Culture-Based Knowledge Towards New Design Thinking and Practice – A Dialogue (Summary) (Week 5)

This article is a dialogue between two people; Benny Ding Leong a Hong-Kong based designer, and Hazel Clark. To begin with it explores different approaches to design and more specifically what Benny Ding Ling calls an ‘East-West’ approach to design. Benny argues that the majority of designers fail to engage with the Chinese Culture and tradition, but rather are heavily influenced by a ‘western’ idea of a ‘global’ design.

Benny discusses the three stages of his exploration of ‘traditional Chinese culture as a premise for contemporary design’. The first stage was his doubts of the fundamentals of the meaning of design and product design. The second stage was beginning the study of Chinese culture. This then led to the third stage which he describes “ as the most significant stage of my voyage of discovery”, that he had confirmed that his Western design thinking should be ‘revised and reoriented’ and that by exploring the traditional Chinese culture that it might provide a creative alternative.

Benny Ding Leong then begins to go into depth of his understanding and perception of what of design is. He talks about traditional concepts and culture and how these affect design. He explains that a design criterion embraces the following aspects:

  • Life-Centering
  • Totality
  • Reflectivity
  • Unification

The ‘inner’ levels of culture are also discussed and the three streams of reasoning:

  • Transcendent- with sensation as the cognitive mode
  • Harmonious- where intuition cooperates with rational cognition
  • Progressive- with intellect as the major cognitive mode.

Being born in Hong Kong, a place where the two worlds of Eastern and Western Culture meet, it is blatantly obvious the trend towards ‘Western design’. But Benny Ding Leong wants to stress the deeper meaning of design ‘by harnessing traditional and contemporary based knowledge’ rather than purely basing design on superficial commodities.


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