Connecting Words and Images hosts Hong Kong designer

In a bid to foster knowledge of Hong Kong’s arts and design scene, the works of renowned Hong Kong designer Tommy Li  will be part of  "Connecting Words and Images", an event series organized by the York Centre for Asian Research (YCAR) and York’s Department of Design, from July 9 to Aug. 24.

The idea is to link images and words together to enhance an understanding of arts, design and consumption in Hong Kong through a series of free exhibitions, lectures and screenings open to the public.

Li will discuss design in Hong Kong as part of the opening lecture of the event series "The Experience of Design Business Promotions: Canada and Hong Kong/China" on Thursday, July 10, from noon to 2:30pm, at Metro Hall, Room 310, 55 John St. (at King St.) in Toronto. As part of his talk, he will share his design philosophy and his experience in finding a creative strategy for those brands which seem to lack a sense of fun.

Right: Megart store by Tommy Li, a branding design for a conceptual design show which merged the experience of shopping with high art

Li will explain how he persuades clients to maximize their profits by using a tasteful and creative approach to branding. York design Professor Wendy Wong, chair of York’s Department of Design in the Faculty of Fine Arts and associate director of the Centre for Asian Research at York University, will also talk at the opening lecture along with Arlene Gould, strategic director of the Design Industry Advisory Committee.

"Tommy Li is a very well established design consultant in Hong Kong and best known for his cutting-edge branding design," says Wong. "Like most designers in the world, he often has to deal with conservative clients afraid to be different. Very often ‘boring’ products come to him, but he is able to turn them into a playful and witty branding communications tool."

In addition to the opening lecture, there will be two exhibitions of Li’s work. The first, "Creative Works of Tommy Li, Part 1: Mao Series" will highlight the visual art of Li inspired by Chinese political icon Chairman Mao Zedong. The exhibit begins today and runs until July 20 at the Chinese Contemporary Xchange, 50 Gladstone Ave, with the opening reception for the exhibit taking place on July 10 from 7 to 10pm. The second exhibit, "Creative Works of Tommy Li, Part II: Commercial Design", also starts today and runs until Aug. 25 at the Urbanspace Gallery, 401 Richmond St. W. in Toronto.

Over the course of his career, Li has garnered close to 500 awards from around the world for his work. A graduate of Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s School of Design, Li is a member of the Alliance Graphique Internationale. His company, Tommy Li Design Workshop Limited, is a leading brand and image consultant for many major corporations in China, Hong Kong and Japan.

Left: Wendy Wong

"The idea of the event series is to allow people to take a closer look at an outstanding Chinese design case. I believe this will be the first time that Toronto has hosted a solo exhibit of a Hong Kong-based designer," says Wong. She hopes the event series will introduce participants to the cultural and academic values of design with a focus on Hong Kong/Chinese design, which has been her area of research for the last decade. "Design and cultural products/industry are becoming important in our everyday life and becoming more global than ever before. With this events series, participants can find out what is happening in other parts of the world and learn more about this emerging field of studies."

In her own talk during the opening lectures, Wong will discuss the recent promotion of design businesses in Hong Kong. In the last 10 years, the government in Hong Kong has put a lot of effort and investment into promoting creative industries, such as film and design.

"I will use the government-funded design promotion body – the Hong Kong Design Centre – as a case study to illustrate how the promotion of design is becoming a government policy and how the Hong Kong government is hoping to use design to find a new economic direction for the region internationally," says Wong.

Above: A branding design by Tommy Li for blablabra, a speciality shop selling bras and female underwear

Wong is the author of Hong Kong Comics: A History of Manhua (Princeton Architectural Press, 2002). She has also published four books for Chinese readers funded by the Hong Kong Arts Development Council and many articles in academic journals. Wong was the recipient of an Asian Cultural Council Grant, an affiliate of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, in 1998. She was a visiting scholar at Harvard University from 1999 to 2000, and was the 2000 Lubalin Curatorial Fellow at New York City’s Cooper Union School of Art.

The event series, sponsored by the Hong Kong Economic Trade Office Canada, will continue at York University in the fall – Sept. 26 and 27 – with a lecture by Rey Chow of Brown University..

For more information, visit the YCAR Web site. To RSVP to either the opening lecture or the opening reception, contact YCAR at ext 55821 or