Collaboration is name of the changing game
The younger generation is especially comfortable with this trend, perhaps in part because teaching methods in schools have evolved during past decades to include more collaborative experiences.
In this regards, more open areas, common rooms and shared desks come into play. "Teamwork is heavily stressed in the 21st-century work mode as many jobs can no longer be done by individual effort," says Horace Pan, assistant professor at the School of Design at Polytechnic University (PolyU).
"The traditional office partitions and workstations that are based on the vertical hierarchy structure can no longer support this change of work mode. The collaborative workplace has broken down the vertical structure and transformed it into a horizontal one."
Pan says the modern workplace generates a new form of employee behaviour, changing how they do their work. "But, form always follows function. All the changes in new office design are based on needs and requirements when a business develops."
A lot of multi-purpose spaces have integrated work, leisure and social interactions, as the workplace has to go beyond the traditional nine-to-five routine. "This represents a lifestyle change. And a strategic office design is making functional change instead of just about style and aesthetics," Pan says.
PolyU's four-year Bachelor of Environment and Interior Design programme covers topics that go beyond interior spaces and extend to the design of landscape and urban planning. The curriculum has moved away from interior decorating to a more architectural aspect of spatial design.
"In fact, it is not uncommon for our graduates to pursue further studies in the field of architecture," says Pan, who is also vice-chairman at the Hong Kong Interior Design Association and the founder of Panorama, an interior and branding design firm.
According to Pan, a growing number of students are looking to start their own companies early in their career. But he advises students to gain more experience before thinking about starting up a firm. "I started my firm after seven years of practice. I think sufficient experience in the market is needed to look after serious issues like public safety and regulations."
Pan encourages designers to study longer through continuing education to improve their skill set. "Continuing education has many formats. It can mean going back to school, and it can also mean attending seminars, exhibitions, trade fairs, joining industry associations or contributing to society by teaching the next generation."
The Hong Kong Interior Design Association is now working on issuing a set of industry guidelines to elevate and protect the professionalism of interior designers.
Ziggy Bautista, associate director at M Moser & Associates, also encourages young designers to be more proactive in their profession. "They should never close their eyes to any events and should use them as an inspiration for a concept," he says.
In nurturing young talent at his firm, he also stresses the importance of mutual respect. "I do not treat them any lower or higher than me, regardless of where they come from and when they were born," he says. "I also encourage them to make mistakes because only then will they actually learn more. They will figure how painful it is to fall and how difficult it is to get up again."