In today's multifaceted property development business, aspiring young professionals can anticipate experiencing a multidimensional career.
Property development and investment is the core business of Cheung Kong (Holdings) Limited. The company has an extensive history of building some of Hong Kong's best known residential and commercial developments such as The Legend, Harbourfront Landmark and The Center.
Behind the interior design of a Cheung Kong development is a department of talented design teams headed by Albert Ho, project manager and interior architecture development manager. Depending on the size of a project, an interior designer, with a number of assistant designers plus draftsmen and technicians, leads an entire team that is responsible for every aspect of a project, which could range from the clubhouse to the individual bathrooms in a residential project.
"Each interior designer is responsible for co-ordinating the work for junior staff, plus having to make site visits and collaborate with contractors, architects and other professionals alike to ensure everything is on track and built according to the design," Mr Ho says. "The scope of their responsibilities illustrates the highly important position held by our designers."
"Each designer has a different character and so needs space to do a good job"
Although there are many fresh graduates majoring in architecture, interior design and other related subjects, Cheung Kong's recruitment policies go beyond such qualifications. "Candidates do not necessarily need to have a degree in architecture, although majoring in interior design is a plus," Mr Ho stresses.
His department has a policy of promoting from within since it is difficult to recruit talented interior designers with at least 10 years' experience, which is a prerequisite for higher-level positions. "We start new recruits as assistant designers to help them adjust to the company culture and work under a tight schedule. Then after a few years we move them up to take on more projects," he explains.
Interior designers aim to create a space that is functional yet captures the essence of human behaviour. Describing the attributes of a successful designer, Mr Ho says, "A good designer must have imagination and be very meticulous, always striving for a high standard. It is also important to possess professional knowledge regarding space, colour and material that reflects the concept of the design."
Besides these factors, the interior designer must also take into account the configuration of the building, and other requirements such as E&M (electrical & mechanical) systems and safety, as well as the view of structural consultants. Additionally, effective communication skills are important to concisely convey the design to both the end-users and the contractors.
A willingness to be bold in initiating new concepts is highly regarded so that these innovative designs will attract potential buyers and benefit the company. Such innovation springs from exposure to different cultures plus the on-going study of developing trends, says Mr Ho. "It takes courage to go beyond the norm — it's not easy to be a successful designer in today's market," he adds.
When assessing designer candidates, Mr Ho would look for the following qualities — a flair for design knowledge on the practicality of construction, being hard-working and ambitious, and solid hands-on experience. However, he admits that such "dream candidates" are very hard to find. As an alternative, Cheung Kong takes on high potential fresh graduates and gives them time to excel.
As an architect and interior designer himself, Mr Ho understands the need for space to enable interior designers to demonstrate their true ability. "Each designer has a different character and so needs space to do a good job," he says. This is one reason for the department's relatively low turnover rate of only about five per cent.
He rates the artistic freedom given to young designers as being at least as important as their salary package. "The freedom of our work environment plays a bigger role in retaining talent," he notes.