Holistic Design, A Singular Ethos

Mar 12, 2019

Shannon Teoh is the first DesignSingapore Council Scholar to pursue an eastern philosophy and approach to design. Learn more about his inspirations, how he views design as a bridge between cultures, and new upcoming projects on his exciting journey studying abroad in Tokyo, Japan.


A still from a video using reality distortion effects to celebrate how the course creatively enriched student’s imagination.

The first Scholar to pursue an eastern philosophy and school of design, Shannon cites his fascination with the core ethos of Japanese design as something he wishes to learn from and emulate. Not just the regional standard for design excellence, Japanese design is a holistic process that is inspired by a deep philosophy embedded in every step of the design process. Shannon’s first encounter with this concept began with understanding MUJI as an example of this ethos, with a core focus in emptiness – a design ethic deeply rooted in traditional Japanese architecture and lifestyles. Thus Japanese design always creates a unique product with a distinctive attitude that can be understood immediately as Japanese, even without obvious motifs or written characters. Shannon expresses gratitude that his creative journey has come full circle. From picking up design and being inspired by Fukasawa’s work, he now pursues a Bachelors degree under the designer who, for Shannon, started it all.


While his fascination and appreciation for Japanese design runs deep, Shannon adopts an organic approach to incorporating what he learns into his own design practice. It is not a direct imitation of aesthetics that he hopes to achieve, but an incorporation of the holistic view of the designing process. In this vein, Shannon also views a core role of being a designer in Singapore as being a bridge between cultures and countries. He leverages on Singapore’s positioning as a gateway to Asia, connecting both eastern and western methods and aesthetics in design, to create a unique brand of design that he can call his own. Embodying this ideal, Shannon participated in a logo contest aimed at celebrating 50 years of diplomatic relations between Singapore and Japan. His design of a hybrid orchid and cherry blossom flower was shortlisted into the top ten. It was a meaningful project for him to identify, for the first time, how his designs can be an ambassador for cross-cultural connectivity and international relations.


An overall compilation of the collaterals for the final year project on a jewelry retailer.


Shannon’s first taste of implementing a holistic method of design came in the form of his Final Year Project for his Diploma in Visual Communications and Media. Having previously interned at renowned local design studio Black, Shannon gained invaluable mentorship and guidance from the studio, bringing this mentorship with him to work on his Final Year Project: a holistic design concept for Dutch jewellery brand Gordon Max. Shannon worked on design and concept branding across a variety of media forms, all adding up to form a cohesive brand concept. He met with professional jewellery designers and jewellery photographers, learning invaluable skills in product photography and branding. The concept he created involved a simple but sleek logo that could be engraved onto rings, storefront decals and in-store graphics, ring box and craft tool branding, digital app design, and a series of five custom-made and self-researched handbooks on specialised diamonds and jewellery care. Every aspect of the project was made with a core brand idea in mind, utilising a multitude of design and branding media that work together to form a cohesive brand identity. Having the first taste of the fulfilment such design projects could offer, Shannon is excited to begin his academic foray into Integrated Design at Tama Art University. This unique course emphasizes graphic design, product design, and interface design equally for this holistic design experience.


Going to a school with numerous accomplished alumni, including Issey Miyake, gives Shannon first-hand access to many talks and workshops offered by these acclaimed professionals, whom he would never otherwise come into contact with. Shannon expressed gratitude towards the strong financial support the Dsg scholarship has given, broadening horizons and opportunities for him, and allowing him to focus on pursuing his dreams. The most fulfilling aspect of his creative journey thus far is encountering good design, and being able to appreciate and share this love with a creative community who understands and supports his passions. Being put in contact with a community of past and present design scholars, Shannon has been able to build a base of support to learn from, and to return to after completing his studies. Currently, he is awaiting the assignment of an experienced Dsg mentor, as part of the Design Association Network (DAN) – a new addition to the scholarship framework announced in 2018. This mentorship will provide him invaluable guidance and support throughout different stages of his design career.



A rendering of the storefront that uses illustration of dutch houses as its base.


When asked on his views on the changes in today’s design industry, Shannon affirms the rise of design opportunities in the east. More businesses valuing an eastern aesthetic and method of design are seeking innovative new designers, and a wealth of opportunity is available to those who open themselves up to this sphere. In line with beginning university in April, Shannon has recently been made a global brand ambassador for cult YouTube Hip-Hop brand and channel 88rising, featuring regional rappers and Hip-Hop artists. Receiving his first assignment when his school term begins, and being the only ambassador in Tokyo, Shannon is thrilled to see what comes next, embarking on his next big journey.


To find out more about the DesignSingapore Scholarship, click here.


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