Redefining design: Expanding the possibilities for designers and the role of design in the economy

Mr Chia Mia Chiang, President of Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts,

Ms Jamie Lim, Chief Executive Officer of Scanteak,

Ms Dawn Lai, Chief Executive Officer of Suntec City,

Public Sector colleagues,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen

Thank you for inviting me to this homage to design entrepreneurship. That this exhibition is jointly presented by Scanteak and the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts is especially praiseworthy. It illustrates the value that partnerships can create, and the paths that it can craft for Singapore’s design industry.

2          Across the world, the design landscape is shifting due to digital disruption and changes in consumer demand. At the same time, the role of and the demand for design in our economy is also expanding, with many opportunities for designers.

The next generation of talent: building capabilities, expanding possibilities

3          We’re here today to celebrate the bright prospects and possibilities for design; possibilities that can very well grow out of school projects.

4          Over five months last year, as you have heard, final-year NAFA students were mentored by three designers, as part of a live-client project with Scanteak. These students were challenged to design and create sleek and affordable furniture for the modern Singapore apartment. It was not an easy endeavour. But it was certainly a fulfilling one.

5          For the students, the project opened their eyes to design as something that improves our quality of life, and more.

6          One of them, Phebe Tan, shared her broadened perspectives on how design is a holistic process which considers consumer behaviour, culture, and industry. Another student, Jun Won, now understands that while aesthetics is a very important part of design, the discipline of design has expanded to encompass multiple skillsets and fields.

7          Today, as the winning designs, Phebe, Min Hur, and Jun Won’s pieces are part of Scanteak’s Nest Collection, and will be on sale across the country. I would like to congratulate the students on their journey from the classroom to the showroom.

8          We are heartened that Scanteak has brought together design mentors from NAFA and Outofstock design collective in this inaugural partnership to nurture the next generation of designers.

9          Especially encouraging is Scanteak’s willingness to groom budding talent and provide valuable guidance through rounds of feedback and iteration. Through the process, the students have created commercially-viable and globally-relevant pieces. Their exposure to the crossroads of commerce and traditional design will serve them in good stead.

The next generation of design: from form and function, to innovation and enterprise

10          This homage to design entrepreneurship is well-timed to attest the evolving role of designers.

11          We may be more familiar with design specialists, who are practitioners with deep technical expertise. But we are also witnessing a growing tribe of design entrepreneurs – designers with business acumen and the know-how to develop their enterprise.

12          Indeed, it is constructive for designers to hone complementary business sensibilities and take the helm in bringing their ideas and products to the market.

13          I know that this is something that our design-based trade association and chambers are very keen to champion. The DesignSingapore Council fully recognises this, and has been exploring how to grow the pipeline of world-class, industry-ready design talents. We will share more details in the coming months.

Design as a strategic tool across all sectors, a catalyst for our economy

14          In a rapidly changing operating environment, design is a powerful, transformative tool, and one that will be increasingly important for Singapore to keep our comparative advantage. Its role as a key driver of value creation for companies and the economy was confirmed by a recent McKinsey Value of Design study. I know this is a study that has been read by many in the design industry, and I think it is something that gives a lot of encouragement to those who champion good design. So as many of our designers already attest to, good design can mean good business.

15          In Singapore and beyond, more businesses are building in-house design teams to tap the value of design, leading to a growing demand for design integrators – designers who can infuse design in non-design businesses to bring about innovation. In today’s innovative- economy, ideas matter more than ever, and design is a critical skill-set and mind-set that will propel Singapore into its next stage of growth.

16          Enterprise Singapore and DesignSingapore Council have been supporting the growth of the design industry, and will continue to do so. DSG is moving to EDB next month. This move will intensify our efforts to prioritise design as an economic strategy.


17          This month is an especially vibrant one for design advocates and for all who enjoy what design brings to our lives and our city. Let us celebrate this spirit of co-creation and work to advance Singapore’s brand throughout the region and beyond. I hope that many of us who are here today are inspired by the example of NAFA and Scanteak, and I certainly hope that more of our companies will step forth like Jamie and Scanteak have done, to nurture and to groom the next generation of design talents.

18          Thank you very much, and have a great day.

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