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100% Design Singapore: The Return To Making

In the lead up to 100% Design Singapore, exhibition curator Voon Wong and other key players in the industry discuss “The Return To Making” at a round table. Yvonne Xu reports.

100% Design Singapore: The Return To Making


August 15th, 2013

It is a month to go before design-led interior exhibition 100% Design Singapore returns to Singapore for its second running and exhibition curator Voon Wong has already kick-started the discussion with a round table event. In line with this year’s exhibition theme of “100% X – Making”, which spotlights the culture of craft making as well as design processes, Wong led the discussion on “The Return To Making” in early August, covering topics such as the role of craft in design cultures in Asia and beyond, new technologies that are impacting contemporary processes of design, as well as the latest trends emerging from Singapore and Southeast Asia.

100 Design Singapore

The panel of speakers: (left) Voon Wong, (right) Rajesh Shah

The panellists included designer Jarrod Lim of Singapore-based Jarrod Lim Design, Managing Director of Air Division Michael Toh, Vice President of the Interior Design Confederation (Singapore) Rajesh Shah, and Vice President of Marketing at the Shaw Contract Group John Stephens. Here are some of the highlights:

100 Design Singapore

Rok paperweight by Desinere, to be presented by Haystakt – a new website focused on ’making’ – at 100% Design Singapore this year

On craft and the Singapore design scene:

Michael Toh: Singapore has a lot of design schools, but I find that students here do not actually have skills of the craft or want to learn the process. They are very dreamy, and good with computers and [you hear them say] “This is what I like, I want to do this”, but they don’t have a grasp of the reality of the production process. They don’t visit factories, they don’t know how it actually works; they know theory, but have no practical knowledge.

Rajesh Shah: My understanding of the market in Singapore is that graduating students are technically competent. What I think is lacking is that they don’t spend enough time thinking; they spend time thinking how to get [a concept] on the computer, how to make it look a certain way. Apart from these there is no other thinking because they run out of time; their projects’ timelines are tight. Then there are kids who are saying “No, I don’t want to go into the rat race and I want to do my own thing”, yet there is a disjoint in what they are taught and what they are qualified for, and it is hard for us to put them on a project and let them run it.

Jarrod Lim

Bezier Table by panellist Jarrod Lim

Jarrod Lim: I find [that] maybe Singapore’s graduates are expecting to work in a larger company, as opposed to European graduates who are more entrepreneurial, who are looking to do something for themselves, which generally translates into more craft-based products while they do their own thing. It’s hard to generalise [and] say all young designers are coming out with new, wild concepts or thinking more about craft, or thinking more about industrial production.

Jarrod Lim

Central Park Collection by Jarrod Lim

On the attitude of aspiring designers in Singapore:

Rajesh Shah: They come in with the attitude that I am a designer, but no you are not a designer until you have proven yourself as a designer. I remember this quote from my professor who could hand sketch anything or anybody and it would look like real – we don’t have that skill today anymore. He said, “Your degree is only your foot in the door, your actual training only starts with your first employment. You are employed as a designer but not actually a designer.”

John Stephens: What is interesting is that there are no boundaries – no geographical boundaries and no disciplinary boundaries anymore. Today young designers want to design spaces, products [and] experiences. They are really involved in all of these, and there is a sense of curiosity, which is something interesting.

Air Division

Perry Desk by Air Division

Voon Wong: It’s [a] natural maturation process. There is a disconnect between what we traditionally as Singaporeans are told to think – about cars, condos, etc – and with the emphasis on the creative society now, the need to set these things aside if [one] wants something else. [We’re at] an interesting juncture, about students being taught to work for big companies. We get a sense that students are getting a good education, but maybe being designers can be something more, maybe they don’t have to be confined to industrial design. The area of industrial design is changing. [More companies are setting up] not just factory bases but also design bases here.

Air Division

Air Division collection

On Singapore as a design hub for Asia:

Rajesh Shah: Singapore is becoming a design hub in the sense that there are more activities for designers, more events. We have George Lucas [and] Audi coming here to set up shop. We are becoming a magnet not so much for our designers per se, because [these companies] bring their designers, but we have an efficient system here. In terms of being a design base we are the best point in the region.

Jarrod Lim: European companies come here not for what they can do here, but what they [can] access from here. Many of them get access to projects via an Asian office.

A Balcony

Camper Desk and Pencil Storage by A Balcony

On co-creation and how the process is evolving:

Voon Wong: A lot of new processes are more possible. There are new computer systems and processes that make it possible to customise what the end result might be. Tom Dixon had lamps and chairs stamped and bent in front of end-users’ eyes, and had visitors take chairs or lamps away with [them], in a matter of minutes. Doing things differently is definitely more possible. And perhaps the role of designers will change; he or she may not be designing a tangible product anymore, but setting up a more open-ended process, a set of parameters or framework for end design.

John Stephens: What something such as 3D printing does is that it de-commodifies design; people will not be buying the object, they will be buying the design instead. When individuals own the production, and design belongs to the designer, this may allow people to rethink the value of design. It could be a paradigm shift.

100 Design Singapore

Structure made from 3D printing by 3D Matters

100% Design Singapore will be held from 11-13 September 2013 at Marina Bay Sands. Expect a showcase of the latest trends in interiors, as well as interactive sessions featuring live craft processes such as 3D printing, pottery making, material workshops, and seminar sessions chaired by international thought leaders.

Top image: Copper Vase by Outofstock, presented by Haystakt

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