Outreach in Singapore
Design The Impossible with Next Generation’s Designers

On a Friday morning, a day after the President’s Design Award Jury Session concluded, four of our local and international jurors convened once again to hold a forum for an audience of aspiring design students from tertiary institutions all over Singapore. The forum, aptly titled “IN CONVERSATION WITH DESIGNERS: Design the Impossible” was an opportunity for the attendees to pick the brains of these designers who are trailblazers in their own field and who themselves have solved impossible problems with design.

Set in a casual and light-hearted setting at the National Design Centre’s Auditorium, the moderator, Lim Chong Jin, who is the Director of Temasek Polytechnic’s award winning School of Design, challenged the attendees to put the jurors on the spot with difficult and thought-provoking questions. From the Question & Answer segment during the Forum, it was clear that the young audience certainly did not hold back.

A recurring theme that was shared amongst all the jurors, Daan Roosegaarde, Mokena Makeka, Chelsia Lau and Dr Hossein Rezai, was the importance of designing beyond the project brief. The jurors echoed how it is increasingly important for designers in this day to design for social impact. The audience were given a show-and-tell style presentation from each of these design thought leaders on how they have accomplished the impossible in their personal areas of work.

The audience was treated to a visual spectacle of Daan Roosegaarde’s ‘Smog Free Project’, the largest outdoor air purifier in the world which makes a smog ring out of 1 cubic kilometres of polluted air and Mokena Makeka’s own premium Agave spirit called ‘Makeka Mollometsi’, which is created from organic hand-selected agave grown exclusively in Lesotho, saving its topsoil which is under constant erosion due to the country’s climate. Dr Rezai, awarded PDA Designer of the Year in 2016, showcased his impressive portfolio of fusion engineering works all over the world. Not to be outdone, the only female on the Forum panel, Chelsia Lau, also demonstrated how she has achieved success as the Chief Designer at the Shanghai Strategic Studio of Ford Motor Company and how the organisation is constantly looking for ways for improvement in the current landscape of disruptive technology.

During the Question & Answer segment of the Forum, the audience was encouraged by the moderator to fire away with the tough questions. And the question on most of the attendees’ minds were: how do we make an impact with little or no experience? The corresponding answers from all members of the jurors were clear: “Take naivety in your favour as more senior and experienced designers bring a lot of bias from their years of practice. We have to try to unlearn our preconceived notions and not bring them to new projects so we have to start from scratch but young designers naturally have that.” Hopefully with that, the audience walked away feeling inspired and encouraged to spur on to the design world with fresh minds and spirited energy.

The Forum concluded just about noon with a quote that resonates with the day’s theme of designing for impact and to be constantly curious about learning. Shared by Daan Roosegaarde, this poignant quote from philosopher Marshall McLuhan stated: “There are no passengers on spaceship Earth. We are all crew.”