1/ What made you pick Industrial Design as your major at uni? And what do you like best about it so far?
When I first started University, I did not consider Industrial Design (ID) — I was intrigued by what it was, but dismissed it as I was under the impression I did not meet the qualification requirements (I did not study higher level chemistry or physics). I’ll admit that I was misled by the word “industrial,” having pictured factories, machines and gears. Interestingly, I was pursuing a Global Studies degree when my ID friends showed me some of their work. I was so inspired; it seemed like a more fitting way for me to do work that would add meaning to the world. From there, I discovered I actually met the qualification requirements and transferred to ID.
The best thing about ID so far is it’s versatility. It’s possible to work with a wide range of tools: from traditional materials such as foam/wood for quick prototyping to more advanced technologies like 3D printing for detailed modelling. We also apply design thinking and the design process to a wide range of disciplines. In order to understand how something works, we have to study people, processes, and systems. Some examples of this are: studying how a kettle works to reinvent a new one, observing people’s spending habits to create an app that promotes cashless payments, and researching on trends around the world to 3D print a piece of jewelry.
2/ What is the one thing that has surprised you about learning/practising Design?
Everyone has a different collection of experiences, knowledge and thought processes, so much so that even if a design brief is given to a class of students, everyone still comes up with different ideas. There is something unique about the design process such that everyone’s outcomes/solutions are different. Each person also has their own style and differing interests. It’s pretty cool to think about how even though everyone is studying the same thing, we will probably go to different fields, work on different design projects with a different perspective, and create different kinds of impact.
3/ Who or what inspires you?
This question is tricky, because I think almost everything can have the potential to inspire me. I believe that the more you read, observe, and discover about the world — whether it’s directly related to design or not, the stronger the grasp you have in designing for people. Unexpected situations or circumstances can serve as a catalyst for the next breakthrough that you have. That being said, I am usually creatively stimulated after watching good films, looking at design blogs, reading articles/examples about innovation, reading up on global issues/ anecdotes, and sometimes even just by identifying problem areas I experience in my own life.
For example, UNHCR recently piloted an eye scanning payment system for Syrian refugees living in Jordan using blockchain technology. This enables Syrian refugees to access cash grants with a scan of their eyes. With this, there is no need for them to provide a passport or official documents, which can be a problem with refugees. Blockchain also records these transactions to deduct amounts spend on food from the cash assistance refugees receive from the World Food Programme. To me, this kind of innovation that empowers and provides for individuals is so inspiring and motivating.
4/ How do you think young designers can help shape future of Singapore?
Be optimistic. I read somewhere that to design is to be optimistic, and I’ve come to realise it’s quite true. Designers have to think and ideate on a future that does not yet exist, and work on finding opportunities to bring that future to a reality. We have to convince ourselves that we can use design as a tool to change mindsets, behaviours, experiences, policies, etc; we have to see problems as opportunities. It would be hard to do our job if we have the mindset that change is impossible.
5/ What do you believe is the greatest challenge for design students these days?
Balancing between ideating (thinking) and doing. It’s easy for me to get caught up in my own web of ideas, trying to think of the best one to work on… without actually doing anything. In that sense, it seems as though there is zero progress, because everything is in your mind rather than something tangible. When it’s hard to find a solution, it may be discouraging to start prototyping as well. However, I’ve come to realise that ideas can surface while prototyping. Similar to writing, sometimes you just need to type something out — no matter how bad it is, at least that’s a step towards correcting something to a better version of what it was previously.