Up Close and Personal with Creative Genius William Harald- Wong
William Harald-Wong (WHW) is an accomplished designer who is involved in fusing Asian culture into a strategic platform for design, to enhance the humanistic appeal of a place. He is known as an Urban Identity Designer; working to form a linearity between brand, culture, city and community. He has also curated the logo for DiverseCity’s Kuala Lumpur International Arts Festival (KLIAF).
Below is the outcome of an interview we have had the privilege in obtaining.
Weaving the Design
William believes that Kuala Lumpur is diverse and a vibrant potpourri of culture, not to be restricted into a static logo which would fail to encapsulate the varied layers of a multi-dimensional city.
He wanted the festival logo to be able to capture every facet of the city whereby everyone from families to students to workers, visitors and tourists can feel that they play an important role in the participation and contribution to the design of the logo that celebrates the city.
An ‘open-source’ playground of expressions, is what the logo has been envisioned to be–by the people and for the people who have a connection with the city.
“The name ‘DiverseCity’ is an excellent description of the multicultural and multi-dimensional energy that lay at the heart of lively Kuala Lumpur. The new logo brings ‘DiverseCity’ to the fore as a primary element of the logo as it is a unique descriptor to differentiate KLIAF from the many art festivals, big and small, in Malaysia.”
Weaves in Progress
An invitation was presented by Doha, Qatar and Dubai, UAE, to propose on several art- and culture-related projects, especially for museums. There has been recognition of their work for Museum Sultan Abu Bakar in Pekan which won Gold and Grand Award Finalist at Design for Asia Awards (Hong Kong), as well as the completion of a successful wayfinding and signage project for the new Business Quarter in Dammam, Saudi Arabia.
He says that it is unfortunate that their most exciting culture-related work is done outside of Malaysia as they were working with clients who are highly cultured and open-minded, organisations with good work ethics, and backed by strong support and generous funding.
These attributes attract some of the world’s best designers, and so were they. He believes that their culture-related work influences and enriches society as much as good commercial design increases the awareness and profitability of corporations and should be equally valued.
Within the nation, William and team are busy rebranding old or reviving dying shopping malls. They completed work on the Atria Shopping Gallery two years ago and are now working on the 3-year transformation of Sungei Wang, with another project coming up soon.
Smoothness in the Weaves
William is fascinated with people who utilise technology for the good of society. He says that it is a very exciting time to be in the creative field because the creative landscape is always changing and evolving. Design disciples are merging, and creative technology is advancing rapidly, for better or for worse.
Knots in the Weaves
However, the use of technology can be a double-edged sword as William shares that some clients, especially the younger managers who are internet-savvy, seem intent on dictating creative direction even to the extent of showing designers Google images and YouTube clips on how he or she wants it done. The stringent directions, he opines, would invariably kill the design industry. For William and team, they would then tell them to do it themselves, preferring to invest their time and effort for clients who understand the thinking process, craftsmanship and value of good design that is not a ‘me-too’.
Having been a juror last weekend at the Kancil Awards organised by the 4As (Association of Accredited Advertising Agents of Malaysia), William says that there is incredible talent in Malaysia, and not only among the professionals as the student entries were of very high standards.
He thinks that computers are a problem because in schools, it does not promote critical thinking among the younger generation.
He expounds that the Malaysian government has initiated many programmes to help local design talents but has not reached many in the industry. He tells us that there has been talk of our very own Design Centre (like Thailand Creative & Design Centre, or similar creative hubs in Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and China) for as long as he remembers but nothing has come to fruition. Such ventures should be funded, Mr William shares, but not run by a Ministry. (The historic KTM Railway Station was one venue proposed).
He further says that design is also influenced by how society views the Arts. The blending of Arts, Culture and Tourism gives the wrong message to people.
“Tourism is the obvious money-spinner, with its income quantifiable (tourism is of course important to a country’s economy). Arts and Culture are then perceived to be the by-products of Tourism, and if this perception is widespread among people, it will invariably kill creativity and innovation in a nation, William shares.”
Finally, William says that regaining our competitive advantage in design and innovation takes some simple steps. It is not easy but doable. It only needs proper support and funding from the authorities, but most importantly, the right-minded people to kick-start the initiative.