worthy spaces for luxury hotels, residences and brands even before the idea of “Instagrammable” design came about. Here, co-founder Ed Ng discusses their firm's design ethos and the emotional impact of memorable spaces.

How would you define your approach to design?
Ed Ng (EN)
I think of a designer as being similar to a chef—we have to master the technical skills and techniques to do the job. With these skills, we create something unique that sets us apart from our peers.

In order to do this, my co-founder Terence and I search for a “local ingredient” to use in our designs. We visit the local spaces around the city that we’re working in and try to identify what’s unique to the place. We’ll then weave that piece of culture or tradition into our design and present it in a way that’s different from how it has been typically used.

(Related: How To Create Spaces That Inspire, According To An Interior Designer)

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AB Concept co-founders Terence Ngan and Ed Ng (pictured right)
Above AB Concept co-founders Terence Ngan and Ed Ng (pictured right)
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Above Mei Ume, a restaurant designed by AB Concept at Four Seasons Hotel London, UK

What is one design trend that currently fascinates you?
If you know me long enough, you’ll know that I’ll never talk about visual trends because they come and go. What excites me right now is how social media has affected the way design is being created and experienced. Recently, I’ve been thinking about what I call the “3 M momentum”.

The first M stands for moments. As designers, we’re actually designing moments. When we create an exciting project that touches your emotions, it creates a moment that becomes an important memory, which is the second M. The memory, in turn, creates the motivation—the third M—to come to or revisit the space. Thanks to social media, you may decide to archive that memory by posting a photo of it on Instagram. It may then be seen by your friends, who may be so impressed by the space that they, too, want to visit it. Hence, social media helps to create this cycle, this momentum.

(Related: 10 Home Design Trends To Watch In 2020)

What do you think about Asia’s design scene today?
These days, many designers turn to social media platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram when they need inspiration. There’s nothing wrong with doing this, but when you’re looking at the same images, there’s a chance you might end up creating a design that someone else has already done.

I’ve seen this at design competitions in that there may be hundreds of entries, and 90 per cent of them are similar [in style]. I think this is quite problematic, but the other side of the coin is that it’s then easier for designers today to distinguish themselves. If you add some creativity and your own personality and style into your work, you’ll quite easily stand out.

(Related: The New Asia: The Most Powerful, Influential and Stylish People to Know in 2020)

Having judged several design awards before, including the Tatler Design Awards 2020, what is your take on this form of recognition?
It’s human nature that people tend to strive for better results once they’ve received recognition [for their work]. More importantly, for young designers, they need such recognition, so they know that they’re on the right path. Of course, receiving awards shouldn’t be the primary motivation for a designer to produce good work, but the recognition is certainly worthwhile.

(Related: Meet The Jury Of The Tatler Design Awards 2020)

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