singapore

Friday Five with our Design Researcher: Venus

Biophilic initiatives that were applied at a local co-working space. (Top) Adopt a plant initiative (Bottom) Coasters and napkins printed with seed paper for the Grow your plant initiative (Right) Interactive potted plant to encourage interaction with nature.

Biophilic initiatives that were applied at a local co-working space. (Top) Adopt a plant initiative (Bottom) Coasters and napkins printed with seed paper for the Grow your plant initiative (Right) Interactive potted plant to encourage interaction with nature.

1/ What attracted you to a career in Design Research? And what is your favourite thing about it?

While I was at university, I came across Jane Jacobs’ influential book, ‘The Life and Death of Great American Cities’. Her passion and determination to improve her neighbourhood using a community-based, people-centric approach really resonated with me and she quickly became one of my personal heroes.

At the time, several urban planners actively resisted her book. Many questioned her lack of credentials (she was never formally trained as an urban planner), while others thought that her primary method of street observation was disconcertingly subjective compared to  the statistically-oriented methods that are often used. However, her passion for her neighbourhood and ability to observe and empathise changed the way cities are currently planned and opened our eyes to important human-centric aspects that are typically rendered invisible by modern narratives of development.

Jane Jacob’s attitude and passion showed me that creating good design solutions goes beyond education or professional practice. It is far more important to have empathy, relentlessness and a strong desire to change or improve things. This is why I chose a career in Design Research. I want to help design solutions that can make a positive impact on people’s lives. It’s such a privilege to be able to listen to people, design for them and channel my inner Jane Jacobs.

2/ How do you feed your creative energy?

Well, I naturally gravitate towards things that excite me or make me feel creatively charged. I’m lucky to have friends who often share quirky articles, cool websites and interesting services - these things often give me a creative buzz. It is always important to keep yourself updated about the latest happenings and trends. Social media has been really helpful for that. It might seem like a counterproductive activity but looking at memes or random comics can sometimes give you a spark of inspiration and set bigger things in motion. I have started a few interesting passion projects with friends because of a meme that gave us a good laugh.

In general, I feel it is always important to approach everything with a child-like curiosity and be open to new experiences. Inspiration is a sneaky thing, so open up your mind and experience as many things as possible.

3/ Is there a particular design challenge or problem you’re passionate about helping solve?

As a born and bred Singaporean, it has always been my dream to be able to contribute to the nation. In particular, I would like to use design research to get more Singaporeans involved in the design of their city and immediate environments. The city often adopts a top-down approach to deal with planning and governance but I believe that there is a huge potential for increased public engagement.

This was a problem I tried to tackle while I was in university. Widely known as a ‘city within a garden’, Singapore government has spent tons of money and effort greening the outdoors. Yet, many Singaporeans are indifferent to the nature they see everyday. This is why I started a participatory design project in a local co-working space to challenge Singaporeans to think about ways their environment can be improved with nature and encourage them to take ownership of the greenery around them. Seeing the co-working community get involved in the project and appreciate the nature in their office has been very rewarding. It has also fuelled my passion to continuously work on people-centric projects that bring about a positive change, especially in the area of environment design.

4/ What advice would you give design students looking to start a design career in Singapore?

Think bigger - there is so much more that you can do. I believe that most people in Singapore do not think of design education as something that can be applied to many areas. Most students pursue a design degree to focus on very specific skills, like graphic design or interior design, but I think being naturally creative is a super power. If possible, I would like to see more young designers apply the thinking process that is taught in schools to solving ‘wicked problems’.

5/ Can you share an example of a work project that helped shift how you view your city?

While working on the Green Spaces participatory design project, I  had a few industry experts tell me that my biggest obstacle would be getting Singaporeans involved and excited about nature in their work environment. Even if the government were to mandate the provision of plants in offices, most Singaporeans would not be inclined to engage with the nature around them.  This was also something that I felt was true - it is a common belief that Singaporeans are just not interested in getting involved.

However, through the project, I’ve learnt that Singaporeans are willing to engage in conversations and and offer suggestions that can help design better solutions. The problem is that most Singaporeans have never been engaged in a meaningful manner and therefore, do not see the value of getting involved. They always seem to think that their perspectives or opinions will never be taken into consideration. By listening to their needs and designing for them, I think it allowed those involved in the project to see the value of their insights and also encouraged them to take ownership of the resulting solutions.

Friday Five with our Design Intern: Carina

The Swing Ring, designed by Carina.

The Swing Ring, designed by Carina.

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.


 

Design Sprints/ Geek Girls Singapore

Heist is thrilled to partner with the global Geek Girls movement here in Singapore. 

We will be running a workshop on ethnography hacks and design sprints 6th June at Lattice 80 in Singapore. 

Design sprints 101 will show you how to address critical business questions through design, prototyping, and testing ideas with customers in record time.

While all of our events are open to both men and women, spaces for this workshop are limited and will be allocated on a first come first serve basis to the fastest ladies.

Tickets are available here - come join us!