We, as the Designer Interviews ("DI") had the distinct pleasure and opportunity to interview award-winning, most creative and innovative Alex Liu ("AL").
Alex Liu grew up in silicon valley surrounded by hi-tech, venture capitalists, and fortune 50 companies, but his passion is to solve day to day problems. Alex's obsesses with thinking out of the box and admires smart inventors. He believes true creativity comes when a complex problem overcomes by a simple maneuver, and the best compliment to an inventor is "why didn't I think of that."
Alex Liu Designs
We are pleased to share with you original and innovative design work by Alex Liu.
Designer Interview of Alex Liu:
DI: Could you please tell us more about your art and design background? What made you become an artist/designer? Have you always wanted to be a designer?
AL : I did not go to school to study art or design, but I've been in manufacturing for over 20 years. As a teenage during the 80's I got my first IBM PC and began to write code in DOS, although most of the knowledge I acquired was self taught but I learned to think both from macro perspective as well as to divide problems and to conquer them one small piece at a time, which later prove to be very important as we design products. My natural curiosity in knowing how things are made along with an interest in finding better ways to old solutions drove me to be more and more involve with products my company produces. Although, I never looked at myself as a designer but I very much enjoy the journey of making products from ideation to reality.
DI: Can you tell us more about your company / design studio?
AL : Elemex was created to merge the western designs with the engineering and manufacturing muscle of the East. It is also function as a gateway for business transactions between manufacturers we use and importers we serve.
DI: What is "design" for you?
AL : I appreciate those who design for better looks, finding the best color balance and perfect geometry is no easy task. I tend to focus on design for better functionalities. To me, design encompasses user interfaces, delivery system, functionalities and whole lot more into an object that suppose to change people's life for the better.
DI: What kinds of works do you like designing most?
AL : Things the people use everyday, mostly items I can relate to.
DI: What is your most favorite design, could you please tell more about it?
AL : The FinaMill is my favorite design. On the first glance, FinaMill takes handheld grinders beyond grinding just pepper, opens up possibilities in terms of home cooking experiences. However, one critical design element we engineered into the pod was the ability to pre-filled the pods with spices or blends at the spices companies. We think when the spice companies stop selling pre-ground and package whole spices and blends with our pods, home chefs will be able to elevate their cooking with ease.
DI: What was the first thing you designed for a company?
AL : My first was round 1996, I came up with an idea for a single serve coffee maker that would allow a user to customize the brew time for a personalize coffee drinking experience. A prototype was made and patents received, but our finance wasn't strong enough to bring that to life, it just sat on the back burner and we never pursued it.
DI: What is your favorite material / platform / technology?
AL : I don't really have a favorite. I am most familiar with plastic, stainless steel and light electronic.
DI: When do you feel the most creative?
AL : It hits me when I least expect it. I have projects that we've mothballed for years and just couldn't overcome the challenges. Inspiration strikes me often randomly, but wine helps.
DI: Which aspects of a design do you focus more during designing?
AL : On the product I create, functionalities come first, and then the user interface, the touch and feel, and finally the facade.
DI: What kind of emotions do you feel when you design?
AL : I focused on my deeper thoughts almost like a meditative state.
DI: What kind of emotions do you feel when your designs are realized?
AL : Depends on the impact the product will have onto the market, my feeling spread from relieved to joyed.
DI: What makes a design successful?
AL : Validation from the target market.
DI: When judging a design as good or bad, which aspects do you consider first?
AL : What was the design suppose to do? did the design accomplish the goal?
DI: From your point of view, what are the responsibilities of a designer for society and environment?
AL : A designer must fix problems without creating more problems.
DI: How do you think the "design field" is evolving? What is the future of design?
AL : I think AI and VR are going to change how products are designed, speeding up the decisions on forms, material and functionalities.
DI: When was your last exhibition and where was it? And when do you want to hold your next exhibition?
AL : October 2019 in Hong Kong at the Mega show. I will be showing my product their again in July 2020 in Hong Kong.
DI: Where does the design inspiration for your works come from? How do you feed your creativity? What are your sources of inspirations?
AL : Inspirations are all around us, but I wish there was a predictable way to hone into the source of creativity.
DI: How would you describe your design style? What made you explore more this style and what are the main characteristics of your style? What's your approach to design?
AL : Functionality; divide and conquer. Look at the problem from top down and separate them into meaningful sub groups. Piece them back together at the end.
DI: Where do you live? Do you feel the cultural heritage of your country affects your designs? What are the pros and cons during designing as a result of living in your country?
AL : I live in the USA, I don’t think my country effects my designs.
DI: How do you work with companies?
AL : I design items for my own company.
DI: What are your suggestions to companies for working with a designer? How can companies select a good designer?
AL : In our world experience is the most important. You can’t find a vacuum cleaner designer to design an oven. They may be able to do it, but people in the same class of trade have certain experience that is difficult to grasp by outsiders. Interview the designers, make sure they have the right credential for the job.
DI: Can you talk a little about your design process?
AL : I look for problems to fix. Break them into parts, solve them and reassemble.
DI: What are 5 of your favorite design items at home?
AL : I like my frying pan from J.A. Henckels. It’s perfect, never sticks (nonstick is generally a joke) this one really works! It has some age to it, but it still works perfectly. Water pick dental floss is a great item that I enjoy. I can feel the difference before and after, and it solves the problem of sticking my big hands in my mouth. I have a coffee grinder that I’ve been using for 14 years and it still produces consistent grinds. It’s a electrical grinder that I use daily. I like the quality of my bose speakers great immersive sound, fills up the room! I also find the Roomba works great! I heard the early gens weren’t great but the one we have is. Maintains the hardwood floor great. No dirt sticking on our feet, and it’s like having someone clean our house every day. It was designed to do a task and does it very well.
DI: Can you describe a day in your life?
AL : Work days, I get up early, 5 am. Take my son to school. Get to work and begin the day to day operations. I like to eat lunch with my wife. Work more then go home for dinner and then work with my teams in Asia on various projects and get to bed.
DI: Could you please share some pearls of wisdom for young designers? What are your suggestions to young, up and coming designers?
AL : Don’t try too hard. Don’t put meaningless elements into a design. Sometime less is more.
DI: From your perspective, what would you say are some positives and negatives of being a designer?
AL : Most anticipate praises but more often what pours in are criticisms. Designers must learn to live with the opposite spectrum of comments.
DI: What is your "golden rule" in design?
AL : Don't design any "me too" item, I see that all the time on Amazon and other online stores.
DI: What skills are most important for a designer?
AL : You have to be able to think tangentially or outside of the box, otherwise you might have an evolution at best, and for sure not a revolution.
DI: Which tools do you use during design? What is inside your toolbox? Such as software, application, hardware, books, sources of inspiration etc.?
AL : Nothing in particular.
DI: Designing can sometimes be a really time consuming task, how do you manage your time?
AL : It is more challenging to manage progress than to manage time. Fortunately, I set my own deadline so I can balance my time between operations and product design.
DI: How long does it take to design an object from beginning to end?
AL : It could be short or long. It all depends. If you want to create a round object that bounces exactly 3 times, that might take a day. But if you’re making the best stapler in the world, it could take much longer.
DI: What is the most frequently asked question to you, as a designer?
AL : Why didn’t I think of that? I get that a lot from customers and my own engineering teams.
DI: What was your most important job experience?
AL : I was lucky enough to have work in the entire supply chain: ideation, design, development, engineering, manufacturing, export and import, marketing and distribution. I think it is these combined experiences help shape my consumer centric and business friendly ideas.
DI: Who are some of your clients?
AL : I create products for my own company.
DI: What type of design work do you enjoy the most and why?
AL : Product design.
DI: What are your future plans? What is next for you?
AL : I would like to design something to make a bigger impact on the future of humanity. I always want to look to future generations and think how I can help to make their life better.
DI: Do you work as a team, or do you develop your designs yourself?
AL : I have a team that help me bring idea to life. They also test and validate my concept so I am more productive.
DI: Do you have any works-in-progress being designed that you would like to talk about?
AL : I have other exciting projects but I cannot share them at this moment.
DI: How can people contact you?
AL : Email.
DI: Any other things you would like to cover that have not been covered in these questions?
AL : No.