Since our independence in 1965, Singapore has leaned heavily on design to get around constraints like lack of natural resources and challenging regional geo- politics. Terms like “design innovation” weren’t used back then, but it’s clear that design helped play a crucial role in get- ting public housing, transportation and education right. We had to approach problems with the mindset and practice of a designer – defining, prototyping, testing and reviewing ideas on a small scale to fail safely while learning.
Design is increasingly recognised as a key contributor to economic competitiveness. More organisations are willing to invest in it as an essential activity for growth. For instance, the role of a chief design officer didn’t exist when I was studying to be an architect. Today, there are chief design officers at multinational companies such as PepsiCo, Philips, Hyundai and Johnson & Johnson, to name a few.
“Good design transforms, improves, connects and challenges”
The vision of Singapore’s Design 2025 Masterplan is to transform the city-state into an innovation-driven economy and a loveable city by design. Through opportunities to enhance capabilities and adopting design in other business processes, design can become a national skillset that readies Singaporeans for the future economy; the ability of design to impact everyday living also reflects its importance in shaping a better quality of life and a stronger sense of national identity. With Design 2025, we’re hoping to see more opportunities for design talents to grow and be trained.
We’ve also stepped up our efforts at exploring collaborations and partnerships with other design councils and think tanks. My predecessor and Singapore’s first design ambassador, Agnes Kwek, is now based in Paris and is raising the profile of Singapore as a city of design overseas, leading to a presence in the inaugural Le French Design 100 awards for instance. The Council’s partner- ship with Wallpaper* has also led to a showcase of Singapore design talents at the magazine’s iconic Handmade exhibition at Milan Design Week.
We want to champion the growth of the design industry. Good design transforms, improves, connects and challenges. It should lead to a positive outcome, be it in trans- forming business, raising someone’s quality of life, connecting communities or pushing boundaries to advance the design industry.
Ultimately, we hope to see design as a tool to solve problems and innovate sustainably. Design helped us shape a place for ourselves in this world at the start, and I believe it will help us reimagine Singapore again.
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This article was originally published in the March 2019 issue of SilverKris magazine