The round table saw an engaging discussion by key industry members on common design aspirations and the rise of an emerging Asia. Here’s our final report.
20 June, 2011
The first open door Interior Design Confederation Singapore IDC(S) round table was held in May in Singapore, in partnership with Indesign.
Facilitated by IDC(S) President Nicholas Merrow-Smith, the panel included Ashvin Kumar, Ong&Ong; Caroline Burns, Geyer; David Tay, Y2: Space Pte Ltd Associate; Derek MacKenzie, designphase dba; Lawrence Chong, Consulus; Michael Wiener, Gensler; Paul Isted, Standard Chartered Bank; and independent consultant Phillips Connor.
Here’s Part 2 and the final report of that discussion.
What are our common aspirations?
Michael Wiener: Gensler believes that it has the ability to use design as a lever to change the world… it can be changed on a global basis, a community basis, a company basis or a personal basis; design is the common tool we all use to get there.
And what I think is great is that people who join this firm and have this vision generally have a passionate point of view, and if you find an organisation that helps channel and direct that passion is can be really powerful; and it can be also quite fulfilling, and it can also be quite lucrative. Because that passion translates into action and that action is what produces results, and results is what people value.
Caroline Burns: That’s what clients see… The design process is something that is quite outside of their normal experience and so, for a lot of them, the opportunity to work with a designer is fairly rare and unique. If you take them on a journey and you want to change their world… a lot of them want to go there, it’s just working with them to get them there.
Lawrence Chong: We’re seeing the rise of a future Vietnam, which is going to be the next Korea. We’re seeing how China exerts its power in the region… and how that is going to shape things to come.
We want to be part of that journey, respectfully. I think we all share common aspirations – we want to build a great firm, a great practice, great design. But as an industry, how can we make this [Singapore] a great working cluster for designers? And I think we haven’t answered the question well enough… how do we tell the Singapore government that the magic of design requires diversity?
I think we need to talk to the government openly, that our competitiveness is the ability to bring in the best and the brightest, drawing them from Hong Kong, New York, London, here to Singapore. The best of the West and the best of the East.
What are the challenges of the hour? What is inspiring you?
Lawrence: Now there is a capable younger generation in Asia that is able to see the value of culture and the role of culture in business. And it’s really exciting to know that it’s not just about hiring foreign talent from overseas, but the foreign talent will come along and work with us to build this culture together and be ready for this emerging Asia, which is increasingly asking the questions: What is our role? Our country’s role? The role of the region, for the entire world?
Phillips Connor: It’s not just about business anymore. Increasingly Singapore has a role as a mentoring influence in the region. We’ve developed very rapidly and we’ve benefited from that, and we need to share that around the world.
Michael: What’s interesting about the excitement in Asia is this. For awhile, certain countries in Asia were basically struggling to just ’keep the lights on’. Having achieved that level, we are now at this next level of aspiration, and you see countries in the region getting there faster and faster, and what’s great is you’re able to work with clients whose aspirations are galloping ahead and what we can help them do is get there quickly.
Caroline: A lot of clients feel that they have been empowered by their organisations to create new benchmarks here in the region… And that sense of empowerment and being able to be visionaries inspires our clients and obviously it then inspires us as well, because it enables us to really partner with them and really help them achieve those aspirations.
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