A letter to graduating students

Hello everyone! 

A huge congratulations to all of you – the Management team, Educators and especially all our graduating students who spent countless nights working on assignments, final year projects, preparing for presentations and so on.

All of you have come a long way and deserve every minute of this standing ovation. [standing ovation claps sound]

Come to think of it, it has been almost 20 years since I graduated and I can still vividly recall how excited I was to finally step out of school and enter the design industry (for real). It felt like I had a new superpower and couldn’t wait to test it out.

However, many of my fellow junior designers and I faced a common challenge when we first stepped out: We thought we were ready to do great work with awesome clients but we found ourselves struggling to navigate the design industry. The truth is – school could teach us only this much and a lot of the learning takes place in a protected environment. 

I’ll take this opportunity to share some lessons and ways you can use your new design superpower out there.

Firstly, design is a team sport. Strong craft skills are definitely needed but it only takes us that far. To go further, we have to work collaboratively with others on the team – developers, startup founders, marketing people and even other junior or senior designers. 

One of the biggest complaints we get from non-design people is that we (designers) don’t collaborate enough. Often we take a brief, put on our headsets and go behind the screen designing away. 

To do good work in this century, especially when everyone is working asynchronously and remotely on projects, we can’t afford to be working in silos. The moment we do, projects cannot move and we lose our value as designers. 

We have to combine our Craft skills with Collaboration skills to progress our design careers.

As if collaborating with others wasn’t difficult enough, we also have to level-up to Facilitate conversations. Often as we work with a multidisciplinary team, we fall into the role of connecting the dots and helping others to connect the dots. Our role as a designer shifts from an individual sitting behind the screen to a facilitator influencing change on a greater level. 

Another tough lesson we learned is that we need to be able to tell good stories – stories that persuade, convince, sell, convert and bring our designs to life. So many times we expected people to look at our designs and see what we see, or appreciate the thoughts and considerations behind our designs without telling them anything. This has cost us our credibility as valuable designers.

Stories and words are powerful ways to bring people together, shift mindsets, and influence change. When the time calls for it, you need to tell a good story to do justice to your designs. 

The industry back then is very different from what it is now. Softwares have changed, methods have changed, even the people and environment we design for have changed. We live in a much more complicated world today. There’s this term VUCA that’s used to describe it. VUCA stands for volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous, and you can definitely see it from the various issues going on around the world, not just the pandemic. 

To survive and be good designers in this VUCA world, we have to see things from a broader, systemic perspective. Simply designing solutions for the immediate future without taking into account other interconnected aspects of the problem doesn’t cut it anymore. Not being able to see beyond the immediate design need risks rendering our design solutions outdated even before we present it.  

As designers, we are in a unique position because our design superpower is one that can be used to benefit the financial position of an organisation while at the same time, bring harm to someone else. We may not have noticed it or we may not be willing to recognise it. 

I would like to urge you to take some time to understand what your personal values are as a designer so that you do not end up using your design skills in ways that are against your personal values. 

Lastly, I’d like to leave you with a quote by British Advertising legend, Paul Arden, that I live by – “It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be.”

Summing up, if you want to be a great designer, you need to adopt a continuous learning attitude and treat every opportunity as a learning opportunity – to improve your design, collaboration, facilitation and storytelling skills. It is only then that you wield your design superpower in the right direction and remain true to your beliefs.

I wish you all the best as you enter the industry, now go kick some [beep]. 

Thank you.

Together Apart

A taxi driver once told me, time doesn’t fly, time is speeding. This pandemic truly makes me understand the essence of the phrase. Little did we know that a virus so small could bring our studio to a standstill and shut everything down in just a few months.

In case you are wondering, yes, we’ve stopped operating because there was just not enough work to sustain the team. However, this saying holds true “One door closes opens up another one with opportunities”.

We’ve moved on, we’ve started exploring the “emergent strategy” thats presenting in our paths now. Giang is retiring early at Danang, Kate is pursuing her dreams and being tai tai, Yvonne getting into a new role in Enterprise Product Design, Angeline working hard to help the Catholic church with Mass resumptions and I myself, joined a global consultancy firm which I never thought I would actually work for somebody.

Despite all that separation, what’s gratifying is that while we are no longer together physically, we are together at hearts. As we are all individually working on our own endeavours, we came together last week to share our learnings over the different work that we’re doing, rekindling those days we spend our Fridays doing team meetings and sync ups rituals.

It actually felt like we were “escaping” back to the past and parting was bitter sweet. While we didn’t became monetary rich in this journey, I am rich with learnings and extremely happy for the team to embark on a new journey to make meaningful impact.

Take care!

Do you travel for leisure? Get S$50 when you join our travel research study

We are recruiting English-speaking travelers to participate in a research study taking place next week.

Selected participants will take part in a 30 – 45 minutes, in-person research study of a mobile travel app. The study will be held at a central location near City Hall MRT station.

Participants will be rewarded SGD 50 cash at the end of the session.

This study is conducted on behalf of a travel company that aims to improve the travel planning experience.

To participate, please fill in this questionnaire and we will contact you if you are shortlisted. 

IxDA Singapore presents World Interaction Design Day 2019

On 24 Sep 2019, the community at IxDA Singapore celebrated the World Interaction Design Day at Visa Innovation Centre. The event was attended by over 150 attendees and our speakers shared their unique perspectives on this year’s theme “Trust & Responsibility.

See all photos

Big thanks to:
Visa Innovation Centre for being such a great host to the venue,
Adobe and IxDA global for sponsoring and coming up with the theme,
Speakers Preethi Mariappan (Visa), Liu Zenan (StashAway), Wei Kong (Researcher/Designer) and Mario Van der Meulen (Foolproof) for all their thoughtful sharing.

This event wouldn’t been possible without the help of our lovely team mates: Angeline Chng, Michelle Koo, Kate Lim, Dominic Ong, Giang Hoang and Yvonne Chia.

See you next year!

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival

It’s the Mooncake period of the year again aka Mid-Autumn festival. Aside from the usual mooncakes and tea, the team had some fun with decorating our studio with lanterns and lighting sparklers.

Glad we did not burn down the studio. 😅 Wishing you and your family a Happy Mid Autumn Festival! 🥳

Hello World!

Yes, hello world. It’s been awhile since I last wrote anything and this time round, I’ll be putting in effort to share my learning journey as a designer. Where possible I’ll also be sharing work in progress on projects I’m working on. Most projects are confidential at the moment but I’ll see how I can share the on-going learnings without divulging any confidential information. Stay tuned and see you around 🙂