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A striking narrative: Joe Cheng

While some travellers prefer a hotel that offers a home-away-from-home experience, many more are after something new, authentic and exciting. They want a taste of local flavour, and that’s exactly what the team at Cheng Chung Design (CCD) is best known for serving up.


“A hotel is like the local name card of the city. So, when you enter the hotel, it should tell the story of the city,” says Cheng Chung Design Founder, Chair and CEO Joe Cheng.

“Before designing, we look at the architectural language, the local element and the cultural history of the city we’re in and incorporate those elements into the design.” To Joe, this is what elevates a design from good to exceptional. “Excellent design is not only a display of design and design skills,” he explains.

“It’s also about the attention paid to the history, culture and the way people interact with the space. Excellent design is a symbol of history and culture, connecting the present to the future.”

In order to effortlessly deliver this result, Joe formulated a team of highly diverse and innovative designers. Doing so has ensured that CCD’s designs successfully relay a beautiful design narrative, whereby the local culture’s charm seamlessly blends with the nuances of an international language.

“We tell a story through design,” he states. “In order to do this, our designers must think critically and have a very colourful cultural background. That’s why we have designers from all over the world.”

It’s certainly won the interior design firm a lot of respect and a leading position in the industry. CCD has taken home dozens of awards since its inception in 2001, and its client list includes well-regarded hotel management groups like Marriott, InterContinental Hotels Group, Hilton, Hyatt, Mandarin Oriental, Alila and Accor, to name a few.

“Our greatest achievement is that we have always been improving,” Joe shares. “In the beginning, our clients would ask us to do a design emulating other designers’ styles. But, slowly, after years of development, we have forged our own path. And now, many hotels are inviting us to design their hotels because we’re recognised as a reputable international design firm.”

Not only is this a tremendous milestone for the company but, for Joe, it’s also an opportunity. “Now, CCD can become a bridge for the Chinese designers and the world to communicate with foreign designers as a platform,” he says.

“This whole industry is telling a story of China. Chinese designers now have a say in the world.” Their stories are strikingly beautiful. Take CCD’s design of the Hualuxe Xi’an Hi-tech Zone in Xi’an, China, for example.

This hotel was designed using symmetry aesthetic, embodying the Confucian philosophy of Zhongyong, where peace and order represent an ideal city. CCD represented this through modern approaches while also incorporating Chinese etiquette and philosophy subtly throughout, providing guests with a truly immersive experience.

While Joe has always been captivated by the arts, he has many other interests and hobbies as well. Just like creativity is multifaceted, so is he. “I like things beyond design,” he shares.

“I’m interested in cars, clothing, fashion, arts, architecture and gardens. Innovation is the most important thing in design, and I think having all of these interests keeps me alert and imaginative.”

This creativity has also helped CCD to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic with relative ease. While CCD was first developed in Hong Kong, it’s also starting to have more and more projects in China, New York, Los Angeles and all over the world. Joe wants to continue building up Chinese design and ultimately become a global brand.

“Although today’s global industries are facing challenges due to the pandemic, we’re trying to overcome the crisis and take the opportunity to reflect on the past,” he says.

“In response to the market change, we’re now launching several sub-brands such as FishEye Design [FED], Urban Collection Design [UCD] and CCD Art Consultanting [CAC]. Ordinary brands are not enough anymore. Customers want a customised product more and more these days.”

FED provides interior design service for local brands and midscale hotels. UCD focuses on design of corporate headquarters; it has designed headquarters for PingAn, Alibaba, vivo, Tencent and so on.

Finally, CAC is an artwork consulting brand focusing on decorations and artwork designs. There’s also Xizhao, a technology firm providing online FF&E platform services. To this note, Joe credits the help of CCD’s key suppliers for the successful launch of these sub-brands.

“We do many collaborations with our suppliers for customisation. And sometimes it can be hard to negotiate, which is why it’s quite important to have a good relationship with them. They play a very important role in our development,” he explains.

He also has his sights set on future mergers and acquisitions, acquiring excellent architectural firms around the world. To keep his team performing in tiptop shape to realise these goals, CCD recently opened a new innovative office space in Shenzhen.

“It’s a new office space for us, but it’s also an exploratory space for innovation and fun,” Joe says. “It provides unlimited opportunities for connection. My hope is that by changing our office, we can create an interesting environment for our employees to bring even more imagination to the table.”

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