From music products to healthcare technology

Mr Low, the first Singaporean on the design team in 1991, is now head of design at Philips Asean Pacific.
Mr Low, the first Singaporean on the design team in 1991, is now head of design at Philips Asean Pacific.PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

When Mr Low Cheaw Hwei joined Philips as a young designer in 1991, he was the first Singaporean on a team designing products such as mini hi-fi systems, portable cassette players and boomboxes for the global market.

The 49-year-old is now head of design at Philips Asean Pacific, and his team not only designs products but also comes up with solutions and services for the healthcare industry.

Mr Low was also involved in designing the company's new six-storey Philips Apac Centre in Toa Payoh, which officially opened in May this year.

He joined a studio of fewer than a dozen designers at Philips Singapore in 1991, designing consumer electronics at the "peak of the late '80s and early 1990s music industry".

Within a year, he was relocated to the Dutch firm's headquarters in Eindhoven, where he worked with the design team for two years. He went on to do a five-year stint in Hong Kong.

After seven years abroad, Mr Low returned to Singapore to run Philips' design studio here, taking on a number of different portfolios over the years.

At its peak, the team was 50-strong and was designing audio and television products for the global market.

"All the remote controls for the entire Philips portfolio were created out of Singapore at one point," said Mr Low.

"A lot of expertise is needed to design something like that... A lot of things go into it which most people might take for granted."

Mr Low now heads a team of about 20 people who design not just products but also solutions and services to complement Philips' healthcare technology and hardware.

"We've moved on from the assembly of products to the assembly of ideas," he said.

This transformation was the inspiration behind the design of the Philips Apac Centre, which now houses 900 employees who previously occupied four office buildings.

"We had the opportunity to create and define an office facility that not only serves our current needs, but also prepares us for the future," said Mr Low, who oversaw the design of the building.

"We needed a new spatial experience to shape the new ways of working and a new collaborative work culture that are in line with our business transformation.

"(This takes) us from being a supplier of advanced medical and consumer products... to being a provider of innovative health technology solutions and services."

Chia Yan Min

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 10, 2016, with the headline 'From music products to healthcare technology'. Print Edition | Subscribe