Designing Dreams

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This article first appeared in haven, The Edge Malaysia, on Issue #82 December 2016 - February 2017.

 

Find out what inspires the creative endeavours of the international designers who spoke at the inaugural Royal Selangor Design Week held in October, with a peek into their mind and day-to-day life

 

WHO: Ian Macready and Voon Wong

WHERE: UK

WHAT: Directors of Viewport Studio

WHY: The design firm has a strong presence in London and Singapore with a portfolio that encompasses furniture, lighting, product design, architecture and interior design. One of their most significant projects to date is the upper-class bar and cabin for Virgin Atlantic, dubbed the “longest bar in the sky”.

 

What encouraged you to venture into the creative field?  

Wong: I studied architecture at university partly because construction was part of my family background. Also, importantly, Singapore was rapidly changing, and I thought that through architecture, I could play a part in that change.

Macready: I went to live in Helsinki in the 1980s and design there was such an intrinsic part of everyday life that when I returned to London in the 1990s, I wanted to work in that field.

 

What are your design principles and philosophies? 

Our studio has developed as a multidisciplinary agency and that very much informs how we work. The interplay between furniture and architecture has always been of great interest to me and we take that interplay into our work. 

 

Which of your creations has been the most satisfactory, and why?

Wong: The Loop lamp which I designed with Benson Saw has always been a favourite. And, of course, our work for the cabins for Virgin Atlantic Airways allowed us to use so many different skills and took us down new design paths, which was really satisfying.

Macready: One of our recent projects was the Dipper lamp for the Wasabi restaurant chain, and it is always great to walk down a high street in different parts of the country and see the lamp hanging in the window.

 

Where do you see the design industry headed and what can we expect to see in 2017?

Design is in a bit of stasis at the moment as we wait for new technologies such as 3D printing to become feasible or more widely available. To be honest, I am not much of a trend predictor and we try to work outside of trends.

 

Do you have a mentor or has anyone influenced your work? 

Wong: There have been, of course, so many people. But I think Latin American art and design of the 1960s onwards has been very undervalued … it has always been a source of inspiration. 

Macready: Dieter Rams, the German industrial designer, is an obvious choice for me. He was given the luxury by his employer Braun to design for the long term. I still use some of his products today — such as the calculator and citromatic juice presser — which I bought in the 1980s.

 

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received and what words of wisdom would you offer budding designers today?

Wong: Listen to your client. 

Macready: And make sure that invoices get paid on time!

 

Outside of design, what are your interests and how do they influence your work? 

Wong: These days, I have taken to tending my garden in south London. It is a little peaceful oasis and allows me to think through design problems as I pot plants.

Macready: I now live on the south coast of England and I love to go walking along the cliffs or cycling along the sea front. Staring out to sea is a great way to relax. 

 

 

WHO: Jamy Yang 

WHERE: China 

WHAT: Design Director of Yang Design 

WHY: One of China’s leading product designers and the recipient of nearly 100 design awards, Yang founded China’s first private industrial design museum, Yang Design Museum, in 2013. This year, he set up Yang House, a lifestyle brand that focuses on the revival of traditional Chinese craftsmanship.

 

What encouraged you to venture into the creative field?

It was merely for pleasure in the beginning, but now, social responsibility comes to my mind. ‘Can design change society?’ — this is the question that I am pondering upon.

 

What are your design principles and philosophies?

Good designs should deliver perfect user experiences and instil a positive sense of enlightenment in society.

 

Which of your creations has been the most satisfactory, and why?

It is difficult to say, because I always look forward to doing better each time.

 

Where do you see the design industry headed and what can we expect to see in 2017?

I think the way people live and work is becoming more internet-based and virtual in this new round of industrial revolution. At the same time, the desire for a high-quality, tangible life increases each day, which will no doubt become the future trend of our lifestyle and design. With this trend, will people be increasingly materialistic and enslaved by technology? Or, will material objects and technology become more and more humane to meet people’s inner desires and, as such, further achieve a positive sense of social enlightenment and value?

 

Do you have a mentor or has anyone influenced your work? 

My German mentor Professor Dieter Zimmer has had great influence on me. He said to me, ‘Simplicity is a mindset, which is hard to realise.’ It means we should make ourselves simple, so as to let go of meaningless temptations, concentrate on the truly meaningful things and pursue them to the fullest. I always think and act in such a way.

 

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received and what words of wisdom would you offer budding designers today?

The best advice was from my mentor. For new designers, my advice is: ‘We should build our values upon our faith, not upon utilitarian values’.

 

Outside of design, what are your interests and how do they influence your work?

I have been collecting antique industrial products for more than 10 years; with these, I have established a private museum on industrial design. From these old objects, I am able to discover the lifestyle, history, humanities and aesthetics of the people in certain regions during certain periods of time.

 

 

WHO: Jarrod Lim

WHERE: Singapore

WHAT: Founder of Jarrod Lim Design

WHY: The winner of multiple awards, including the Pinnacle Award USA, the A&D Trophy Award and the Young Designer of the Year in Australia, Lim has also exhibited his works in Europe, the US, Asia and Australia, and has worked with sought-after designers such as Patricia Urquiola.

 

What encouraged you to venture into the creative field?

I had wanted to do something in design since secondary school. I am lucky that I discovered my passion early on and was able to pursue it right through my schooling. Originally, I thought I would become an architect and I was ready to apply, but when I began researching the various university degrees, I found that industrial design was more appealing. Since graduating, I’ve worked in many different countries and many different fields of design. Now, my scope of work is quite broad. I’m happy to work in any area that allows me to be creative and use the different skills that I’ve picked up along the way.

 

What are your design principles and philosophies?

In my designs, I focus on investigating how people relate to the materials, objects and spaces that surround them. It is through this process of investigation that I can find new inspiration and connections, whether it’s something to do with the material or the manufacturing process. My aim for each project is to realise a delicate balance between creating something new and engaging while being aware of and maintaining a sense of purpose and tradition. 

 

Which of your creations has been the most satisfactory, and why?

The collection with Royal Selangor (RS) is probably my most satisfying to date. Because RS is a very design-driven company, it was easy to work with them. They understood what I was trying to describe and present in the designs and everyone in the company worked in the same direction to achieve the best results possible. It made the whole experience very rewarding and the end results reflect that.

 

Where do you see the design industry headed and what can we expect to see in 2017?

I think the world economy is not so great at the moment, so possibly, there will be less investment in design. But I think there are still a lot of young designers coming up with new ideas and it’s easier than ever to get those ideas out into the public. 

 

Do you have a mentor or has anyone influenced your work? 

I think my time with Patricia Urquiola has influenced my design thinking the most. I really gained an international perspective from her and learnt so much about designing for high-end brands and luxury interiors. At the time, her office was very small and we were involved in every project that came in. It was very hands-on and Patricia was always around, giving direction. I think it was the perfect period to be working with her, and it would be difficult to get such an insightful experience today. I have also had the opportunity to spend time with Naoto Fukasawa in the past few years and that changed my thinking once again. From him I learnt much about the idea of unconscious design. Meaning that, often, there are small elements in the product that a person interacts with unconsciously. For example, you may always use your umbrella to hold a shopping bag, so in one of his designs, he added a very subtle hook for holding a shopping bag.

 

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received and what words of wisdom would you offer budding designers today?

It’s not so much a piece of advice that I have received but something I have learnt over many years speaking with some of the top designers. Many of the world’s most famous designers took a very long time to reach that level. I think young designers expect to get to the same level straight out of college without putting in the 10-to-20 years of effort. And I find that when they discover it’s much more difficult than they had expected and the money doesn’t come so easily, most of them give up too soon. 

 

Outside of design, what are your interests and how do they influence your work?

I do a lot of cycling. I like to go on long rides, which can span a few days. The people I cycle with are mostly business people, often CEOs of companies, business owners and, for some reason, a lot of people who work in banks. So I get to see and hear completely different perspectives on work and life. I think it’s very useful to meet with people outside of your industry to gain different insights and just to understand that there are different paths in life. I don’t meet many designers who are interested in this type of cycling.

 

 

WHO: Nathan Yong

WHERE: Singapore

WHAT: Founder of Nathan Yong Design

WHY: The recipient of the Singapore President’s Design Award in 2008 and two-time winner of the Red Dot Award, Yong is also the design director and founder of Grafunkt — an up-and-coming furniture retailer that carries designs by Yong and other designers. His work revolves around industrial design, graphics, interior design, architectural design, strategic planning in product development, manufacturing process and branding. 

 

What encouraged you to venture into the creative field?

I was not very academically inclined when young. I was good at drawing and technical classes, so I guess it was a natural progression from there.

 

What are your design principles and philosophies?

My design has to be efficient in the use of materials without compromising the quality of the make and beauty of its form. Most of the time, it is about stripping down to the essence so as to clearly communicate the existence of the type.

 

Which of your creations has been the most satisfactory, and why?

This is a tough question as all my works are a labour of much thought and consideration. If I were to base it on significance, I will have to say that it is the Line collection, which I sold to Design Within Reach in 2010. It is a well-established company that distributes high-end furniture brands from around the world such as Herman Miller, Magis and Knoll. Since then, the collection has been their bestseller. The Vapour collection, which I did for Royal Selangor, has the same classic and timeless appeal as the Line collection. The aim is to have a collection that has longevity and is not fashion-led. 

 

Where do you see the design industry headed and what can we expect to see in 2017?

Design is closely tied to the economy. When the economy takes a downturn, many brands will slow down their R&D and launching of new products. But an economic downturn can also be a good time to look into new design values. Maybe design should be less fashion-led … maybe design should be well made to last longer with better values … maybe design should be more efficient in its production and the use of materials that has been long forgotten, and so on. So I think it is a good opportunity for designers and brands to re-evaluate their values. 

 

Do you have a mentor or has anyone influenced your work?  

Yes, my polytechnic course manager, Frank Drake, from the UK. To an Asian teenager without much contact with the outside world in the late 1980s, Frank was a breath of fresh air. He allowed us to question everything and open our minds to the possibilities, guts and responsibilities of being industrial designers. That was an eye-opener for an Asian kid raised with Asian values. We would cry if we performed badly in class because we knew that we had failed him. He inspires me to be a good role model … Now I am in my mid-40s. My ex-classmates and I still talk about him when we meet up. His popular quotes were, ‘You are designing for humans, not Singaporeans’ and ‘The product starts to die the day you think you had designed it perfect’.

 

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received and what words of wisdom would you offer budding designers today?

Be curious in life, be observant. Be a designer for the love of designing, not for your ego or money.   

 

Outside of design, what are your interests and how do they influence your work?

I like to travel, do a bit of gardening and watch films. I am living life and life informs my design.