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DesignSingapore’s Value of Design Forum

Encouraging Singapore’s small and medium-sized enterprises to seriously consider the business value of design thinking was the goal of this recent forum.

DesignSingapore’s Value of Design Forum


December 20th, 2012

A large audience gathered at Singapore’s NTUC Centre on 3 December to hear a panel of speakers address the topic of ‘Design Value Creation’.

The event’s organiser, the Ministry of Communications and Information’s DesignSingapore Council, had a clear message: businesses that implement design thinking into their processes, products and services achieve better performance and productivity. Of course, while that’s good for businesses, it’s also good for the country’s level of competitiveness.

The DesignSingapore Council’s Executive Director Jeffrey Ho opened the forum by making it clear that Singapore has a need to innovate. Grant money is available for businesses that wish to become more design driven, he said openly.

Design is about understanding users, said Ho. The point that there is far more to consider than aesthetic treatment was emphasised throughout the forum.

Value of Design Forum

Richard Seymour delivering his keynote address

Richard Seymour, Co-founder and Design Director of the UK’s Seymourpowell, delivered an engaging keynote address titled ‘Designing Demand for Profitability’.

These days, he said, anthropology should be placed before technology when new products and services are being developed. “Don’t ask people what they want; watch what they do,” he suggested. “The consumer is becoming the centre of the universe.” chatted to Seymour after the forum to find out more about his approach to design and the future shape of things. Read more in our separate interview feature.

Value of Design Forum

Panel discussion

A lengthy panel discussion followed Seymour’s keynote. Joining him on stage were Singapore business identities Jimmy Tong (President and Founder of Luxx Newhouse Group) and Anna Lim (Executive Director of The Soup Spoon); Roland Heiler (Managing Director of Porsche Design Studio, Austria); and moderator Rachel Kelly (Senior Business Reporter at MediaCorp’s Channel NewsAsia).

Among the topics discussed were the ability of many car companies to create a ‘cultural appearance’ that’s recognisable in the market; The Soup Spoon’s recognition of its need for emotional attachment with its customers; the strengths and opportunities of the Asian region (such as proficiency in traditional crafts) for the development of an ‘Asian’ identity for global expression; and the importance of originality, meaning, truth and identity in products and services.

Value of Design Forum

DesignSingapore Council’s Executive Director Jeffrey Ho at the Design for Enterprises Centre grabbed a few minutes with Ho at the conclusion of the forum to find out more about DesignSingapore’s efforts in promoting design thinking to local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Here’s some of what he had to say:

“The Design for Enterprises (DFE) programme was set up in 2008, and the DFE Centre opened in 2010. It’s a collaborative initiative by the DesignSingapore Council, Spring Singapore and International Enterprise Singapore. The idea is to help our SMEs use design to be competitive. Among all of Singapore’s other sets of cluster development, design is seen to be quite strategic for companies.”

“An example of the programmes we have is the Design for Business Innovation grant for companies. That’s a grant of 70% of the design consultancy fee, or up to $70,000 dollars. A business needs to approach us with a designer to apply for that grant. If they do not have a designer, we can help them look for one. We do not select the designers, and we don’t give advice about which designer to choose. Our officers will then work with the business-designer team to look at what kind of innovative proposal can emerge.”

“Our Design for Enterprises Centre has been very well used. We hold networking sessions, talks, and workshops with designers and businesses.”

“The VA [value add to GDP] contribution of the design industry in Singapore has gone up in recent years. Our architects, interior designers and product designers are doing well and winning awards. I think awareness is increasing at the student, public and business level.”

Top image: the panel of speakers. L–R: Richard Seymour, Anna Lim, Roland Heiler, Jimmy Tong and moderator Rachel Kelly.

DesignSingapore Council

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