I had the opportunity to take a little time to ask Henry Yiu, of Yiu Studio about his design philosophy and especially about his side venture, Dovely – the tea I wrote about in my blog post, “Innovation in small cups.” It is clear that Henry is passionate about design. He should be – he has worked at multiple design firms, notably Hornall Anderson Design Works before setting out on his own journey.
Here’s what I asked him:
CJGW: Where did the idea for Dovely come from?
HY: It kind of grew out of our love of intricate and memorable things. It started out of elaborate holiday cards. In 2010 we came up with an origami tea bag and it felt like an experience we wanted to mine further. We had the idea to take this intricate elaborate thing and brand it as a separate type of company – as a truly unique thing instead of another thing from a design studio. We knew it would always need to focus on small short runs. The level of care taken is not something you can mass produce.
CJGW: What is your view of a brand – how do you create a brand though design?
HY: We take the process of branding quite literally. I used to work for a huge branded agency – done hundreds of brands and start ups. One of the things that made me want to be my own branding studio was that at the end there were to many good ideas that got thrown away because it may take too much effort to bring them to life A lot of the great work is never executed. To create something truly unique and simple takes more effort, but it is worth it when you can pursue it.
CJGW: Like the doves? (referring to the origami tea bag Dovely produces).
HY: I think there is an emotional response that someone has when something is simple but intricate. It’s more complete. You have to ask yourself: ’What do you want people to remember – that someone took the time to find something that is truly unique.’ For us, the audience is top of mind. The audience will embrace its uniqueness. Most people don’t know the ceremony of tea drinking. All Asian tea experiences are a little bit different but it’s about continuous discovery. Overall, it is the “layering of experience.” At every instance, you should get a new experience. We apply that to all our clients and it’s present in Dovely.
CJGW: How do you view innovation?
HY: My look on innovation is about reengineering and rethinking the mouse trap, but then figure out what to throw away. Consider John Maeda - talking about the process of making tofu - the way you do each step contributes to the your outcome. We’ve all seen tofu. It’s a simple product, right? But making tofu is anything but simple. It’s a very zen life thing. Good design is the unexpected payoff, it’s a bit of delight.
When a brand focuses on layering experience, each component must contribute. It shows that the company really cares. People can’t figure out why they can’t copy certain brands – it’s more than culture, it’s the continuous application of customer to the process.
Henry, I couldn’t agree more. Thanks for the time and insight. -c-