In the past, Singapore has been accused of having a less than favorable approach to both design and the arts, with much of their talented designers outsourcing to other countries. However in recent years, this has all changed. Singapore is striving to become a hub of design activity, with a number of highly regarded institutes of design education such as Temasek Polytechnic School of Design and the National University of Singapore Division of Industrial Design (NUSDID). Here, product design is the primary focus, looking at creating new tools for design that can be applied to all spheres to create a simpler and yet more aesthetic future.
Graduating from Temasek Polytechnic in 1991 with a diploma in Industrial Design, Nathan Yong started a career not as a designer, but as a buyer and product developer. This enabled him to learn a number of production techniques and crafts whilst he travelled around Asia, sourcing quality manufacturers. Since then, Yong has set up a number of high-end design retail stores, such as Air Division in 1999 and more recently, Grafunkt in 2010. Yong’s talent spans industrial, interior, architectural and graphic design, and he has won numerous awards for his work including the prestigious Red Dot Concept Design Award, two years running.
Up-and-coming designer Jerry Low has already made a splash in the Singapore design scene both with his collaborations with Nathan Yong and his tenure at Air Division. Primarily a furniture designer, his products are clean-lined and elegant. Low uses simple designs in a muted color palette to create works that fit into any interior. Looking at the Wind screen/shelf designed for Air Division, we can see his use of both classic design elements as well as innovative ideas. As a multi-purpose screen and shelf, Wind (which is practically aerodynamic in shape), is not just beautiful, but also a useful piece of furniture that lends itself to modern living.
Set up by Vincent Chia (current Director), Michael Toh, Nathan Yong and Kay Yong in 1999, Air Division prides itself on being a multifaceted furniture design and retail specialist. The only furniture company in Singapore to win both the Reddot Design Award (2010) and iF Design Award (2012), they aim to create well-designed and high quality furniture that will appeal to a broad spectrum of customers. Having collaborated with a number of inspiring designers (including Jerry Low), Air Division presents a number of lifestyle brands, such as AIR, PLANKLIVING and ROYCE. Their products combine both good design and good aesthetics to create objects that are both useful and a pleasure to use. Not just your average furniture company, Air Division raises the bar for well-designed interiors.
Somewhat of an enigma, Casey Chen has produced a number of works for a wide variety of design projects and collaborations including with the design group Asylum. Often working with textiles and soft furnishings, Chen likes for his pieces to tell a story. Using recognizable everyday items to create his products, Chen’s work has an air of up-cycling about it. Focusing on winning over local industry, he uses novel ideas to create soft furnishings like cushions and beanbags that utilize old brands such as 1950s detergent advertisements. These products are therefore brightly colored and fun and would not look out of place in a modern, eclectic interior.
Despite being born in Australia, Jarrod Lim eventually chose to settle his design practice in Singapore having traveled around the world in search of the best examples of international design. As a furniture designer, Lim focuses on producing simple designs that are unobtrusive and yet aesthetically pleasing. Often his products include clever solutions such as hidden storage that does not break the look of an interior, or in the case of the Century table, a clever idea that solves an everyday problem. By extending the top of the leg slightly, Lim has created a table with an elegant solution for storing ones bag when dining out. An attractive and clever design that comes with various table surfaces, this is evidence that Lim is one to watch for in the future.
Based in Singapore, the design duo Oon made up of Poon Yew Wai and Lee Yoon Sheng look at design from a fresh perspective. Believing that ‘beauty is the promise of happiness’, Poon and Lee’s designed are concerned with ‘living well’. Form provides an important starting point in their design process, looking primitively at the reason for a product as well as its usage. There is a child-like quality to their work, for example the bookshelf entitled Beautimess is made up of book silhouettes and is rendered in an eye-catching red. Providing both a useful and well laid-out bookshelf as well as a fun design, here is a product that will appeal to children and adults alike.
Debuting at SaloneSatellite in 2009, this Singaporean design team comprised of Timo Wong and Priscilla Lui are continuing to dazzle with their ingenious product designs. Focusing on three main areas of design (industry, education and collaboration), Studio Juju have the edge when it comes to innovative ideas. The Stacking Drums storage unite illustrates this perfectly. It is comprised of a stack of three cylindrical cases that can be used in a multitude of ways. Each individual drum provides ample storage space, and the product can either be stacked to full height or used individually. As both an elegant table and a storage unit, this product is a clear example of Studio Juju’s prowess in the field of product design.
Design Incubation Centre
The Design Incubation Centre is a design research laboratory that is concerned with developing new tools and practices within design. Focusing on the three design spheres of human need, emerging technology and social trends, the DIC creates ideas and products that are both intuitive as well as experience orientated. Their products are sold commercially through the trademark d.lab, which enables them to communicate the outcomes of their research to the wider public and create a brand value. Given that their products are designed to be intuitive, they have a sleek and simple elegance to them that make them both easy and enjoyable to use.
Chris Lee & Asylum
Designer Chris Lee is the epitome of multidisciplinary, something that he channeled directly into the founding of the creative company Asylum in 1999. Comprising of a design studio, a workshop, a retail store and even a record label, Asylum has won multiple awards in all areas of design. They have had great success in creating a complete space from the interior design and product development to the branding. This is evident in the inception of Frolick, a frozen yogurt shop with a political agenda. Asylum came up with the branding as a fun approach to yogurt as opposed to the conventional image of being a healthy option that most frozen yogurt brands opt for. This might seem utterly bizarre, yet it is this sort of off-the-wall thinking that sets Asylum apart as a truly innovative design company.
Cilicon Faytory, made up of the design duo Cici Chen and Lui Honfay, design a number of products that range from indoor and outdoor furniture to accessories. Endeavoring to push the boundaries of design, Cilicon Faytory use a variety of new materials, such as Coconut fiber combined with resin in their Coco series. This is as an alternative to plastic, something that is becoming increasingly important in the product design world. Additionally, these are high quality products that can stand the test of time and be used in both private and public spaces. By diversifying their in-house design in this manner, their products are suited to a number of international markets.