If you claim to be a fan of Hong Kong design and architecture, you will have heard of Goods of Desire (G.O.D.), DelayNoMore, or – at the very least – been to the 1960s style cha chaan teng Starbucks on Duddell Street, Central.
These Hong-Kong-inspired lifestyle, fashion and architectural designs wouldn’t have existed without innovator Douglas Young, who co-founded G.O.D. with partner Benjamin Lau in 1996.
Winners of the 2006 Hong Kong Ten Outstanding Designers Awards, the creative duo – who have strived to preserve local culture – now own six stores in the city, with company products available in major cities across the world, including London, New York, Amsterdam and Shanghai.
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Young Post visited interior and furniture designer Young, and he explained that success, like failure, is subjective.
“[Success] is a great goal to aim for, but it’s best not to be achieved,” he said.
“If I feel that I have reached a goal, then I would just say ‘Okay, I can retire now,’” he joked.
While life success is somewhat of an unreachable goal for Young, it is what “we should all be aiming for”.
There are little successes along the way, such as experiencing a simple, honest feeling of satisfaction with their achievements.
Regardless, “it’s the journey that is more interesting than the destination”.
Young described his views using a painting metaphor: “Once you’ve finished the painting, you can keep looking at it, but it has become static. But you will always remember the time you were actually painting, because that’s the real joy,” he smiled.
It might seem counter-intuitive, but Young thinks it is the struggles involved that make your memories vivid – whether it’s running a business, designing a product, or any other form of work.
“It’s mixing the struggle with satisfaction that makes life worthwhile,” he said, labelling it “the push and pull effect”.
Young explained: “You probably wouldn’t appreciate the results as much if you get them without experiencing the burning internal conflicts.”
Young added that small struggles followed by the completion of one’s creation cannot be replaced by any material goods. “Designing is not a money-making job; the satisfaction comes from the work, not how much you make,” he said.
The passionate designer also thinks it is important to admit failures. “They belong to me, and it’s a part of me that I will not reject.”
An example of what he thinks was a failure was a recent public speech he gave.
The experience inspired him to evaluate the true nature of failure and success. “I forgot my script – it was very embarrassing. I asked my friends in the audience , and they said ‘No, you were fine!’.”
Looking back, Young sees it all as an allegory – like the famous Yann Martel fiction, Life of Pi, which he highly recommends.
“It was interesting,” he said. “What I consider to be failure is just very much something that’s in my mind.”
He added: “At the end of the day, the audience didn’t know the script or what I was going to say. Only I knew I made a mistake.”
Young’s designs, which he considers successful and beautiful, may well be absolute failures in the eyes of somebody else. “There’s no absolute measurement of success; it’s all down to yourself.”
Next time, when you’re feeling overwhelmed or complacent, remind yourself of Young’s parting words: “Success is that feeling of accomplishment, and when something’s done, it’s done. Move on.”