In an increasingly ideas-driven economy, design has become a vital component in creating new value and markets in Singapore. It allows one to use innovation to stand out from the rest. Especially in a competitive environment, good design can bring out a key differentiation point for businesses. 

The DesignSingapore Council, the national agency for design, aims to develop Singapore into a global city for design where design innovation drives economic growth and enhances the quality of life. The Council promotes and develops the design industries as a creative cluster, encourages the adoption of design by enterprises and nurtures a climate of co-creation and innovation through design.

One of the roles of the Council is to develop globally competitive designers and a design cluster which is not only capable of servicing global clients but is also instrumental in enabling Singaporean enterprises to gain a competitive edge through design.

Mr Jeffrey Ho, executive director of the DesignSingapore Council, says: “There are many opportunities for aspiring designers to embark on a design career.  Design talents who have the creativity, passion and drive to contribute to Singapore’s development into a centre for design excellence can take advantage of our programmes such as the DesignSingapore Scholarship and the Capability Development Programme to acquire and upgrade their design knowledge and skills.”  

For aspiring designers, here are some tips to consider as you start your design career.

Feel it, work it

* Sharpen your vision and curiosity. Good designers are skilled at the art of observation and can often impart meaning and emotional value derived from their observations to their designs.

* Brainstorm ideas. Just make sure the sessions are functional and concise. Keep the ideas fresh by having more than one brainstorming session over the course of the design process, rather than a very long one at the beginning. Keep it simple and respect deadlines. Simple but well executed ideas are better than complicated impractical ideas.

* Design is a holistic process. Sharpen your different mental faculties of being creative, practical, rational, analytic, empathetic, innovative and passionate. At the same time, get your hands dirty!  Making sketches and building models and prototypes will teach you more about the design process than your textbooks. 

Know the turf

* Think communication, not decoration. Design is not about aesthetics alone but also about solving problems or bringing about improvements. Always remember to think about how people will feel, react and interact with your design.

* Accept constraints. Constraints and limitations are wonderful allies that lead to ingenious solutions. Think about how you can solve the problem with the resources that you have.

* Practise restraint and avoid complications. It takes a disciplined mind to make the hard choices of what to include and what to exclude. A stroke of genius sometimes lies in what you decide to omit.

Be practical

* It’s easy to get carried away with your own work, but a good designer can stick to the brief to satisfy clients. This doesn’t mean following instructions rigidly and not owning your creative freedom. Remember, clients pay a designer for creative work, not for work that can be produced by just anyone. 

* A good designer should also have the ability to present designs well to maximise his effort. This puts him one notch above the rest, especially when meeting clients.

Live your passion

* A bad design lacks soul. So stay up-to-date and read about new ideas. Take time to be stimulated. There are plenty of unexpected places and things that can offer inspiration.

* There are many tertiary schools in Singapore that offer degree or diploma design programmes now. Pursuing an education in design at a well-recognised school is a good way to start off on the right foot. Through education, you will be exposed to different concepts and design ideologies. It is also beneficial to acquire industry experience through internships, especially with established designers or design firms.

Challenge yourself

* Budding designers should have a comprehensive portfolio of design projects executed within and outside school. This portfolio should include designs submitted for competitions and all relevant awards. It  will lay a concrete foundation for a career in design.

* Take part in competitions. Competitions often help to launch a successful design career by giving young talents an edge before entering the business world. Some organisers source for talents during these competitions and offer real-life opportunities. 

* Competitions like Mapletree Business City’s “Design in the City” give inspiring design students a chance to showcase their talent. Winners stand a chance to win $12,000 but more importantly, have their designs fabricated and installed publicly at Mapletree, an integrated business hub located at the fringe of the CBD. Such competitions bring out the best in young designers by pushing them to prepare for a career in the creative industry.