Wilson Chi-Ian Lam is CEO and Creative Director of Macau Creations. A graphic designer and art curator, he is a member of multiple culture and creativity groups including the Association of Registered Designers of Ontario. He is fluent in Cantonese, Mandarin and English.
Born on 3 June 1960, Lam’s parents divorced when he was three. His mother left him and his four siblings in the care of their father, and Lam has not seen her since. His father was a butcher working at a local market and struggled to care for all four children alone and so Lam took on the mantle of caring for his family, cooking meals and taking care of the housework by the age of 11. Sadly he ended up leaving school before completing his education.
In 1975, after a recommendation from an uncle, Lam took a job at Wa Fung advertising company, drawing posters and designing billboards. At the time this work was all done by hand, as there were no software systems to use.
“Back then a good designer was someone who knew how to paint and write beautifully,” he says.
This experience, however, allowed him to nurture his skills as a calligrapher, painter and sketcher. In 1980, Lam and his business partner Ieng Lai started their own firm, New Impressions Advertising Company. Work included consulting for the University of Macau, and they also had the opportunity to design and produce sets for the movie Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, which was filmed locally.
The business was going well, but Lam’s world was rocked when his longtime girlfriend from Macao announced that she was emigrating to Toronto, Canada.
“We kept in touch for three long years, exchanging love letters. It really helped me improve my Chinese, which was quite weak because I left school so early,” Lam laughs.
Unable to keep away from his love, in 1983, he decided to move to Toronto to be with her. Here he went back to school, graduating first from East York Collegiate Institute and then the renowned Ontario College of Art and Design. He studied corporate design, and even won a Gold Award at the Canadian Student Design Competition in 1989.
This award helped him gain his first design job in Canada, working for Burns and Company. However, after a few years Lam craved a new challenge. He quit his job and bought a Chinese character-cutting plotter from Hong Kong.
“With this machine I could help all the businesses in Toronto’s China Town to make their advertising more modern, by moving away from traditional handwritten ads,” he explains. “I always say that change is good – I love to learn and give myself new challenges.”
During his time in Canada, Lam continued to innovate, creating a painting school for children and founding the design firms ARTiculation in 1993, and Wilco Design in 2000. His international clients included Absolut Vodka, Coca-Cola, Dell, Royal Bank, Xerox and even today’s US President, Donald Trump.
But even though his career was thriving in Toronto, Lam still kept strong ties to his Macao roots and participated in several Macao-based design competitions. In 1996, for example, he received Air Macau’s Corporate Identity Design Contest Gold Award.
Then came a moment in Lam’s life where he felt the need to do something that would bring him a deeper level of happiness. In 2009, he decided to return to Macao and founded Macau Creations with his business partner. To bring local artists together and help them establish stores selling souvenirs focusing on Macao’s history.
“I didn’t want to do design or advertising anymore. I understood that many artists don’t have much business know-how, and I wanted to be the middleman to help their great ideas become reality,” he enthuses.
Macau Creations is now made up of 50 people, and has stores in the Taipa Cunha Bazaar, the Macau Tower and the Venetian Macao. The team of artists also offers branding and product design services.
Not one to rest on his laurels, Lam says he’s happy, but still eager to learn new things.
“Sure, there’s a lot I do know, but there are still so many more things to learn. I would love to learn more about business and new technology,” he concludes.