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Design Industry in Hong Kong


  • Hong Kong is a regional design centre providing a rich source of innovative products and design talents.
  • Hong Kong is a window to the world of the trends and styles of Asia, making it a great city to institute a well-established design community.
  • Hong Kong is at the crossroads of Asia, and is a key gateway to the Chinese mainland. Meanwhile, Hong Kong's design industry is increasingly export-oriented.
  • The "Business of Design Week" (BODW) held in Hong Kong is now the largest annual design event in Asia, with BODW 2016 having secured  Chicago as the BODW partner city.

Range of Services

The design industry in Hong Kong encompasses a broad range of disciplines: product design, graphics design, interior design and fashion design. In recent years, design management has been taking shape as a new discipline in Hong Kong. Design management deals with the management of projects with a high content of design. Design management can be widely applied to projects related to fashion, product, graphics and interior design, though more applications are found in interior and product design whereby designers oversee the entire process from conceptualisation to production. In addition to their core services, some Hong Kong design firms also provide other design services including shop front design, advertising and promotion design.

Service Providers

According to the Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department, the number of employment in design services reached 15,120, in 2013, up 34% compared to 2009.

According to a report released by Hong Kong Design Centre (HKDC) in 2011, most of Hong Kong’s design service providers were engaged in the multimedia, visual and graphic design sector (35% of share), followed by the interior and furniture design sector (32%) and the industry design sector (11%).

Hong Kong's design practitioners are organised into various professional associations, including the Chartered Society of Designers (CSD), the Hong Kong Designers Association (HKDA), the Hong Kong Interior Design Association (IDA), the Hong Kong Fashion Designers Association (HKFDA) and Industrial Designers Society of Hong Kong (IDSHK). In addition, HKDC is an establishment with the joint efforts of the four associations (HKDA, CSD, IDA and HKFDA). It aims at promoting design as a value-adding activity, and raising Hong Kong's image as an innovation and creative hub. As a major contributor to the development of the InnoCentre, HKDC organises an annual event called "Business of Design Week" (BODW) in Hong Kong. BODW, a week-long event with conferences, forums, award presentations, exhibitions and outreach programme, is now the largest annual design event in Asia and one of the leading design events in the world. BODW 2015, held with Barcelona as the partner country, attracted over 100,000 participants, including business executives, designers and brand owners from Hong Kong and overseas. With the success of BODW 2015, HKDC has secured Chicago as the BODW partner city in 2016.


Many Hong Kong designers are exporting their services. Export content varied among different design industries, and the Chinese mainland is the biggest export market for Hong Kong's design services. Hong Kong designers have been paying increasing attention to the mainland market.

While many Chinese mainland enterprises are expanding, some of them are seeking services from Hong Kong design firms for re-designing their brands with the aim of better catering to the international market, as well as to maintain their competitiveness in the domestic market. With deep knowledge of the Chinese culture and international market practices, Hong Kong design firms can bring in comprehensive branding strategies and product design services for mainland enterprises.

Industry Development and Market Outlook

The demand for Hong Kong's high-end design services is rising in light of a more flourishing China market. Many international companies, large and small, rely on Hong Kong designers to tailor products for the Chinese mainland and Asian markets. Hong Kong designers can satisfy the demand for quality-assured creative services, which match international standards and at the same time, take into consideration Chinese tradition and design.

On the other hand, many of Hong Kong's light industrial products, such as toys, electronics and garments, are highly favoured in the international market. Hong Kong designers have participated in these industries for a long time and they maintain close working relationship with overseas companies. They understand fully the demands of overseas markets and therefore can capitalise on their international vision in designing products, and assisting the Hong Kong companies to advance from Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) to Original Design Manufacturers (ODM) and/or Original Brand Manufacturers (OBM).

With the affluent China market growing more sophisticated, more and more mainland enterprises are keen to stay ahead of the game in the local market while making inroads into the world market. Renowned as a stylish cosmopolitan and design hub in Asia, Hong Kong has always been a forerunner which mainland enterprises look up to their excellence in design, branding, and marketing.

Hong Kong’s design services sector is expected to further strengthen in light of various related government measures and the city’s enhancement in cultural and creative development.

The Hong Kong government's "Create Hong Kong Office" (CreateHK) was set up in June 2009 to drive the development of Hong Kong's creative sector. CreateHK administers and manages two funding schemes, namely the CreateSmart Initiative (CSI) and Film Development Fund. CSI offers funding for initiatives related to design and other creative sectors (except film). CSI, a scheme of HK$300 million when it was set up in 2009, received an additional fund injection of HK$300 million in May 2013 to further the support to the cultural and creative industries. Continued support from the government to the design industry is expected, including several funding schemes and revitalisation of decommissioned buildings.

CreateHK supports the Design Incubation Programme (DIP) (administered by HKDC) to nurture start-up companies in various design disciplines, including fashion, jewellery, media and branding. Incubatee companies are provided with assistance in many business development areas, training programmes and networking sessions with professional bodies and potential business partners.

Since the launch of DIP in 2005 till end of December 2015, a total of over 170 design start-ups have been admitted under the programme. In the 2016 Policy Address, the Hong Kong government announced plans to increase the admission quotas of the DIP. Pilot measures will also be rolled out over three years to boost promotion of local fashion design and brands, provide technical training and support for the trade and launch the Fashion Incubation Programme. For instance, the Hong Kong government has turned a decommissioned factory estate in Shek Kip Mei into the Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre, where there are art galleries and other communal facilities hosting themed exhibitions, as well as arts and craft fairs, to provide a more enabling environment for Hong Kong designers. The Creative Arts Centre  is providing over 100 artists and art groups with workspace to practise and showcase their works. Moreover, the club house of the former Royal Yacht Club in North Point has been converted into a venue called ‘Oi!’Opened in May 2013, ‘Oil’ is a platform for art exhibitions, forums as well as other art and creative activities.

Further, the Former Police Married Quarters in Central Hollywood Road has been transformed into a landmark “PMQ”, which was officially launched in June 2014. The PMQ project is aimed at nurturing new designers, branding and business matching for the creative industries. Currently, PMQ is home to more than 100 entrepreneurs categorised under a wide variety of creative and cultural sectors, ranging from design services, fashion, household products, accessories as well as food and beverage.

Meanwhile, the West Kowloon Cultural District (WKCD) Development Project, aims to turn the 40-hectare waterfront site situated in the southern tip of West Kowloon into an integrated art, cultural and entertainment district, and enhance the development of art and culture in Hong Kong. WKCD is expected to become an arts hub which include a visual arts museum “M+”, focusing on modern art, design and architecture, offering good platforms for all the designers.

CEPA preferences for Hong Kong’s designed products and design services

Since January 2006, the Chinese mainland has implemented zero tariff policy on imported goods from Hong Kong under CEPA’s preferential arrangements. As of January 2016, over 1,800 types of products were on the list of zero-tariff policy. Complying with the CEPA origin rules (ROO), Hong Kong manufacturers can apply for zero-treatment on their goods exported to the Chinese mainland. This policy can boost demand for high value-added processes, such as product design in the city.

Consistent with the general thrust of developing Hong Kong’s creative industries, CEPA’s Supplement VII consists of many liberalisation measures concerning the creative industries. In particular, a new sector named “Specialty Design” is added, with the corresponding CEPA provision stating that HKSS can set up wholly owned enterprises on the mainland to provide specialty design services. The service liberalisation has come into effect since January 2011.

Under the United Nations Central Product Classification (CPC), specialty design services refer to interior design as well as the aesthetic design of products and complete design of products which do not require complex engineering (e.g. furniture). China made no specific commitments under its WTO accession protocol to include specialty design services, and the Supplement VII measure is therefore beyond China’s WTO commitments.

After ten annual Supplements to keep widening and broadening the liberalisation measures in favour of HKSS, Hong Kong and the mainland entered into a subsidiary agreement under CEPA in 2014 to achieve basic liberalisation of trade in service trade in Guangdong (“Guangdong Agreement”). This was then followed in December 2015 by the Agreement on Trade in Services (“ATIS”) to extend the coverage of the 2014 agreement from Guangdong to the rest of the mainland. Unlike the Supplements which adopted a positive-list approach to introducing liberalisation measures, the two latest CEPA agreements adopt a hybrid approach to granting preferential access to Hong Kong using both positive and negative lists.

The ATIS, which covers and consolidates commitments relating to liberalisation of trade in services provided in CEPA and its Supplements and also the Guangdong Agreement, will be implemented from June 2016. National treatment is given to HKSS in the sector of specialty design, and the only reserved restriction for HKSS under the negative list concerns with not engaging in seal engraving services on the mainland. 

Details of the preferential access concerning the specialty design services sector can be found at this website.

Content provided by Picture: Winnie Tsui
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