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Lunch conversations don’t come much more compelling than the one I had last Friday with the two esteemed gentlemen pictured here with me outside the Hong Kong Club.
The venerable figure in the centre is, of course, Robert (‘Bob’) Warren Miller, the co-founder of DFS Group and still going strong in the role at 84. Bob Miller has had an enormous influence over his company (now majority-owned by LVMH) and the travel retail sector in general. He has seen DFS through good times (mostly) and bad (occasionally) and never lost his belief in the business nor his love for it. His recall of the company’s history since its beginnings in the early 60s is astounding and his understanding of our industry no less remarkable.
On the right is Henry Steiner, described once by the South China Morning Post as ‘the king of graphic design’. As the newspaper wrote, “You’ve seen Henry Steiner’s work. It stares at you from billboards, banks and other buildings – it’s even lurking in your pocket.”
His firm, Steiner&Co, provides brand and identity creation and strategy for a host of blue-chip organisations, such as HSBC (his best-known logo, featuring the bank’s ubiquitous red-and-white hexagon), CiticPacific, Unilever and the Hong Kong Jockey Club. Another is Bob Miller’s Search Investment Group, and, famously, DFS, for whom Henry designed the famous logo resembling a customs stamp with the words duty free in white capital letters set against the backdrop of a round red circle. A framed print of it, signed by Henry, hangs in Bob Miller’s office 57 floors up, overlooking Victoria Harbour.
And the reference to Henry’s designs lurking in your pocket? Simple, he has designed several series of Hong Kong’s banknotes, including the most recent edition launched in 2010. Henry’s designs explore the relationship between Chinese heritage and contemporary technology. The HK$500 for example, pictured below, features a traditional face-reading chart and a biometric recognition system. It’s a stunning piece of work. Take a closer look at what’s in your hands next time you use the ATM. You are holding currency become art.
Henry is now 83. So between them, my two lunch companions have inhabited this planet for 167 years. I’ve got quite a few miles on the clock myself but still lag a long behind either of them. Not just in age, but in wisdom, insight and contribution to the world. One learns much from an encounter such as this. Two outstanding figures, still going strong.