Interview with hcreates
Publications – Dec 2, 2021

Interview with hcreates

Design, Services, Technology
Hcreates is an award-winning interior design studio based in Shanghai, China. They have been designing projects across Asia since 2010 and it is well-known for restaurant, bar, office and health and wellness to retail. Meet through this interview a studio featured in local and international magazines such as Architectural Digest, Interior Design China, and from now on, in Sträbe magazine!

1. What are the origins of H Creates?

Hcreates started out as a side project to help some friends renovate a restaurant to create a sports bar in Shanghai. We visited there a lot with friends and got a real buzz from seeing people enjoy the space. We then got approached about doing other projects and we loved the idea that we could be part of shaping this massive and vibrant city by creating new places for people to connect. This still drives us today as we take on projects that we know can introduce a design or food concept to the city.

2. How was the process of setting up your company in Shanghai?

Starting our company was not something we had thought about but it became clear that Shanghai was undergoing a rapid transformation and we could play our part. We were able to grow quite organically as each project we completed created a growing live portfolio of work in Shanghai.

The Riff project, by Hannah Churchill.
3. What defines you? What is your value proposition?

hcreates is all about keeping things simple, clever and fun. We like to really partner with clients to understand their vision and get alongside them from beginning to end. We are adaptable in our approach because every space, brief, concept, and budget is different So our clients tell us they like our practicality to understand the functional elements as well as the aesthetic. We don’t have set style, but we are well known for our creative use of materials.

4. What services do you offer?

We are primarily an interior design studio that takes a project through from concept, detailed, design, materials and onsite design management. We also provide project management support and construction.

Luneurs le garde-manger project, by Hannah Churchill.
5. What type of clients do you work for?

Over the years we have worked with a lot of start-ups or first-time operators launching a new brand or concept. In the beginning it was mainly foreigners bringing western concepts to China. But it has changed now to almost exclusively Chinese companies wanting international design for a variety of project types. We have done a lot of hospitality projects but increasingly do workspace and retail.

6. What sets you apart from the competitors?
We are fortunate to have been in Shanghai for a long time, so we have a lot of projects that people know and love in the City. We tend to say we don’t really have competitors because people that enjoy our spaces ask us to design theirs. It’s a big eco-system and we are happy with the niche we have carved for ourselves.

Gin & Juice project, by Hannah Churchill.
7. Do you follow some kind of creative process? What is your methodology when you start a project?

We value our clients input a lot and understanding their passion for the project, really helps us. We like to get into the physical space as soon as possible to see what story it wants to tell. Sometimes what seems like intentional good design is more accidental or out of necessity because of the character in the space. We have to be very practical in the beginning to understand layout and flow but from there on in we try and work a lot with materiality and always pushing ourselves to bring something new and interesting.

8. Hcreates is well-known for restaurants & bars, office spaces, and gyms and fitness studios. Do you plan to open up new sectors such as fashion, for example?

All of our projects exist because people liked something else we did, so we have never intentionally gone into anything. We are currently working on a large pet store and day spa because the client likes our ice cream store designs. Traditional retailers are changing rapidly with consumer habits. So as the brands find new ways to connect and engage consumers we think our experience in building communities through design will naturally help us to attract clients that are a good fit.

9. What benefits does a good design bring to a brand at its physical point of sale?

People are making more and more complex buying decisions in an increasingly competitive market. They have often done their research before the get to the store. So the design is a critical part of delivering on the brand values and creating that deeper engagement with customers.

We don’t get ahead of ourselves, the stores we design are sometimes just the back drops for people’s selfies. We don’t make the product ,set the playlist or train the staff but all these things work together in harmony to create moments people will remember and talk about. A clients commitment to good design reflects how their brand feels about their customers.

Oh Yeah! Brewing project, by Hannah Churchill.
10. You explain in your LinkedIn profile that according to you, “all spaces should be designed to enhance one's environment and leave you feeling inspired”. So, which kind of spaces inspire you? What’s your source of inspiration?

Inspiration comes from anywhere and almost anything, so it’s important just to get out and experience places. This has probably been the hardest part for us personally during the travel restriction over the past 18 months in not being able to reset by immersing ourselves in completely in different environments.

11. What has been your biggest challenge working in the retail or hospitality sector?

There is a lot of design pressure that comes with hospitality especially in Shanghai. There are so many new things opening all the time. We have to design something unique to create a buzz but it also needs to be a sustainable business from month 3 onwards. So our challenge is to create a trend that never becomes too trendy. Also the speed at which things happens is always a challenge. We would love to have more time to consider even further each element of a project. So the pace of things here can be a blessing and a curse but either way it’s quite addictive.
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