Our 2018 DesignSingapore Council Scholar opens up about his award-winning designs, exciting adventures in dumpster-diving for project materials, and hopes for the growing industry.
Kevin Chiam’s proclivity for design began as a child, where his curiosity about the world around him developed into a habit for tinkering with household furniture and machinery.
Partially inspired by his father, an electrical engineer who would repair furniture and fix equipment back home, Kevin’s fascination for design and invention was roused after watching his father upholster their sofa. Intrigued by how and why things function, Kevin enjoyed taking things apart to better understand them, and this inclination to disassemble and re-create drives his design practice today. He is a recipient of the 2018 DesignSingapore Council (Dsg) scholarship for his outstanding work in industrial design.
Kevin was also named the National Winner for the James Dyson Award 2018 for his Folks Kitchenware for the Blind designs. The collection of specially designed cookware for the visually impaired empowers them to be self-sufficient in making their own meals – an otherwise hazardous and inconvenient task. The project sprung out of Kevin’s time as an active volunteer with Touch Homecare Community Services. There, he met many visually impaired seniors scarred by scabs and burns on their forearms from attempting to cook. Determined to help, he attended an orientation session with Dialogue in the Dark, where he gleaned an empathetic understanding of the lives of the visually impaired, and the daily challenges they face. The sobering visit pushed him to identify how design could reduce their risks in cooking. He was pleasantly surprised to find that, equipped with the right tools, they could whip up a sumptuous spread.
The Folks collection consists of five familiar kitchen tools specially modified to cater to easy use via a primary sense of touch. Mrs Rosie Wong, a visually impaired housewife who used Kevin’s tools, praised them for making her life happier and the act of cooking less of a challenge. Mrs Chua Siew Hoon, a visually impaired tele-operator, also tried and tested Kevin’s tools and liked the collection very much. In particular, the pot alignment tool makes it easier for her to adjust pots on the stove safely.