Welcoming Address by Prof. Cees de Bont, Dean of School of Design, at the 22nd Congregation of School of Design

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, members of the graduating class of 2016 – my warmest greetings to you all.

It is my great privilege and sincere pleasure to address you today, as you celebrate and enter a new phase of your life.

A bold, yet exciting phase that will challenge, delight and dare you.

First of all, feel great about what you have achieved.

Graduates, you have completed a challenging academic career at the School of Design.

This is no easy feat, many try, and fail, to do this. You are among the elite, you have struggled and now you have succeeded.

Design is in your DNA, and this happy moment is only the beginning of a long and fruitful journey. It is time for you to take what you have learned, and apply it to your next phase in life.

Our goal has been to provide diverse, useful and rewarding experiences, guidance, technical knowledge, and artistic spirit to assist in your new and exciting ventures.

We are local. We are global. We are one in our drive to develop diverse local experiences expressed through a grand tapestry of internationalism.

We are home to faculty and staff members who come from more than 15 countries, serving approximately 1,400 students.

Appropriately, our beautiful home, the Jockey Club Innovation Tower designed by Zaha Hadid, who sadly passed away this year, is by many accounts the most beautiful design school in the world.

We are proud of the outstanding work we do here. Our research labs demonstrate tremendous contributions to a world-class, research-based education.

Yet what does all this achievement mean without improving people’s lives and the well-being of society?

It’s why we contribute to community life in practical and measurable ways.

Last year we held the Maker Faire Hong Kong 2015, and hosted inventors, artists, designers, technology enthusiasts and other design fanatics on our beautiful campus.

Our students participated in the Faire and benefitted tremendously from being surrounded by some of the top designers and makers anywhere on this planet.

But what I hope was impressed upon them is that design at its heart solves problems. It makes life better, it helps people, it lets them enjoy the wonderful things around them.

Design is about freedom. Freedom to move, communicate, learn, create, and live.

At the School of Design, we focus on uniting our talent for the public good, blending the expertise, ideas and passion of university faculty and students to forge solutions to social issues.

In this spirit, we hope you bring forward into your career this emphasis on research excellence, open-minded attitudes, practical application, and social good.

This blend is what will make you brilliant, world-class designers.

But being exceptional is no good if it takes place in isolation.

That’s why we have extended our collaborations with the design world.

Our Work-Integrated Education program allows for work-based learning experiences, taking the form of Co-operative Projects and Summer Internships with real world organisations.

These connections provides our students with the varied and rich experiences they need to design effectively for our complex world.

As I’m sure you all know by now, anyone can have an idea. But bringing it into the world is the biggest challenge.

Looking at the talent in front of me, I have the highest hopes that you will all change our society for the better, bringing your wonderful design solutions to life.

It will be hard. When challenges arise, and indeed they will, remember to keep on going.

You will discover the rewards are absolutely worth the labour.

Finally, I want to make clear that graduation day does not mean we must say farewell.

I sincerely hope you maintain a close relationship with us. So return for lectures, attend events, and even give lectures.

I close my remarks by extending my warmest congratulations to each and every one of you. 

All of us wish you the very best in all that you do. So go out there and make us proud!