Patrick Chia studied industrial design at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (1991–1993), Australia. His talent was discovered by the French designer Philippe Starck in 1997. Patrick has been appointed Jury member for various competitions and awards such as the Red Dot Design Awards, James Dyson Award and the Singapore Furniture Award. He is a member of the Design Advisory Panel as well as the International Advisory Committee for the Singapore Furniture Industries Council.
As a designer, Patrick is driven to create works that have resonance with the user. His works celebrate serendipity; are not always absolute in function; and appeal to the user’s senses in subtle ways.
Patrick collects commonplace things. The kitchen walls of his home are lined with Ziploc bags of scribbled notes and curios collected over the years. They are sources of ideas for him. Patrick is inspired by play. To him, design should address the emotion, rather than simply pragmatic, functional consideration. To him, design can sometimes be purely emotive in function.
Patrick has been the founding director of the Design Incubation Centre, National University of Singapore, since 2006. The Centre was recently voted by Surface Asia magazine as one of the most progressive design laboratories in Asia Pacific. Under his direction, the Centre has conducted design research and investigations into new tools and processes that explore and expand new possibilities for the design practice in Singapore.
While computers and cutting machines are essential to designers, the tools and processes should not replace craft. Patrick believes that the mastery of craft is still relevant. For example, he habitually works with blue foam, hand-sculpting the material to make prototypes. He is so accustomed to the medium that he instinctively “calibrates” his models to a scale of 1:10. This working method helps him give shape to his thoughts, allowing him to create forms that can be viewed from multiple perspectives.
Being an instructor at the University lets him explore new and emerging methods for research. To him, there are three stakeholders to consider at the start of a project: human needs, technology and social trends.
The narrative of a work is also important in creating a trigger for the user. One of the Centre’s interactive media projects emulates movements when a loved one (with similar device) moves. Apart from giving a sense of physical presence, the device also tells a story and engages the user to “complete” the story.
The Centre is currently focused on researching emerging social, economic and technological trends such as big data, teaming and nudge (behavioural science). It is developing new teaching programmes and frameworks so as to train the next generation of Singapore designers to be prepared for future challenges and opportunities.
Patrick Chia’s advice for emerging designers:
“Do not chase after reference. Trust your own judgement. Discover your own values. Master your craft. Embrace life, try everything. Don’t be in a hurry to get anywhere. Enjoy the journey. Embrace the non-absolute.”