MARK WEE

As an ar­chi­tect and vet­eran in the lo­cal de­sign in­dus­try, Mark Wee be­lieves that Sin­ga­pore has what it takes to be­come a pow­er­house of de­sign.

Home & Decor (Singapore) - - Contents - MARK WEE EX­EC­U­TIVE DI­REC­TOR DE­SIGN SIN­GA­PORE COUN­CIL

The ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of De­sign Sin­ga­pore Coun­cil on the fu­ture of lo­cal de­sign.

If you were to ask me how Sin­ga­pore de­sign has evolved over the decades, I would rst in­vite you to step into the Na­tional De­sign Cen­tre and visit the 50 Years Of Sin­ga­pore De­sign ex­hi­bi­tion.

Amid our de­sign mile­stones stands a “cracked” stool (top) de­signed by Nathan Yong in 2006. Called the Break stool, it helped put Sin­ga­pore on the global de­sign map when it was picked up by French fur­ni­ture com­pany Ligne Roset for pro­duc­tion. Since then, oth­ers like Stu­dio Juju, Lan­za­vec­chia + Wai, and Gabriel Tan Stu­dio have fol­lowed in Nathan’s foot­steps to win in­ter­na­tional ad­mi­ra­tion.

To­day, the idea of de­sign has broad­ened and con­tin­ues to evolve. Glob­ally, there is the grow­ing recog­ni­tion that de­sign can play a role in nd­ing so­lu­tions to life­style is­sues.

Within the health-care sec­tor, Tan Tock Seng Hos­pi­tal used de­sign-led con­cepts to make its ser­vices more user­friendly. Patient wait­ing times were cut by 40 per cent through the re­or­gan­i­sa­tion of hos­pi­tal ser­vices and sim­pli­fi­ca­tion of the var­i­ous med­i­cal pro­cesses.

We can­not stand still as the de­sign land­scape evolves. It was for this rea­son that we re­cently re­vamped the Pres­i­dent’s De­sign Award (PDA) to recog­nise the trans­for­ma­tive power of de­sign.

Good de­sign goes be­yond ex­cel­lent crafts­man­ship to trans­form economies, im­prove lives, con­nect com­mu­ni­ties or chal­lenge bound­aries, thus ad­vanc­ing the de­sign in­dus­try. One of our PDA prod­ucts is the Air+ Smart Mask. It’s hard not to feel proud when overseas vis­i­tors tell us that they buy these de­signed-in-Sin­ga­pore masks in bulk to cope with air pol­lu­tion back home.

As to where I see the lo­cal de­sign scene head­ing over the next 30 years, I be­lieve that Sin­ga­pore­ans would have de­vel­oped a strong de­sign cul­ture. We would also have a clear un­der­stand­ing and ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the value of de­sign, through ob­jects, places and im­ages. Sin­ga­pore would also have de­vel­oped its own de­sign lan­guage and brand that is recog­nised glob­ally. It is one that em­bod­ies our unique iden­tity, is the bridge be­tween the West and Asia, is rep­re­sen­ta­tive of our melt­ing pot of cul­tures, and shaped by healthy prag­ma­tism, and the use of tech­nol­ogy.

In or­der to get there, we have a long way to go. We are a young coun­try of only 50-plus years, with a young cul­ture. If you re­fer to the Dan­ish De­sign Lad­der con­cept, much of our pop­u­la­tion un­der­stands “De­sign as Styling”, ob­vi­ously so from the growth and public­ity of the ex­ist­ing de­sign in­dus­tries. We are still ed­u­cat­ing pri­vate and pub­lic sec­tor lead­ers on see­ing “De­sign as a Process” and “De­sign as a Strat­egy”, with the lat­ter re­fer­ring to the view of de­sign as in­te­gral not only to de­vel­op­ment pro­cesses, but also key to en­cour­ag­ing in­no­va­tion.

This would in­volve a fun­da­men­tal shift from un­der­stand­ing de­sign in its cur­rent dis­ci­plines in­volv­ing im­ages, places and ob­ject-mak­ing to that of hav­ing de­sign as a mind­set – one that in­te­grates ev­ery­thing ul­ti­mately for great ex­pe­ri­ences that bring new busi­ness value to or­gan­i­sa­tions.

As it is now, Sin­ga­pore de­sign has truly per­me­ated our lives. The next time you’re at a ko­pi­tiam, take a closer look at its plas­tic stools (right). Ex­ceed­ingly well de­signed by Chew Moh-Jin in 1990, the de­sign of that stool has stood the test of time to be a part of Sin­ga­pore­ans’ lives.

I’m condent that in the com­ing years, we will see only more of our lo­cal de­signs mak­ing waves at home and overseas.

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