Retail Design Student Awards past entrants: Venus Pang

“I knew at primary school that I wanted to do something creative,” says Venus Pang. “But I was only aware of fashion design.” There weren’t too many other choices in her native Hong Kong, she says.

So she moved to the West on leaving school and kicked off her design career doing a foundation course in a private college in Cambridge. “Interiors was part of that,” she says, and she opted to study interiors at Glasgow School of Art when she completed the course.

“I’d heard that Glasgow was good,” says Pang. “And because it is a four-year course, we were able to experiment” – something she relishes.

Pang took on the Retail Design Student Awards Top Shop brief in 2016, in her third year at Glasgow. Arcadia design head Guy Smith invited the students to design a store for a prominent site in Los Angeles – a site his London team was already working on. Needless to say, the entire Arcadia team assessed the students’ work.

“It was our first real brief,” says Pang. “We were all very excited about that.

Everyone tried harder than usual, putting in five times more effort and five times more research. In some ways, Top Shop was like other briefs you work on in school, but it was a bit more practical. It was fun, though challenging as we couldn’t visit the site.”

Pang won the award, beating competition from students at Manchester Metropolitan University and her GSA classmates with a conceptual scheme that demonstrated her passion for experimentation.

Her prize was paid placements at Glasgow consultancy Graven Images, whose co-founder Ross Hunter had mentored the GSA students, and at Top Shop. “My placement experiences gave me a nice comparison between working in a studio and in-house,” she says. “I came to the conclusion I wanted to work in a studio like Graven Images at this stage in my career, for the variety.”

Model for a retail format by Universal Design Studio
Model for a retail format by Universal Design Studio

Having moved to London after graduation last year, Pang is now working at Universal Design Studio. It’s her first job and she got it through one of her former Glasgow tutors, Jake Powley-Baker, who also works there.

At UDS she has worked predominantly on a hotel façade in South Korea and on the signage and layout for the Frieze art fairs in London and New York. “I’m really happy with the projects,” she says. “There’s a good balance of work within UDS and I get to learn from what others are doing at the morning meetings.”

But not content with just the day job as an outlet for her creativity, Pang is also entering design competitions in her own right. She submitted an idea for a bench for Oregon’s Portland Museum, for example, and is on the lookout for other opportunities. “Competitions are a way of pushing yourself and flexing your creative muscles,” she says.

Pang expects to stay in London for the near future. “It’s the best place to be with all the exhibitions and so on,” she says. But she’s keen to work in another country at some point. With proven talent, a passion for design and experimentation and Chinese as her first language, she a strong hand of cards to play in achieving that goal.