IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Melisa Wong

As founder of Octagon Creative Group, Melisa has accrued 30 years of experience in the visual communications industry, working in audio-visual and multi-media production before venturing into branding, design and advertising. She also has a strong interest in the field of architectural design.


In 1990, Melisa founded Octagon Creative Group, a multidisciplinary company specialising in branding through its design, advertising and publication offerings. Her portfolio encompasses design and advertising work for clients in Malaysia, China, India, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, the Middle East, Australia and Austria. Today, Octagon Creative is an award-winning firm that has gained international recognition. Melisa is trained in the United Kingdom and holds a BA Honours Degree in Graphic Design from the University of Coventry as well as a degree in Masters in Communication Design from Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. She was instrumental in setting up the Venice Biennale Exhibition in Venice in 2012 and 2014, working in tandem with PAM. Presently, she heads Octagon Creative, a collaborative studio where creativity comes from individuals working in groups or ‘communities of practice’ focused on exploration and discovery.

Melisa is also one of the distinguished jurors of BCI Asia Interior Design Awards 2020, and Construction+ is delighted to catch up with her for a short chat on her creative mind and ethos.

Having honesty, integrity, creativity, and being innovative are some of the traits I would like others to remember me by.

Drawing from your experience of being a judge in various competitions across the region, what would you look out for in the interior design entries as juror for BCI Asia Interior Design Awards 2020?

I would look for originality and quality of execution. The designs ought to be delightful and relevant.

What are some of the critical challenges facing local Malaysian designers and/or graduates entering the profession today? What would you suggest some of the solutions to be?

One of the biggest challenges is to persuade the client to accept new ideas; we must all learn to master the art of persuasion. Another challenge is to work hard, pay attention and keep learning all the time.

Since helming wREGA (Pertubuhan Wakaf Reka Grafik Malaysia or Graphic Design Association of Malaysia) back in 2016, what changes or impact have you made on the local design community?

In 2016, my manifesto was to drive events that will bring the community of graphic designers closer. This meant events that define our roles in society driven by a collective belief to push boundaries of graphic design. [Questions we would ask included] how does graphic design stand in the realm of politics, history, economics, interior and architecture, art and books?

We achieved this by being involved in a joint-poster exhibition with 10 countries around the world, particularly the ASEAN countries. It was held at the Creative Space, National Art Gallery from 23 January to 15 February 2018. Another event entitled 100 years of Malaysian Identities Poster Exhibition involving professionals and students was initiated to reflect and discover ourselves to find out what truly symbolises us, and this exhibition drew a lot of submissions. It was held at RUANG, ThinkCity in December 2017.

In 2019, my strategy was about steering events into the areas under the acronym of COMPETE: Competitions; Organising Trips; Marketing (and publicity); Partnership (with other organisations); Education; Training; and Events (expanding the role of design).

What ideas and methodologies have you embarked on over the years towards sustaining creativity, design innovation and profitability by your studio?

Octagon Creative is a design studio that I started back in the 1990s. Our ideals then were about creating a studio that must lead towards sustained creativity, design innovation and profitability.

To quote Garry Emery, creative director and founder of emerystudio, who said in 2004, “To optimise the interplay of ideas and diversity of thinking, it is important that ‘communities’ are not made up of like-minded people, as innovation is the outcome of the collision of the unfamiliar.” This means moving with the times and not to be stagnant. Our studio’s strength was in print, but now we have also moved into the realm of digital marketing and video production. It is important to excel in new media; after all they all fall into the category of the creative.How do you want your legacy to be remembered when it comes to your work?

Designers must be warriors and fighters to survive through thick and thin. Having honesty, integrity, creativity and being innovative are some of the traits I would like others to remember me by.

What principles are fundamental to your work ethos and culture?

The studio’s philosophies are as follows:
1) Vision: excellence in creativity
2) Way of working:
-Obsession with creativity
-Aiming to satisfy our clients
-To act fast
-Having fun working together
3) Values
-Positive
-Collaborative
-Passionate
4) The Octagon brand
-Outstanding
-Memorable

What are your upcoming plans for wREGA?

Next year will be election year and I hope that my deputy will take on future challenges faced by wREGA. During my tenure I have opened up wREGA to be more collaborative, working with other associations such as PAM, MIID, ART EXPO, RIX, C.I.S Network, National Art Gallery, Cendana and Genovasi to cooperate on exhibitions and competitions, and to be engaged with society on a broader scale.