DesignSingapore Scholarship: Helping Singapore develop into a leading hub of excellence

Ms Lim Si Ping Mr Justin Zhuang
Ms Lim Si Ping
Ms Lim Si Ping Mr Justin Zhuang
Mr Justin Zhuang

When it comes to design, DesignSingapore scholarship holder Lim Si Ping declares that she follows the "mantra" of serial entrepreneur and author Colin Wright: It's a game for two.

"There is someone else involved, their needs are just as important as your own," said the 29-year-old .

In other words, both the needs of the designer and the client have to be met, explained Ms Lim, who is pursuing a master of fine arts in design & technology at New York's Parsons School of Design.

She received a scholarship from the DesignSingapore Council in 2014 and will graduate later this year. Ms Lim, a former art director in the advertising industry, says that her time at Parsons has changed her approach to design.

Her studies, which combine design and technology, motivated her to learn to code and expanded her interest in design beyond aesthetics. She now takes a more "logical approach through algorithms and physics", she said.

Right now, she is analysing how living in crowded cities like New York and Singapore influences one's sense of personal space. She has set up an interactive installation in a public place and records encounters by strangers to see if the "invisible boundaries" around people change in the presence of others.

She believes that design is as much about function as it is about form, a principle that she sees constantly at work in the daily lives of Singaporeans.

"Good design exists to solve problems and has to meet the needs of others. For example, MRT maps are designed for easy navigation from one place to another and supermarket checkout counters are designed the way they are to help reduce long queues," she said.

Another DesignSingapore scholarship holder, writer Justin Zhuang, 32, said that many people do not realise how design around them shapes their behaviour.

"Besides helping to beautify the environment, greenery is also used as a means to direct how we travel around the city. Just think of how many times a shrub blocks you from taking the most direct route to a location," he said.

Mr Zhuang received a scholarship to study design criticism at the School of Visual Arts in New York in 2013, and returned here last year after graduating with a master of fine arts.

The scholarship gave him financial stability and the freedom to take on internships at organisations like the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum and architecture and design magazine Metropolis during his time in New York.

"Such institutions do not exist in Singapore, so I gained a lot of experience seeing it up close," he says.

Mr Zhuang is working on an online Singapore Graphic Archive, building on his work at the Singapore Visual Archive, which documents visual materials about Singapore, including notable logos.

"I'd like to see more Singapore designers tackle issues that affect our everyday lives. Most people think design is good to have but not essential. For instance, there is a gap between Singapore design and the kopitiam auntie - designer chairs are recognised as design but not the everyday kopitiam chairs."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 01, 2016, with the headline DesignSingapore Scholarship: Helping Singapore develop into a leading hub of excellence. Subscribe