Higher learning institutes to enhance design education programmes

The word "design" has expanded to take on new meaning - it does not involve merely shaping how things look, such as interior design or landscaping, but also how things work, said Mr Mark Wee, executive director of the DesignSingapore Council.
The word "design" has expanded to take on new meaning - it does not involve merely shaping how things look, such as interior design or landscaping, but also how things work, said Mr Mark Wee, executive director of the DesignSingapore Council.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE KIAT

SINGAPORE - The institutes of higher learning (IHLs) here are set to infuse a wider appreciation of design into their curriculum, at a time where job scopes are changing and demand is rising for people with design skills.

The word "design" has expanded to take on new meaning - it does not involve merely shaping how things look, such as interior design or landscaping, but also how things work, said Mr Mark Wee, executive director of the DesignSingapore Council.

"There's a whole other realm of what we call 'experience making'. Within that, you start to see new disciplines like interaction design - how digital systems interact with physical systems; how we design interfaces and how they work well," he said.

He was speaking to The Straits Times on the sidelines of a briefing on Wednesday (July 3) by the Design Education Review Committee, which laid out five recommendations to enhance existing design programmes in the IHLs and embed design in their non-design programmes.

"Design is also about business strategies and user experience, about creating new products for markets that can be (economically) desirable," said Mr Wee, who is a member of the review committee.

Apple can be seen as a design-centric company, for instance, because it puts thought into factors such as the physical layout of its stores and the user interface of its phones, which have helped to build its brand.

Speaking on the importance and power of design, Mr Wee cited a study last year by business management consultancy McKinsey on the value of design, which found that there is a strong correlation between how good a company is at design and how well it performs.

The first of the committee's recommendations is to set up a separate committee comprising key industry leaders and IHL representatives, among others, to strengthen industry links such as building overseas networks or introducing collaboration opportunities.

The second is to give students across more disciplines - such as engineering, business and infocomm media - more opportunities to come together and pick up design-led creative thinking skills.

The third is to enhance training programmes to support both design professionals and educators, or trainers. This includes helping educators keep up to date with industry trends so they can adjust their teaching methods or content, and providing more study awards for both professionals taking the courses and educators.

The committee also recommended that real-world design learning platforms be created for professionals. For a start, a "School of X" programme will be piloted.

Mr Wee called it a "design studio" involving projects hosted by an institution or agency that challenges participants to solve problems.

The last recommendation is in the area of lifelong learning - empowering the general public to learn about design through modular courses and learning communities.

 

The DesignSingapore Council - Singapore's national agency for design - comes under the purview of the Economic Development Board.

These recommendations follow a two-year review and the Ministry of Trade and Industry said on Wednesday it has accepted them in full.

Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and Education Chee Hong Tat said: "Besides being an industry on its own, design can also help to encourage innovation and improve productivity across different sectors. It is a useful enabler in our economic transformation journey."