Interview: Raymond Leung – Recon Instruments

Raymond is an industrial designer, currently working at Recon Instruments. He is also one of the instructors at the KPU Chip and Shannon Wilson School of Design for the 2013-2014 school year. I interviewed him for Design Explorations class.

When did you discover design? When did you know it was what you wanted to do?

Final year of high school, when everyone started looking for what subject or faculty to go into for university. Initially, I thought I wanted to go for something more academic, such as science subjects. But when I looked at myself, I found myself to be pretty strong in art and drawing. I started looking for programs that could offer both. I graduated high school in Hong Kong and there was only one university program that combined both science and arts was Industrial Design. It was a 5-year program. It was a big investment and I had to think deeply about it.

Why did you become a teacher?

I saw that many graduates didn’t graduate with the proper skillset. In 2003/2004 I introduced myself to Emily Carr as a voluntary tutor. I spent about 3 years, guiding students there for their graduating projects. I wanted to give industrial input because I wanted the students to develop the industrial skills while in school, so they don’t need to spend time developing those skills after graduation.

Do you have a favourite design experience?

I have a couple. One is my first career in Canada, where I worked for 11 years at a local telephone design company. It was memorable because I worked with Philips – they were one of our main clients. Initially, I had to use my own design and then implement some minor design changes to their design. Finally, they started accepting my own designs and I let them pick 2 or 3 designs from my portfolio to be manufactured. I ended up getting awards from the CES for these projects. The second is my job right now, at Recon Instruments,. They make wearable technology, the coolest in Vancouver, doing heads up display (HUD) technology.

Who were your early influencers?

No one. Because I did my own research.

What’s in the future for product or industrial design?

I think that designers need to become more proactive. For a long time, they have been doing things according to the business development or marketing guys. Quite often, the sustainability or the social aspects of the design are put aside. Most designs are about selling to the end user, and designers should do more than just that. They should do more designs according to social aspects. One of the targets for designers is to make designs that don’t waste too much. This is why sustainability design is coming. I feel that Vancouver, and Canada, is not mature at this stage yet. It is important for young graduates in Vancouver to have this mindset.

What qualifications do you look for in prospective students?

Industrial and product design require more skills than some other diciplines:

  1. Good eye
  2. Drawing skills
  3. 3D visualization
  4. Not afraid to learn some technical subjects. Many designers think of themselves are more artistic and are not there to do something more technical.

What skills do you think are important for students to learn?

According to the industry requirements – I researched these are recent job postings trends – product and industrial designers need to know:

  1. Exceptional drawing skills
  2. 3D CAD modelling skill
  3. Knowledge on how to do prototyping
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