Female, Asian/Pacific Islander, LGBTQIA+, Indigenous, Disabled owned

Hong Kong, HK | Madrid, ES | San Francisco, CA


Doodle Tree

COLLECTIVE reveals Doodle Tree, a unique Christmas Tree commissioned by The Upper House, to revive a fading local craft of neon signs making and inspired by the iconic nightscapes of Hong Kong from the 1950s-80s.

Hong Kong’s neon signs have been rapidly disappearing at the rate of more than a thousand per year and replaced by LED signs, the preservation of its craft and heritage became a matter of high importance. In collaboration with self-initiated concern group @streetsignhk, whose aim is to raise awareness of preservation by promoting the cultural and historic importance of signboards in Hong Kong, COLLECTIVE’s proposed design focuses on heritage sustainability by using a declining art skill to reinvent neon making.

Doodle Tree’s design takes on an unconventional 3-dimensional form instead of traditional neon signs which are in 2-dimensional forms. It is a contemporary interpretation of a Hong Kong heritage but not a pastiche of the conventional “Chinese signage”. Doodle Tree is a new form of neon, originated in Hong Kong, created in Hong Kong for Hong Kong.

The design’s 3D form presents both design and workmanship challenges, with the additional difficulty in hiring a local craftsman as there are only three remaining in the trade in Hong Kong. The initial design began in an analogue format with doodled hand sketches which was converted into a digital format and 3D printed into a template. COLLECTIVE worked alongside craftsman Mr. Wo Chi Kai, who has expertly fabricated the neon tubes into 3D forms through perpetual experimentation and breaking the traditional boundaries of bending techniques with heated glass. Through the handmade process, the design once again returned to an analogue format as it takes on a new form through Mr Wo’s interpretation, his knowledge of the material’s limitation and his workmanship skills. The result carries the traditional characteristics of a neon sign yet contemporary in its aesthetics; it shines with luminous brightness and it sometimes flickers as if it has a temperament of its own. 

“Without falling into ‘heritage kitsch’ we didn’t intend to create any legible neon signage and one will not perceive any ‘language’. We imagined a design that represents a seemingly random free flow of glowing energy, hoping to bring modernity to an object which is still a labor of heritage,” said Betty Ng, Founder of COLLECTIVE.

In the spirit of giving, The Upper House is placing the tree up for auction with all proceeds benefiting ImpactHK, a local charity dedicated to helping the homeless in Hong Kong.

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Status: Built
Location: Hong Kong, HK
Firm Role: Concept to completion
Additional Credits: @streetsignhk
Wo Chi Kai, neon craftsman
Photographer: Kevin Mak @kingymak

Behind the scenes: Doodle Tree by COLLECTIVE