Freeman Lau

Graphic Designer; Product/Industrial Designer / China / Kan & Lau Design Consultants, Hong Kong, Shenzhen, and Beijing

Freeman Lau’s Book List

When I was growing up in Hong Kong, books played a vital role in providing a glimpse of what life was like in mainland China. Back then, China was still a closed country and we had no photographs or visual reference points as to what life was like there. History books, for example, were composed of monotonous prose, which made history classes extremely boring. It was through publications like the Wuxia novels (traditional Chinese fiction centered on the martial arts) that we imagined the mountains of China, the scenery, and how people dwelled there. It was immensely fascinating for us.

Later on, I started to understand and appreciate design as a tool for learning. This is how and why I became a designer: the Wuxia novels raised an initial curiosity about Chinese culture, and design is a bridge between culture and creativity—an idea that has influenced me ever since.

I have recently developed an interest in Chinese tea and bamboo culture, which I am learning more about through locally sourced (Chinese and Taiwanese) books. The knowledge gathered from these books will be used to inform my upcoming design projects. Design and books for me, therefore, are intertwined entities.






Chinese translation by Lynn Zhang.

6 books
Jiang Xun

Chinese calligraphy is a national treasure but, for Chinese designers, it is also a basic graphic design element. The Beauty of Chinese Calligraphy: Dancing Cursive (not available in English; the title is translated from Chinese) provides a detailed explanation of the evolution of Chinese characters, which hold a history of more than 5,000 years; relating progress and development to China’s turbulent history and, consequently, introducing the reader to different calligraphic styles. The book ultimately equips local designers with the knowledge required to interpret and reinterpret calligraphy-based typography.




Cang Lang

This book (not available in English; the title is translated from Chinese) decodes ancient Chinese poems via engaging language and intriguing back stories, inviting readers to open up to and appreciate the essence of Chinese culture. The quotations highlighted in this publication, which include seven-character poems and Chinese couplets, introduce to the reader both an elegant and refined Chinese literary scene and examples of witty language use. Essential reading for future generations of Chinese youth wishing to learn more about their roots.




Ikko Tanaka

Ikko Tanaka is a Japanese design legend who built a complete design culture and kingdom. His simple yet beautiful designs became a great (aesthetic) influence to future generations of Japanese and international designers alike, while his ultimate masterpiece, the Muji brand, plays a significant role in both local and global markets. This book (not available in English; the title is translated from Chinese and the original was published in Japanese) is a collection of Tanaka’s thoughts and stories on design from which readers will find the most original and masterful insights.



Rolf Jensen

Inspires alternative thinking. Innovation is key for success, but vision can, sometimes, be more important since it allows one to foresee trends and, thus, the future of a business.



Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

A must-read, Finding Flow (published in Chinese by CITIC Press) teaches the reader how to spot details that are easily missed or dismissed in day-to-day life. It also demonstrates how to transform routine tasks by adopting a different outlook or perspective toward certain situations. The examples outlined by the author are simple but life altering.

My advice to young designers is not to read design books alone. Design is a means of expression—it is a way of thinking. Young designers should fall in love with another aspect of society like music, culture, or even ecology, and reflect back on their own lives in order to contribute to world development through their creativity.




Malcolm Gladwell

This book (the Chinese edition was published in Taiwan by 時報出版, or NEXT) is significant for me as it inspires a different way of thinking. Through analyzing contemporary problems, the author illustrates how finding the right intervention at the right time—in other words, the “tipping point”—can lead to life-changing events. A crucial element in securing success, he reveals, is the concept behind an innovative idea, as well as spending time on the development process. These are all ideas that can be applied to the design process.


本書著重提出了“引爆趨勢”這一概念。一般來說,這個趨勢一旦引爆,你就可以坐享其成,名利雙收。但要保證成功,強大的概念支持是必不可缺的關鍵元素。書中以耐克“Air Walk”系列為例,描述了耐克的板鞋系列如何成功打開市場,在運動鞋中佔領一席之地。更準確地說,是廣告公司嗅到了潮流走向,進而助耐克精確定位市場。如果你希望產品有持久的生命力,有些投資是省不得的。越是功能多樣,新奇有趣的產品,越有可能在目標市場一炮而紅,迅速蔓延。想確保成功,就要在概念發展階段投入更多時間。

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