Prestige first featured Ruth Chao, along with her then-business partner Antonia Li, in the summer of 2016, when they were shaking up the Hong Kong design scene with their company Indicube — only to hear that last year it was acquired by the Beijing-based agency PBB Creative. Chao went on to set up Ruth Chao Studio and her portfolio, studded with gorgeous designs, ensures her a place on this list of people to watch in our city.
“Since the acquisition last year and its transition this year, I’ve finally founded my own creative agency,” she says, as we scroll through her impressive website. “The team and I have been hard at work. We’ve just introduced a new MO Bar menu at Landmark Mandarin, and Gaile Lok’s new brand Haplok and … well, other projects that we can’t disclose yet, which are coming up in the first quarter of 2019.”
Working with brands that are restricted by corporate diktats and regulations can’t be easy, but Chao focuses on the best parts of being a brand designer. “I get to work with my clients to actualise their dream visually and communicate their vision,” she says. “Every project means working hard to reach a shared goal, and I love seeing their happy faces when they can finally launch and project their vision into the world.
“The challenge I face as a business owner and a designer is how to juggle reaching the perfect design and managing the business aspect of time. For me, I always place the focus on the work first, to find a way to create something truly unique.”
Chao breaks down her daily routine for us, bit by bit. “Well, sometimes we create custom tree-print or flower scans; other times we hand-sketch everything, or paint out a whole room, or draw out the entire building — every project is obviously different, depending on what our clients are looking for. It’s harder work now with so much competition, but in this new age of entrepreneurship with so many brands out there, how to stand out is the key — and I make that my priority in all my projects.”
As she heads the company herself, Chao has no “off” mode. “Having your own company is a 24x7x365 marathon,” she says without a hint of exhaustion. “It’s a true blessing when you love what you do. In today’s fast-paced world, there’s always something around the corner, or something we can always make better. I’ve learnt to give myself the time to recharge. Knowing when and how to refresh are equally important in a lifelong marathon.”
The winner of several international design awards and one of the youngest creative directors to receive a prestigious Red Dot, Chao has certain ambitions. “I’m focused to deliver my best,” she says, “to keep on creating unique designs, and push my award total above 30. As for the rest of my goals, let’s keep them under wraps till they come to life.”
Outfit: Stella McCartney
Shoes: Chao’s own