This interview was first published on Xinmin. Below is the English translation.
The Inspiring Story of Siu Tang: Humble Beginnings
The Orangeblowfish, is an independent creative agency found in the lanes of Tianzifang. In this minimalist, industrially decorated space, around 20 designers, storytellers and strategists are working on their creations. The office is filled with items that inspire creativity such as toys, a large collection of design books and decorative paintings. Hidden in the corner of a room, is a mahjong table.
When asked why Tianzifang was selected to house their agency, Siu explained:
“I like these old neighbourhoods. They inspire me and give me a sense of the real Shanghai.”
Siu’s parents moved to the UK from Hong Kong at an early age in the hope of giving Siu a better career opportunity. Siu was born and raised in the UK, but he didn’t exactly follow his parents’ plans to become a doctor or lawyer. However, he has made Shanghai his home since arriving here in 2008. “This is where I have settled. I love Shanghai — the energy; the pace of the city; and more than anything, I love riding in Shanghai.” Siu said, despite still not being able to find his favourite British BIRD’S cream cakes.
The Orangeblowfish office
A Former Headhunter Who Always Loved Design.
Siu moved to Hong Kong after graduating from Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK and moved to Shanghai in 2008. He worked as a headhunter before setting up The Orangeblowfish in 2012. He admits:
I was never smart enough to be a doctor, lawyer or accountant, but I did very well as a headhunter.
Despite this, he knew that art was his real passion.
My favourite cartoon is Transformers.
From a very young age, Siu would always carry a pen to draw or a sculpting knife to sculpt. But this has never been more than a hobby for him. It wasn’t until about ten years ago, when Siu and his wife were in Cambodia and Sichuan, China, on charity projects to rebuild homes for families affected by disasters, that he found a new direction. On these charity projects, Siu’s main job was to move stones, lay foundations and other labourer duties. This was a job that required a lot of physical strength which he found more tiring than his day job. However, he saw other local workers move the heavy stones with ease. This experience taught Siu humbleness and gratitude. Siu added, “Building a house is hard. This journey made me realise the importance of pursuing what you love.”
If you love what you do enough, you do not feel tired.
A few months after returning to Shanghai, Siu realised that he wanted to do something he was passionate about and that his future children would be proud of. From that day on, Siu took the initiative to change his path. Together with his wife, he founded The Orangeblowfish.
A Diverse and Multicultural Working Environment.
The team has grown from one man, to twenty talented individuals with diverse backgrounds across major global cities. Team members come from all walks of life including China, the UK, France, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, and so forth. All team members are encouraged to freely express their ideas. Each member’s unique cultural background and artistic style adds to the diversity of ideas and perspectives, further inspiring greater and better creativity. “I think that’s the heart of good design: thinking about creating something meaningful that people can relate to,” explained Siu.
If we all come from the same region, then we might all think the same way and the project might not be as impressive. Sometimes it can be useful to listen to different opinions.
The Orangeblowfish team
AI Cannot Completely Replace Human Thoughts.
Siu’s most satisfying project to date has been for Arc’teryx. “We created a giant sun-sphere two metres in diameter that rotated every 30 minutes. Entering the brand experience, visitors enjoyed an immersive journey that would take them into the heart of the forest. Here, time froze; stress from daily lives disappeared and people escaped the hustle and bustle of city life. By using people’s senses to engage and share socially, Siu hoped that people would regain a sense of closeness to nature in the city.
The most important thing in design is empathy and the ability to think from another’s perspective.
With AI increasingly being more involved in the overall creation and design process, Siu believes that AI is only a tool that helps you come up with expressions and designs. However, it is only a reference and not a complete replacement for the image we are thinking about.
Not everything that is created by AI can be copyrighted.
“If you use AI to create copyrighted designs for your customers, you are entering a copyright grey area. For now, we are watching this space closely,” Siu concluded.