Last Christmas I took my family to Hong Kong. I can’t really admit that it was a place I had always longed to go to. To be honest, the thought of spending the Yuletide time of year with millions upon millions of vertically challenged people all crammed into one giant Metropolis was not my idea of good Christmas cheer.

Regardless, I needed a distraction, any distraction. Five months earlier my wife’s Mother had suddenly passed away. The gaping chasm left in our lives needed to be filled. And filled quickly. Christmas was her favorite time of year so I knew in advance that we would be up against it. Rather than try to cobble together a feeble attempt and emulating one of her patented, all-round Family Christmas bonanzas, I flew in the face of conventionality and engineered an escape that would provide us with a Christmas unlike anything we had ever experienced. In short, a Christmas that was nothing like what we were used to.
The perfect distraction.

Hong Kong Skyline

Your probably wondering at this point, what does this have to do with advertising and design. Well, it doesn’t really, but it turned into an opportunity that gave me a unique perspective into design from another world. And let me tell you, Hong Kong in the 21st century at Christmas time is another world.

My Father was in the Merchant Navy and as a child would regale me with tales of an exotic city, anchored at the end of the world where traders of every kind would swarm onto the docks selling their wares. From Chinese silk to custom made suits and custom-made concubines, there was nothing you couldn’t buy. Not much has changed in that sense. It just seems there has been an overload in the addition of Neon, Brand labels and a sea of concrete and steel as far as you can see from the pinnacle of Victoria Peak.

It was in these canyons of concrete and neon that I discovered a sense of purpose to the chaotic madness that was the 24-hour labyrinth of down town Kowloon.

Hong Kong Skyline

Roaming the streets at night, I glimpsed a beauty that wasn’t evident from even the most well traversed tourist attractions. The streets and laneways, teeming with life and purpose seemed to flow with a unity that belayed the overall sense of disharmony and fracture. Like a million worker ants, all working in unison, the people of Hong Kong defy the physical limitations of poor infrastructure and over-population to become remarkably efficient and productive. This situation in itself provides fertile grounds for the generation of great creative.

Hong Kong

Every building, every neon sign and the beautiful contradiction of man-made construct against natural backdrop are potential opportunities for gritty, confronting photographic imagery. The saturation of rain-soaked acrylic typography sits in layers as each piece of design tries desperately to climb over the other in an attempt to scream out to the consumer and be heard. Your senses are on permanent overload as the creative side of the brain struggles to absorb and digest every single piece of communication. Light, color, technology and consumer interaction are at the forefront of every street corner, and for your average, garden-variety graphic designer this can either be a paradise in waiting or a 24 million color Hell on Earth. Visiting Hong Kong at any other time of the year would be visually challenging but at Christmas, it’s creation of light, color and shape was amplified a thousand fold.

In terms of creating a cultural diversion to help calm the pain my wife felt over the loss of her Mother, I don’t believe it was the billions of flashing lights and neon signs that distracted her. I believe it was Hong Kong’s ability to continually surprise us with beauty and honesty.

Hong Kong sunlight Ferris wheel in Hong Kong Junk ship in Hong Kong