Ford’s Chelsia Lau is the world’s top Chinese designer
Chelsia Lau has an eye for design. She is always looking for new trends in fashion, film and travel to inspire her to create some of Ford’s most innovative concepts. As one of the chief designers for Ford, The Hong Kong Design Centre named Lau the World’s Outstanding Chinese Designer for 2006.
The award is a part of Business of Design Week in Hong Kong. Lau was treated like a celebrity with a host of events and interviews. She described the whole experience as overwhelming and humbling.
“It’s a city that is known for many things,” says Lau, “but the fact that everybody is enthusiastically promoting design and Chinese designers, I just feel like the award pulled me a lot closer to my roots.”
Lau got her start drawing pictures in her parent’s restaurant in Hong Kong. Noticing her artistic ability, her parents took her to a tutor every week outside of her usual schoolwork. After graduating from the Lee Wai Lee Technical Institute with a degree in product design, Lau made the leap to North America by attending the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif.
While in Pasadena, she took an internship with Ford. It was during those three months of training that she discovered her passion for automotive design.
“I would say it was a turning point,” says Lau, “because I could see how different a studio operates, and see how at different stages you take an idea or theme and make it into a production vehicle.”
Lau officially joined Ford in 1992 and has been responsible for several key vehicles, including the Mercury MC4 and Ford Explorer SportTrac concepts, both of which debuted at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
In terms of design, it’s all about the customer, according to Lau. She believes that the vision comes first in design, with designers always looking a few years down the road for their next design.
“I think people are seeking something that is really well beyond their basic transportation needs,” says Lau. “I think to really stand out from the crowd, to be successful, we really need to emphasize the design. Not only does it give you a sharp identity of the brand, but at the same time it gives that feeling of the unique individual.”
Lau is enthusiastic about things to come, especially the notion of helping young designers break into the automotive design business.