Event Review: Business of Design Week 2020

BODW 2020 provided a glimpse of the post-COVID world – what it will look like, the foremost emerging technologies and their applications, and impending changes to our lifestyles.

Hong Kong Design Centre (HKDC) and the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) organized the Business of Design Week (BODW) 2020 edition from November 30 to December 5. Create Hong Kong (CreateHK), the Hong Kong government agency that drives the development of the creative economy in the region, was the lead sponsor for the event.

This year, the summit was held as a hybrid online-offline event for the first time. This meant that while some moderators and speakers were on stage, others joined in through online. The 50+ sessions were simultaneously live broadcast on multiple platforms including BODW’s virtual platform from December 3-5.

Under the theme ‘VISION 20/21,’ the BODW summit saw influential business and design leaders sharing their views on topics like brand futures, connected health, safe travels, circular economy, immersive tech among others. The event aimed to discuss the re-evaluation of business operations and priorities in the post-pandemic era.

Notable speakers at the summit included Ford’s Design Director, Product and Mobility, Chelsia Lau, Virgin Atlantic Chief Customer and Operating Officer Corneel Koster, Researcher at Sony Computer Science Laboratory Dr Alexis André, and PwC Experience Centre Partner Guy Parsonage among others.

Discussing future transportation with digital technology, MTR Corporation Global Innovation General Manager Dan Wong spoke about the use of computer vision and machine learning (ML) in predictive maintenance.

MTR’s trains have cars equipped with undercarriage cameras which take pictures of the tracks every day, he explained. Computer vision and ML is then used to detect micro fractures on the railway tracks so that maintenance teams can take care of the problems and prevent accidents.

PwC Experience Centre Partner Guy Parsonage emphasized that the future of mobility does not simply include autonomous vehicles and new energy vehicles.

“…the future of mobility is also around entertainment, it’s also around shopping – it’s like we’re reconsidering what mobility actually is,” said Parsonage.

Discussing the future of experiential marketing, Mudfarm Ventures CEO Max Lenderman said that experiential marketing does not need to be held at specific physical locations but can be done anywhere.

In fact, “experiential marketing is transforming itself in real time right now from a marketing discipline to a marketing mindset,” said Lenderman.

He added, “It really is taking the notion from experiential marketing as happening somewhere to the notion of saying experiential marketing can happen anywhere. And that opens up a huge opportunity for creativity.”

Discussing the impact of the pandemic on our behavior, Aedas Chairman & Global Design Principal Keith Griffiths said, “…if everybody’s buying products online, what is the purpose of shopping [at physical stores]? What’s the purpose of a [physical] shop?”

“We as human beings need to socialize. These places of purchasing called shopping malls will no longer be places where we just buy products. They’ll be places where we go to meet to exchange news,” he added.

This year’s BODW summit saw the U.K. return as strategic partner. A video series called ‘BODW Great British Design’ showcasing the designs of 14 creative leaders from the U.K. was featured during the summit. Additionally, the summit also had ‘Masterclass’ sessions on design by reputed creative design leaders.

While the sessions provided insightful content, the event was also plagued by technical difficulties characteristic to the era of online events. Frequent problems with playing videos, audio issues for speakers dialing in through video conference, and a glitchy simultaneous translation system for sessions in Cantonese or Putonghua disrupted the viewing experience. However, despite the disruptions, the quality of the content kept viewers hooked.

Header image courtesy of BODW.

This article was written in partnership with Business of Design Week 2020.

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