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Opening Doors to the World of Interior Design

September 22, 2022 | Campus News

Renowned interior designer, architect and mentor, IDr Joe Chan is a visionary who believes in the importance of the relationship between versatility and aesthetics when it comes to interior design. Aiming to nurture and encourage aspiring designers, The One Academy organized a Virtual International Design & Creative Masterclass with this pre-eminent designer.  The entire session was not only informative as Joe shared his experience of over 22 years in the industry but also engaging when he answered compelling questions from the audience.

In his talk titled “Accidental Designer”, Chan shared how he, with a background in architecture ended up working in business development for an interior design company instead as he was unable to land a job as an architect. Working in an interior design company sparked his interest in the field. “I was doing marketing then site supervisor to project manager to project director, to becoming a GM for one of the largest interior design company in the region and eventually a creative director and principal of my own company, it took me 12 years.” His journey took a turn of events nevertheless, through hard work and persistence, he managed to pursue his passion for interior design. Now, Chan is the founder of the award-winning interior practice, Designtone.

“We do not conform to typical design norms. We aim to break stereotypes and want to be referred to as versatile like a chameleon”. In a session curated for students to gain insightful content on the industry of interior design, Chan shared more on his company, their objectives, and some of their projects. They have done designs for Inside Scoop, The Ice Cream Bar, House 44, The Residences at The St. Regis Kuala Lumpur, Shaftsbury Avenue, Fonterra GBS Asia, Hong Leong Bank and Nestle.

“I really love when clients don’t stick to the same style for all their branches.” Chan goes on to highlight one of his favourite projects with client, Hair Porter. He mentioned he worked on two branches and each branch was designed based on a completely different theme. The branch in Sunway Geo incorporated runway stage metal into the design, making customers feel like they are getting their new hairstyles done at a runway show and would leave the salon feeling glammed up. However, the one in Setia Alam was inspired by his love for comics. When he was younger, he had always imagined what it would look like inside a bat cave from Batman, where all the gadgetry is displayed. Based on his interpretation of a bat cave, he incorporated stones and stainless steel with bright white lights to look clinical, clean and organic as if it was underground.

“Projects are easy, managing people is hard.” Speaking from experience, Chan explained to the audience the importance of dealing with clients. He said that residential projects take particularly longer compared to commercial projects because it is very personal as it is someone’s home whereas commercial projects are more rushed because businesses want to open as soon as possible. When it comes to handling clients, he advised the audience to always start with a lengthy conversation. Then, give them different moodboards and ask what they like and do not like from each moodboard.  “Patience is key when dealing with clients and always remember to be flexible, don’t stick to your own style. You have to follow the client’s vision,” he said.

When asked what happens when he experiences art block, he said he makes it a point to either take a break, get a coffee or take half a day off. He also shared with students his routine of reading and browsing every night before sleeping. By reading retail blogs and following interior design pages you are able to create a mental dictionary in your mind so that when clients explain their vision, you can immediately have a rough idea because of all the references. He refers to it as constantly training your mind like building a library in your head.

The session ended with Joe Chan giving some advice to those interested in venturing into the field, that they do not necessarily have to be good in arts to be a good interior designer. He said interior designers are trained to be creative thinkers, not artists. After listening to his successful story and seeing his passion in all his works, the audience were inspired and determined to take on the world of interior design.  

The One Academy is committed to providing the best art education programmes and continues to nurture its students passionately through its “Masters Train Masters” coaching philosophy, which has been practised for over 30 years, by providing diploma and degree courses in Advertising & Graphic Design, Digital Animation, Digital Media Design, Film Visual Effects, Interior Architecture & Design, Illustration, Fine Arts, Paris Fashion Design & Pattern Making, Computer Science, Game Design and Computer Science in Real-Time Interactive Simulation. For more information on The One Academy, visit or call +603-7875 5510 or e-mail your enquiries to [email protected].

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