Interview with James Ni for Oriental Rising

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James Ni

In James Ni's early years, he cultivated a passion for art that eventually led him to found his own design firm in 2014. Whether it involves compact bathrooms or intricate projects with constrained finances, he has always embraced challenges with enthusiasm.

Interview With The 2023 MUSE Design Awards Winner – James Ni

1Please give us a brief bio of yourself and your design background.

As a young individual, I fostered a love for art that ultimately drove me to establish my own design office in 2014. Whether dealing with small restrooms or more complex projects with limited budgets, I have never been one to shy away from a challenge!

This is because I firmly believe that architecture can bring warmth to people’s daily lives and design can significantly enhance their overall quality of life. My commitment to honing my skills and refining my sense of aesthetics remains unwavering as I strive to create designs that have a mutually positive impact on people's lives.

2What made you become/why did you choose to become a designer/artist?

The seamless and intertwined relationship between design and art is apparent without a clear distinction between them. Examining them, their ability to bring happiness to people's lives is the primary factor to consider. While art has an internal impact, design has an external one, both possessing overt and covert dimensions.

From a personal standpoint, I hold a profound appreciation for art that serves a functional purpose and adds value. Although I possess traditional painting skills, my work with materials and spatial environments provides me with a greater sense of self-awareness and the ability to bring joy to clients.

3Tell us more about your business/company, job profile, and what you do.

My team's organizational structure differs significantly from the usual industry standards. Instead of following a traditional approach where a lead designer is in charge of the entire process, we prioritize the professionals involved in the construction process at the heart of the team.

We emphasize horizontal communication to achieve this, recognizing its importance in the design field. Interior design necessitates expertise in various materials and techniques, which can be daunting for a single designer to handle. Hence, we continually explore and develop the market to ensure that we provide the best service possible.

4What does “design” mean to you?
Design involves discovering a common visual language while also requiring decision-making and trade-offs since few things have a perfect solution. The principle of design is to make compromises and recognize practicality as a vital factor. This is what attracts me to design the most: it's like crafting a beautiful poem within the framework of a complicated story with both challenges and opportunities.
5What’s your favorite kind of design and why?
Our team favors clean lines, avoiding unnecessary complexity and over-decorated materials as much as possible as these elements only serve to exhaust the visual senses. We believe that a great design should be relaxed, comfortable and easy to digest.
6To you, what makes a “good” design?

In our company, we greatly value the designers' ability to blend creative and analytical thinking, resulting in comprehensive solutions. This approach enables us to fully unleash our creativity while considering diverse perspectives and ultimately delivering tailor-made solutions to our clients.

Nevertheless, the triumph of any design ultimately depends on its acceptance in the market. As a result, we prioritize producing designs that not only strike a chord with the market but also precisely cater to our clients' individualized requirements.

7Describe your design style and its main characteristics.
Our expertise lies in utilizing various design elements such as proportion and contrast to elevate the vibrancy and liveliness of any given space. We take great care to ensure that every detail is considered and implemented with precision resulting in a seamless and visually stunning final product.
8Tell us about your design process.
When evaluating each project, it is comparable to a simple sponge cake that can be personalized with an assortment of fruits and creams based on your liking. Consequently, we must contemplate how much to incorporate and relinquish for each customer and via this continuous process, we maintain the fundamental essence of the design.
9Do you think your country and its cultural heritage has an impact on your design process?
I have had the privilege of studying art without any restrictions based on geographical location which has enabled me to appreciate and incorporate a wide range of cultural influences into my work. This exposure to diverse artistic perspectives has been invaluable in shaping my artistic style and approach.
10Congratulations! As the winner of the 2023 MUSE Design Awards, what does it mean to you and your company and team to receive this award distinction?

Our team considers winning a Gold in the MUSE Design Awards a notable achievement. It confirms our continuous pursuit of design excellence and publicly recognizes our hard work and creativity. Winning this award has significantly contributed to enhancing our reputation within the industry and has enabled more people to acknowledge our professional expertise.

Moreover, winning the MUSE Design Awards serves as a guarantee for our clients. It signifies that our designs are renowned for their artistic and innovative qualities, which can instill greater confidence in our clients when choosing us as their design partner.

11Can you explain a bit about the winning work you entered into the 2023 MUSE Design Awards, and why you chose to enter this project?

This project is situated on the second floor of a narrow alleyway with limited exposure to sunlight. Consequently, only the front and back rooms are usually able to benefit from natural light. Our team regards this project to be fascinating because we strive to apply our design proficiency by introducing a more natural light, augmenting the luminosity of the entire area.

It's important to mention that we weren't the ones who selected this project. Instead, the building itself chose to engage our services, and we are truly grateful for the chance to rejuvenate it.

12What was the biggest challenge with this project?
During the project, it was crucial for us to prioritize our relationships and interactions with the neighbors. Our team took extensive measures to manage the site meticulously, control noise levels and establish connections with the local residents. Our aim is to pursue further improvements and strive for excellence to enhance the quality of the space and promote mutual cohesiveness and harmony within the neighborhood.
13How has winning an Award developed your practice/career?
Taking part in a competition is more than just pursuing tangible rewards. It entails self-responsibility and provides an opportunity for designers to identify their strengths and areas for improvement in their field of expertise. Participating in global competitions also leads to recognition from esteemed judges which is highly beneficial.
14What are your top three (3) favorite things about our industry?
Create, compromise and making friends are three impactful and concise things that carry considerable weight. These words embody important values that are essential to building strong relationships and achieving success in various areas of life.
15What makes your country specifically, unique in the design industry?

Due to my country’s high populated density and limited living space, urban space is a precious commodity that must be utilized efficiently. As a result, designers play a critical role in creating designs that not only meet high-quality standards but also consider the challenges of urbanization and the need for effective space utilization.

It is essential for designers to take into account the limited space available in order to meet the demands of the community and create functional, aesthetically pleasing designs that enhance the urban landscape.

16Where do you see the evolution of design industry going over the next 5-10 years?
In my country, the presence of privately owned land and the looming threat of earthquakes pose a significant challenge for the numerous houses that are over 50 years. Our primary aim is to refurbish these robust old houses within the next five to ten years, ensuring their longevity for an additional 50 years.
17If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring MUSE Design Awards submitter, what advice would you give them?
Consistently honing one's skills through repeated practice is vital in achieving excellence. By continuously refining fundamental abilities and persistently repeating them, a solid foundation can be established, leading to greater accomplishments. This requires unwavering determination and self-control, which are crucial for success.
18What resources would you recommend to someone who wants to improve their skills in the design industry?

Boosting the adoption of ecologically friendly and sustainable building materials can improve indoor air quality, just as people require vitamins and supplements for their health. By prioritizing our regards and consideration for the environment, we can reap the benefits of a healthier living environment.

This sustainable approach to construction not only reduces energy and resource waste but also minimizes the impact on the environment, creating a mutually beneficial outcome. Ultimately, this approach enables us to protect the planet while enhancing our quality of life.

19Tell us something you have never told anyone else.
People who are currently in a disadvantaged position are not to be deemed as failures, but those who are unable to make progress and improve their circumstances are the ones who truly struggle.
20Who has inspired you in your life and why?
My passion for painting, art, and design was greatly influenced by my mother who worked as a nurse. Even though she is no longer with us, her inspiration continues to profoundly influence my life. I was overwhelmed with emotion upon learning that I had won the award. As I drove my car, I couldn't help but say ‘Thank you’ silently to my mother, appreciative of her continued influence on my life.
21What is your key to success? Any parting words of wisdom?

I must admit that I sometimes struggle with the concept of success. It seems like an elusive and intangible idea. Nevertheless, I am resolute in my determination to keep striving and bettering myself. I recognize that I may have to put in more effort than those blessed with natural ability or advantageous circumstances.

However, I have come to realize that success is not just a fixed endpoint, but rather a continuous process. I am fully committed to persisting and growing as this is what drives me forward.

Winning Entry

Oriental Rising | 2023


The residence is over 50 years old and is the homeowner's and his wife's family house. Through this renovation …
(Read more at MUSE Design Awards)

James Ni

In James Ni's early years, he cultivated a passion for art that eventually led him to found his own design firm in 2014. Whether it involves compact bathrooms or intricate projects with constrained finances, he has always embraced challenges with enthusiasm.

Read more about this interview with Nataliya Naymark of NNaymark design, the Gold Winner of the 2023 MUSE Design Awards.