WE-DESIGNS: 'We Find Solutions In The Techniques Of Innovation'

Take a lesson in method design.

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Projective Dualism 2.0 (2015). Photographer: Tina Tian, Courtesy WE-DESIGNS

WE-DESIGNS is in the business of staging ambitious analog and virtual experiences. The creative agency is founded on the tenet that cross-geographical and cross-disciplinary collaborations enrich the creative process. As the variety of their past projects illustrate, which count everything from public art installations like "Projective Dualism 2.0," to software applications like "Click and Order," it seems the sky really is the limit

The company’s mission statement reads like a fortune cookie: treacherously simple, but peppered with ideas that prove a little harder to get a handle on. Foundational terms like 'spaces,' 'designs,' 'experiences,' and 'architectures,' shift meaning and re-define each other, resulting in a creative practice that the company posits as a non-traditional and interdisciplinary way of working. 

Founder Wendy W. Fok told us that their process is "not limited by the definition of [either] the business of design, or the design of business.” Instead, they turn their focus on making these pedagogies work for them, rather than the other way around. Their steampunk-style approach is method-conscious design at work.

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La Technologie Culturelle d'Objet. Courtesy WE-DESIGNS.

From the agency's exercises in method design to their continuous hunt for hybrid formulas that make up an “experience,” see what Fok had to say about the evolving models of WE-DESIGNS.

1. Why did you start WE-DESIGNS?

Wendy W. Fok: WE-DESIGNS started out in 2003 as a collective of friends I’d known in New York and around the world, and only became an official company in 2010 (registered with New York and Hong Kong as the official headquarters). At the time, between 2005 to 2010, there were not many ‘experience’ design companies working with brand-interested clients, who were also interested in the intersection of built space work and multi-disciplinary product development. So we created our own.

We transformed ourselves from a network of intellectuals who wanted to come out of the vacuum chamber and work more collaboratively, to our current iteration as a design company that wants to [re-]define ‘design’, ‘space’, ‘experience’, and ‘architecture.'

2. How have you been developing the collaborative model for your agency?

The vision of WE-DESIGNS is that the future of work is beyond metric spaces, especially with the emergence of digital technologies that allow for individuals to work beyond their physical office space and collaborate beyond the traditional means of the architecture and design disciplines. Much of our backgrounds are not from one singular field.  

3. How do you think these various disciplines of work influence each other?

The design process is interconnected through the core of our philosophy of design, and defining what ‘experience’ is as a medium. Our team is fascinated with the creation of experiences and designing the unexpected, whether it be a pop-up gallery, an installation for a museum, or an object that is created to provoke your narcissist tendencies. The overall interest for the team is to challenge what ‘experience’ is, create a sense of surprise, and work in a reflexive and reflective manner. Whether it be digital, physical, or hybrid, we design with technology, but we are software and hardware agnostic; therefore, we find solutions in the method of design and techniques of innovation, but [we are] not limited by the novelty of the creation.

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Digital Novelty. Courtesy WE-DESIGNS.

4. How do you choose which projects to take on?

Our team generally take on projects that stimulate our intellectual and research rapport, with a focus on companies and projects that have a social mission. There are enough useless objects in the world. We do not want to design for waste. We care about what happens to the designed object, how it's produced, through what manufacturing method, and whether it has an end-life.

5. What's next for WE-DESIGNS? 

At the moment, we are working on a pavilion in New York, with the structural and design engineering company AECOM. We have worked with AECOM on many shortlisted projects in the past. [T]his pavilion truly triggers our creative juices. Additionally, our team has been working in stealth mode on an upcoming real estate development and social experience project in Brooklyn.

We are working on a continued contract with WIRED on the next phase of a social community, in addition to the real estate social experience. These are the two main projects that will be occupying most of the team’s time. Meanwhile, for myself, other than the AD Journal, Digital Property – Open Source Architecture, that was recently published by John Wiley and Sons, I am personally working on finishing the last few case studies on my Harvard Doctor of Design dissertation, and on a book deal with another publisher.


Editor: Rain Embuscado