Designers Talk for a Full Capacity Audience
Jun 05, 2018

Designers Talk for a Full Capacity Audience at the Premier Design Forum in Southeast Asia Design Perspectives x Golden Pin Salon

3 Design Gurus: Peter Tay, Kimming Yap, and Mark Stocker at the National Design Centre

Taipei, TAIWAN --( ASIA TODAY )-- The first-ever Singapore Design Perspectives x Golden Pin Salon sold out a whole four-days before the event was set to take place. Among the eager attendees were local designers, design-related companies, marketing professionals, and design students.

Deputy CEO of Taiwan Design Center, Nina Ay gave the opening remarks. In the past three years, the Design Perspectives x Golden Pin Salon has toured 19 cities in Asia. She noted, this is the Golden Pin Design Award’s first time in Singapore, and thanked Design Business Chamber Singapore for its hand in organizing the event. President of Design Business Chamber Singapore, Andrew Pang welcomed Nina Ay and her team to Singapore, and expressed his hopes for further collaboration into the future.

Design Thinking to Culture Thinking

First on stage was Kimming Yap, who gave the example of Chinese tea in his talk on Design Thinking to Culture Thinking. He explained how Chinese tea drinking habits have changed over time, so design thinking for a Chinese tea brand would need to take into account the past, present, and future. He believes it is important for designers to negotiate this temporal notion of culture.

“Design thinking is a human-centered approach. We are always putting the user first,” says Yap. “When we think about people, they have identities — the way they behave, the way they dress. All these things around us form our identity, and when an identity is shared collectively then it becomes culture. Essentially, culture is identity, values, ideals, and social norms that are shared collectively. What we need to be aware of is that culture is constantly changing.”

He went on to say, “The thing about culture is, there is an element of time. Culture can be created and it can also die off. There are three types of culture, the first is the past like the art of drinking Chinese tea. Not many of us know how to drink Chinese tea in terms of the ceremonial process. It is part of our culture, but it is not something we practice now. The present is what we see and hear around us. At coffee shops, I like to observe what people eat, how they dress, and what they carry around with them. Then, of course we can talk about future. Culture is always evolving, changing, moving. New cultures can be born as rapidly as cultures die. Robots, AI, biotech — all that could become the norm.”

Observations at the Crossroads of Culture, Design, and Brand

For 23 years, Mark Stocker’s branding agency (DDG) has been helping Taiwanese clients build their brands overseas. DDG helps them look more Western, but according to Stocker this has become a problem. For example, he pointed out that Taiwanese bicycle brands are successful at exporting bicycle products, however, they are not exporting bicycle culture. He believes the biggest obstacle to Taiwanese brands is culture.

“The obstacle that is causing most Taiwanese firms to not succeed at branding is culture,” says Stocker. “Culture can be a dangerous word. I am not referring to hereditary, history-related culture, nor am I referring to corporate culture.”

He went on to explain, “Taiwan is capable of making the highest level of [cycling] clothing that you can purchase today, the clothing that people want to own. And yet, it does not have one successful cycling clothing brand. The reason — Taiwanese companies for the most part, are not involved in the creation of cycling culture; they are merely focused on making the product. There are a couple of brands who have been successful. One is Giant. How did Giant succeed? They were smart enough to understand the value of culture. Because they weren’t one of the inventors of the culture, they decided to join the culture. They sponsored bike racers and races. Like the European brands, they got involved in the sport of cycling. Over the past twenty years, they have slowly managed to make themselves part of that culture. They don’t lead it, but they are in it. Because of that, they have some success.”

The Power of Design

Peter Tay recalled an interview that has weighed on his mind for many years, where he was asked a question about the Singapore identity in his work. He laments that he could not think of an answer. He believes interior design is about reevaluation, so by looking back on his design process he found his cultural identity. Singapore was his childhood playground, and Singaporean culture has become an embodiment of his happiness.

“I could not see any Singapore identity in my work, or any cultural identity,” Tay says. “How can see interior design work in terms of cultural identity? I did not know how to answer. It took me about ten minutes to explain the thinking behind my work, because interior design is all about reevaluation.”

Tay went on to explain, “On an afternoon at Venice Biennale, I was walking along the street and the first thing that stopped me was an Ai Wei Wei exhibition. It was beautiful. The city was a city of design, and it was cultured. In Singapore, I had not see that kind of art and culture, which is built over many years. When I was in London studying, my school was in Bedford Square. Every night, I walked past Central Saint Martin’s and I would see a new hotel designed by Philippe Starck. This five-minute journey was the best that I have ever experienced in my life. I see fashion, I see a city, I see culture, and this culture is beautiful.” He concluded, “Design to me is an embodiment of happiness, life, fashion, and all the beautiful things around you.”

Design Perspectives x Golden Pin Salon

Design Perspectives x Golden Pin Salon is organized by the Golden Pin Design Award and Taiwan Design Center. This year, the Executive Organizer for the Singapore event was Design Business Chamber Singapore, supported by DesignSingapore Council. The host venue was the National Design Centre and the official media partner was Portfolio magazine.

So far, the Design Perspectives x Golden Pin Salon series has toured at total of 20 cities in Asia, including Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, and Taipei. To date, the Salon has brought more than 80 of Asia’s most celebrated design professionals onto its stage. The Salon series supports the remit of Design Perspectives, sponsored by the Golden Pin Design Award.

Taipei 2018 Design Perspectives x Golden Pin Salon

The next stop for the Design Perspectives x Golden Pin Salon is Taipei on Wednesday, June 13. Not Just Library at Songyan Court in Songshan Cultural and Creative Park plays host to the event. The headline speakers include Wang Yao-Pang, Wei-Hsiang Chan, and Ho Chia-Hsing. Their talks will be given in Mandarin Chinese. Sign-up now via Accupass: