Studying design in The Netherlands was an eye opening and challenging experience, learning how schools and countries can teach and approach design differently. A signature Dutch design ethos that has stuck with her is an affinity for the rawness of the design process to be honestly reflected in a piece, contrary to her conditioned compulsion to make designs sleek. She recounts watching a classmate present a kinetic installation, and apologising for not building a case to cover up the messy wiring - when her tutor simply retorted it was better they were exposed - for how else would we understand how the design worked? Adopting this quirky, experimental, and modest aesthetic in her own works, Qixuan has learnt to be braver with her designs, more articulate, and less afraid to fail. Her education there gave her a springboard to broaden her skills and horizons, and gaining the support of the Dsg Scholarship granted her confidence to take the leap. Living in The Netherlands was also an enriching experience that exposed her to a vibrant, quirky culture, with a thriving design scene. She was able to bring back lifestyle values of sustainability, openness, and equality, which strengthened her character and is incorporated into her design practice.
Apart from her extensive design portfolio, Qixuan has gained a cult following on Instagram under the moniker qimmyshimmy. Her detailed clay sculptures of babies and miniature body parts have elicited a wide range of reactions from morbid fascination, to fawning, and to pure disgust. Not one fazed by negative comments, Qixuan emphasized that sculpting is a personal creative practice that she does regardless of its perceived returns, and forms a large part of her identity as a creative. She sculpts for the love of the process, and as an expression of everything that fascinates her.
Qixuan’s famous sculptures have been featured in The Straits Times and Vulcan Post, alongside international publications like Italian online publication Urban Contest Magazine and Taiwanese site ETtoday. Her works have also been exhibited in The ArtScience Museum and at Deck, amongst others. In contrast to her work in design, Qixuan explains how her work in sculpting gives her a creative outlet and a personal voice that her design does not allow – and yet, she values both her sculpting and information design work equally, as two vital parts of herself that offers different things. In contrast to the more abstract and personal nature of her sculpting works, her work with Foolproof gives her a sense of purpose and will benefit a great number of people. With Foolproof, she currently works on solutions that will affect almost every household in the nation.
The Future Market, 2018. Final year project, Design Academy Eindhoven, Netherlands.
In this increasingly digital era, Qixuan sees many exciting new technologies emerging around us – big data technologies, cognitive technology, and new forms of digital realities, amongst others. She perceives it’s an exciting time for creatives, innovators, and designer-hybrids leaning into this space. The first hurdle one might face is in keeping up with all these emergent technologies, however the second hurdle is asking how we can adopt them mindfully – a much harder task. As a digital designer in the Information Age, Qixuan sees her role as shifting from generating visuals and information, to being responsible for understanding, organising, and categorising information responsibly. Designers today need to learn to deal with the complexity that comes with having more information about a nuanced world, and not be afraid of it.
She encourages young people to step forward and not be afraid to break new ground. However, one should also not underestimate the value of kindness and empathy. As a UX designer, she’s learning how being considerate and listening to users can push the design process forward in the right direction, which is much more than just coming up with quick solutions. At the core of user-centred design is the ability to address an issue from someone else’s perspective. One may be trained for years as a designer, but without these traits, one may not always provide the right solution.
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