This year’s Singapore Design Week – helmed by DesignSingapore Council, the national agency for design – was a keenly curated and radical undertaking, emphasising the city-state’s growing status as a design destination and opening up new conversations on the ways design can enrich contemporary urban life.
Central to the week was the Innovation by Design Conference, which saw DesignSingapore Council partner with Time Inc and its Fortune, Time and Wallpaper* brands. Together, they presented an electrifying line-up of speakers – global leaders in fields such as design, technology and innovation, customer experience and human behaviour. Among them were Ernesto Quinteros (chief design officer of Johnson & Johnson); André Fu (founder of Hong Kong’s AFSO); Mauro Porcini (chief design officer of PepsiCo); designers Daan Roosegaarde, Mokena Makeka and Beatrix Ong. Together, they explored the conscious growth of design capabilities in multinational companies, the impact of material science on design development, how individual design elements can come together to create emotional resonance, and more.
The conference preceded the announcement of Brainstorm Design, an even more substantial collaboration between Wallpaper*, Fortune, Time, and DesignSingapore Council. Set to take place in 2018 and 2019 – coinciding with future Singapore Design Weeks – it is a new symposium led by the magazines’ esteemed editorial teams. Supported by the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB), its packed schedule will include presentations and panel discussions on design’s ability to build businesses, bolster sustainability, engage communities and enrich the daily lives of Singapore’s inhabitants. The range of speakers will be broad, featuring leaders in industrial and product design, urban planning, landscaping, architecture, graphic design, fashion, nanotechnology and more. It’s a lofty, ambitious undertaking, encapsulating DesignSingapore Council and the EDB’s commitment to furthering Singapore’s already groundbreaking approach to design as a holistic boon to contemporary life.
The continued collaboration of Wallpaper* shows the industry-leading magazine’s unwavering support of Singapore. ‘Singapore is undoubtedly one of the great economic success stories of the past 50 years,’ explains Wallpaper* Editor-in-Chief Tony Chambers. ‘We want to make it the great design success story of the next ten years. And great design,’ he adds, ‘makes for great business.’
This idea is key to Singapore’s identity as a creative hub. The city state established the DesignSingapore Council in 2003, with a view to developing a booming design ecosystem to propel innovation and growth, and improving the lives of its 5.78 million residents.
This aim is bolstered by Singapore’s status as a Unesco Creative City of Design, awarded in 2015 – an accolade that has bolstered the local design scene and encouraged creatives to look across the globe for inspiration and collaboration.
Take, for instance, furniture designer Gabriel Tan. His works, such as the stylised and minimal ‘Stove Chair’, nod to the spatial limitations of Singaporean living. Together with Sebastián Alberdi, Wendy Chua and Gustavo Maggio, he is also a founding member of design collective Outofstock. Then there’s industrial designer Nathan Yong, whose simple, restrained approach saw him tipped as one of the world’s most promising young designers at 2011’s Salone del Mobile and whose work has been featured in design publications across the world, including of course Wallpaper*.
Central Saint Martins graduate Olivia Lee, meanwhile, worked with the EDB on returning to Singapore in 2011, developing a nuanced appreciation of the economic, social and corporate contexts of design. Her naturalistic, refined works – mirror-set log benches, classically influenced drawing instruments, the serene and verdant Wonder Facility workspace – set a high watermark for a new wave of Singaporean design.
An endgame to Singapore’s creative aspirations, of sorts, is articulated in the Design 2025 Masterplan. The plan is a clarion call for industry and government to work hand-in-hand towards an even more vibrant and competitive Singapore – using design as to solve societal problems and create jobs. It gives Singapore’s residents an active role in shaping their living environment, and a stronger sense of belonging and community. The work of DesignSingapore Council and the EDB is integral to this goal. Explains Jeremy Sun, of leading design consultancy Orcadesign, ‘What the creative industry can bring to the economy is higher values, innovative solutions for major issues: how to improve urban lifestyles and living conditions.’
By staging events such as Singapore Design Week and the Brainstorm Design conference, and so solidly positioning design as a positive tool for change, Singapore is taking its place at the forefront of the design world: a country and community with design fully integrated into the fabric of life. A liveable city, becoming a loveable one, too.