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Evolution Through Innovation

‘Fly Beyond’, a sculptural lighting piece laid above the bar of The Nest in Shanghai and is also the artist’s favourite.

Born to a carpenter father and a homemaker mother, Cheang Lin Yew is one of many specialists in this field who is educating the public about digital media design’s practical beauty one breathtaking installation at a time. The 46-year-old who hails from Sungai Buloh completed his tertiary education in Malaysia and New Zealand, and is currently the Head of Department, School of Digital Media Design at The One Academy, Malaysia.

Describing himself as a digital media artist rather than a multimedia expert, his fascination with art started at a very young age. Growing up, he was very interested in craft, attributing it to observing his father who was always making things like their own furniture, and even built the kampung house they used to live in. He was also influenced by his elder brother who studied architecture and steered him towards the creative industry. With a very clear mindset, he enrolled into an art college right after SPM and upon completing the diploma programme in Graphic Design at a newly established The One Academy at the time, he is considered its pioneer batch of graduates.

His transition from graphic design to multimedia design began when he was offered a scholarship to further his studies in New Zealand and obtained a degree to equip himself with the necessary expertise, exercising his graphic design knowledge into digital multimedia. Coming back to Malaysia, he became the key person to develop the multimedia design programme for The One Academy.

He went back to New Zealand to attain a master’s degree and became a lecturer at a prestigious design school. During his five years’ stint there, he associated with people who share a common interest and spent a lot of time doing R&D and experimenting with interactive installations. He reckoned it was time to try something different, as he got a research funding from the university and started to work collaboratively with peers to create art projects and participated in many art festivals in different countries.

It was in 2005 when he was invited to the Get It Louder design exhibition in Beijing as a guest speaker, that helped open his mind to see that China was an ideal place to start a venture as he saw the opportunities there. He was encouraged by a former student from Shanghai to go over and possibly start something, a move that spurred him to make the decision to relocate to China in 2007. It took two years for him to consider making that move as it was risky to quit his stable teaching job and pack up with his family to start anew in a foreign land.

He started a Shanghai-based creative studio named Super Nature Design with two partners. However, it was far from rosy as they struggled to land projects due to their inexperience and the practically unprecedented innovation. They finally got their big break after securing a job with the client Adidas for the 2008 Beijing Olympics; assembling a section of the flagship store in Beijing to showcase 26 pairs of specially designed shoes – representing one for each sport. Things were looking better when they started publishing their portfolio on international design portals and getting their work featured, thus building up their profile and getting more job offers.

Cheang’s favourite creation is a sculptural lighting centerpiece that he built for a gastrolounge in Shanghai that won it the “Best Lounge of the Year” for three consecutive years. Dubbed “Fly Beyond,” it is laid above the central bar over at The Nest. The colour-changing vertebrae-like structure is a popular feature among patrons of the lounge, often captured and shared on social media. The design metaphor comes from the flying pattern of the grey goose, transforming the motion into a physical illusion. With embedded programmable LEDs, the lighting is responsive to music and controlled by various colour and animation settings to set the ambience.

He made the decision to return to Malaysia two years ago, going back to The One Academy and helping to develop the Digital Media Design programme to integrate more emerging technology in art and design, because he foresees that it will be a significant industry and thinks that Malaysia should not be left out. The digital era has changed how people live and work. The diversity of this era has led to a tremendous increase in demand for digital contents and experience in all sectors from computers to mobile devices, home to retail experiences, education to entertainment and many more.

The possibilities in the digital multimedia arena are endless. Digital Media Design explores the digital domain, including multimedia platforms, mobile devices, augmented and virtual realities, and establishes a rich, hybrid area of study for the 21st century. In this rapidly expanding field, students learn how digital media are produced and are given the opportunity to explore areas such as web-based content, mobile apps, interactive advertising, responsive objects and environments, networked information and social media systems, interactive video, live performance technology and digital art installations.

His advice to students who are interested in taking up digital media design is to never underestimate the importance of creativity, art and design because those are essential to establish a strong foundation. It is also crucial to equip oneself with technological knowledge and be fearless in embracing the ever-advancing technology to apply it in their art creation. That is the reason why upon rejoining The One Academy, he requested to set up a maker space that they now have, equipped with all the necessary facilities such as 3D printers, laser cutters, soldering stations, microprocessors and Arduino tools that are made available for student use. He asserts that a bright future awaits once they have both skillsets mastered and looks forward to students creating new things rather than just following the trend.

‘PRISMA1666’ is a light interactive installation inspired by Newton’s prism. It won the ‘Best Creative Design Award’ at the Shanghai International Art & Science Awards 2011.

‘Me’, an art installation commissioned by Converse for its 2010 Summer campaign “You’re It”.

‘Dreamscape’ is an interpretation of vision and representation of ‘hypercube’ via explorations on architectural landscape.

‘Rabbit Wonderland’ is a series of innovative outdoor LED interactive sculptures that aim to bring colour, laughter and warmth to the streets of Shanghai.

‘Lost in Pascal’s Triangle’, an installation that allows the audience to explore the concept of Pascal’s triangle mathematics formula to generate a series of music and lighting sequences.

The One Academy is committed to providing the best art education programme and continues to nurture its students passionately through its ‘Masters Train Masters’ coaching philosophy, which has been practised for the past 25 years, by providing diploma and degree courses namely Advertising & Graphic Design, Digital Animation, Film Visual Effects, Interior Architecture & Design, Illustration, Digital Media Design, Fine Arts and ESMOD Fashion Design & Pattern Making. For more information on The One Academy, visit www.toa.edu.my or call +603-5637 5510 or e-mail your enquiries to [email protected].

The One Academy of Communication Design

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