Taking design beyond aesthetics

To ensure that Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park would serve the many generations of people living around it, the upgrading of the 62ha park and the canal adjacent to it involved the community, designers, engineers, bioengineering specialists and horticulturali
To ensure that Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park would serve the many generations of people living around it, the upgrading of the 62ha park and the canal adjacent to it involved the community, designers, engineers, bioengineering specialists and horticulturalists.PHOTO: DESIGNSINGAPORE COUNCIL

The Design Masterplan Committee has outlined several recommendations, centred on five key strategic thrusts, in its latest masterplan, Design 2025. Arti Mulchand looks at how some of the recommendations will use design to drive growth, solve complex problems and create a city that is both liveable and loveable.

Strategic thrust #1: Design as part of the national skill set

To create a nation that appreciates and has an aptitude for good design, current and future workforces need to develop the necessary skills. The seeds of design have to be sown at a young age, the design workforce has to be trained, and the design community has to continually strive to better itself.


Start young

An integrated curriculum of enrichment programmes centred on design should be introduced from pre-school to secondary school to get young Singaporeans comfortable with experimenting and creative problem solving.

For the young ones, this could include programmes that encourage creativity, learning-by-doing, crafting and storytelling.

At higher levels, students would learn to apply design thinking to real world challenges.


When you start from young, you have an opportunity to build in a sensitivity to design, a sensorial appreciation of the environment that will teach them to solve problems in a more creative way. It's not just about the makers and doers of design, but also about cultivating design buyers and consumers as well.

MR LOW CHEAW HWEI, Design Masterplan Committee member and head of design for Philips Asean Pacific and Philips Design Consulting Asia.

Industry-ready designers

The multi-disciplinary aspects of design education should be strengthened, and business modules added to design diploma and degree courses. DesignSingapore Council's existing scholarship programmes should also be extended to candidates from ITEs, polytechnics and universities.

Continual learning

Continual professional development and accreditation programmes should be introduced.

Following the successful launch of an accreditation programme for landscape architects by the Singapore Institute of Landscape Architects, there are plans to extend accreditation to areas such as interior design and urban design.

Strategic thrust #2: Expand the role of design in businesses and government

Businesses and the Government both need to strengthen their design capabilities so they can better respond to an operating environment that is rapidly changing, both locally and globally.

Using a people-centric approach to products, services as well as policies will make them more robust and relevant.


The Design Promotion Unit to encourage the use of design in businesses will be a multi-agency team. I envisage that we will have officers from Spring Singapore, EDB, IE Singapore and the DesignSingapore Council… and really provide a one-stop shop.

DR BEH SWAN GIN, Design Masterplan Committee member and chairman of the Economic Development Board (EDB).


Govt-wide Design Promotion Unit

Establishing a Design Promotion Unit will enable the Government to provide a more comprehensive range of assistance to businesses that intend to scale up their use of design for growth.

This assistance could take the form of facilitating collaborations between companies, design firms and research institutes.

Design thinking in policymaking

People-driven design thinking could help create policies and services that are more user-friendly and intuitive for citizens.

Key national initiatives, including existing ones like Smart Nation, which drives IT adoption, should draw on design processes and expertise to affect citizens' behaviour and mindsets.


A lot of micro SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) struggle. The idea of shared services is essential and that is something schools don't teach young designers about. How can we share resources and focus on design? That infrastructure needs to be put in place so they can focus on differentiating their designs and creating new intellectual property.

MR TAI LEE SIANG, Design Masterplan Committee member and group managing director of ONG&ONG Singapore.

Strategic thrust #3: Strengthen the competitiveness of design firms

DesignSingapore Council should play a stronger role in helping small design firms scale up.

It can create the infrastructure for them to enjoy economies of scale and encourage them to create proprietary offerings and intellectual property (IP).


Shared services and expansion opportunities

Small Singapore-based design firms could benefit from access to shared services such as public relations, human resources, accounting and IP management.

They would also stand to gain from interim workspaces and networks in priority overseas markets. Such advantages would provide the economies of scale that would give them an added edge.

Physical and digital "clustering" of such design firms could also foster collaboration and co-creation within the industry.


Design is not something for a select few. The ability to create things that improve our lives requires core skills, an ecosystem and the ability to work across traditional disciplines, but it is something that we can all be a part of.

MR TIM KOBE, Design Masterplan Committee member and chief executive officer, Eight Inc.

Strategic thrust #4: Bring design into communities

As more people participate in co-designing their environments, they will feel a greater sense of pride and belonging. Neighbourhoods, in turn, will become more distinctive, and become spaces that communities love and strive to improve.


Getting hands-on with design

Citizens and residents should be given easy access to design activities like exhibitions and public talks, by bringing such events into community centres, regional libraries and shopping malls.

Businesses and the Government could also engage citizens in co- creating better daily living experiences through design by equipping them with the know-how to participate.

Celebrating success

Design highpoints and role models in Singapore should be celebrated and publicised through success stories, trails and precincts, allowing Singapore to evolve into a living "design museum".


Inviting the community to co-create the environment around them not only gives them a stronger sense of ownership, but also means they can create a more resilient environment for themselves. Involving the elderly, for example, means design can anticipate any issues that could arise from their needs.

MR JEFFREY HO, executive director, DesignSingapore Council.

Strategic thrust #5: Develop the Singapore design brand

Singapore's creative side needs to become a distinctive part of the Singapore brand, complementing everything else the nation is already known for, including efficiency, innovation and economic success.



Singapore designers are still quite humble. We do great work but I think we generally do not blow our own trumpets. But it is a very noisy world out there… We need to learn to better communicate as a total brand, a Singapore brand of design or as a community of designers that do great work.


Put Singapore's best foot forward

The Singapore Design Week should be expanded into a premier international design festival, with a focus on Asia. Its thought leadership offerings could be increased, including through design-driven symposiums and business-focused conferences.

Meanwhile, successful and emerging Singaporean design talent should be given the spotlight at major international trade fairs and design shows.

Leave a distinctive mark

The Singapore Good Design Mark (SG-Mark), which recognises well- designed products and solutions, should be developed to become the regional standard for well-designed products and services.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 22, 2016, with the headline 'Taking design beyond aesthetics'. Print Edition | Subscribe