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In Conversation with: Kenny Hong, Founder of 11H

Dec 28, 2017

Kenny Hong is many things – part time lecturer at Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, Nanyang Technological University and Singapore University of Social Science; he sits on the board of examiner for the Diploma in Product Design at LaSalle College of the Arts; mentor to many; frequent guest speaker; family man’ and avid sneaker collector. He is also the founder of 11H, a design studio that focuses on marketing and product, furniture design.

 Kenny Hong

A graduate from Temasek Polytechnic specialising in Product Design, Kenny has two Master’s degrees (with distinctions to boot), a Masters in Design from Domus Academy in Milan and Master of Arts in Design from the University of Wales. He now has over 22 years of working experience in design and product marketing and has no intentions of stopping.

How did you decide that you would like to carve a career in design?

It started during my army days, I wasn’t very into my studies but enjoyed doing 2d artwork.  I started with doing logos and t-shirt design in the army. I then went on to take up art in watercolour, air brushing and fine arts in a private art school here.  After army, I took the entrance test to Temasek Polytechnic and got into Product Design.  As I started working I realised that design is very organic and it can diverge into many areas.  I get to explore both the science and the arts when I design.  I found that I genuinely enjoyed my work, even the many challenges that came along with it.  That was when I decided on a career in design.

What made you decide to embark on the postgrad design programme at Domus Academy?

Once I decided on a career in design, I knew I had to further my studies to better equip myself.  I decided on Italy because Milan was where all the great masters of design were at that time.  And Domus Academy is one of the world’s most prestigious schools for post-graduate studies in design and fashion design with well-known visiting professors like Andrea Branzi and Aldo Cibic.

What did you do prior to founding 11H?

I started out designing Air Sterilizers, then went on to design street furniture (eg. Hand railings, bus shelters and advertising panels).  Then in 1999, I joined Technigroup (a local office furniture manufacturer) and stayed with them for 12 years.  I was heading the product development team till I left in 2011.  I then joined Design Studio Group Ltd as the head of the product development department. Design Studio is a Singapore Listed company involved in the manufacture, distribution and installation of customised furniture products.  In 2014, I set up 11H.

What do you like about teaching design?

I am currently teaching at Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, Nanyang Technological University and Singapore University of Social Science (previously known as UniSim).  I totally enjoy teaching as I not only get to share my experiences with the next generation of young designers but I also learn from them through the interactions I have with them.

Are there any projects you are currently working on right now?

I am currently working on a modular seating system and a collection of storage units. 

When your foreign contemporaries ask you, what would you say is representative of Singaporean Design?

Singaporean Design is like our local salad ‘Rojak’.  It is unlike anything you have seen before but its taste is incomparable.  A delicious mix of sweet and savoury, its ingredients reflect the cultural diversity and balance we enjoy in Singapore.

Could you share with us some of your other short-term plans? What do you like to do in your free time?

Clear out the mess in my house and design a storage unit for my many shoes and sneakers! I like to relax, shop for sneakers, attend church and gym.

Click here to find out more about 11H.