Nigel Geh and Gloria Ngiam were joint winners of Launch Pad Asia 2014 with their flexible torchlight SPOT. We catch up with Nigel to see how his design career has been developing – very well, it seems!
22 March, 2017
What was your situation when you won Launch Pad Asia with fellow designer Gloria Ngiam?
I had just returned from an overseas exchange semester at the Folkwang University of the Arts in Essen, Germany, and I was about to embark on my final-year thesis at the National University of Singapore, Division of Industrial Design (NUSDID).
What’s been happening for you since then?
It’s been a good three years since then. After completing my bachelor’s thesis and graduating from NUSDID, I operated as a freelance designer for a couple months refining some of my past works and developing new ones to participate in several other design competitions.
One of the highlights since was winning the D’star Design Award in 2015. I reinterpreted the vanity mirrors of the past to suit our fast-moving lives and ever shrinking spaces. I had the great opportunity of working with JotterGoods designer Jerry Low to bring my winning design, the BOB Mirror into production. It is currently being sold by Star Furniture under the brand JotterGoods. In that same year, I also took part in the LiteON Innovation Award in Taiwan and won the Gold and Merit awards for my projects Rebound and SoundCare respectively.
In 2016, I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity by then Head of DID, Dr. Yen Ching Chiuan, to operate in several roles in the university such as teaching assistant, and working as a research assistant at the National University Hospital School.
Did you develop your product SPOT further after Launch Pad Asia?
A bit of background on how the design of SPOT all came about: in our second year of design school, Gloria and I designed SPOT as part of an academic project prior to Launch Pad Asia. The studio was about launching a design on a crowd funding platform to see how it performs in the market.
SPOT received amazing traction online, featuring on top international design blogs. Lifestyle magazines as far as Brazil were approaching us to feature the design. As young designers, it was very exciting. But in hindsight, I guess we were a bit naïve in not knowing how to fully utilise the publicity. Unfortunately the moment slipped away and we did not manage to receive the funding needed to produce SPOT.
Since then we’ve had several inquiries and interests from various sources, but we haven’t found the right fit with someone to bring SPOT into the market. The thought of commercialising SPOT has always been on our minds since.
What was your most valuable take-away from Launch Pad Asia? Why do you think young designers should enter the competition?
The most valuable take-away was the mentorship session we had with Hunn Wai (Lanzavecchia + Wai) after the competition. I still remember when we first spoke to Hunn Wai in a cafe under the old HDB flats in Tanjong Pagar, the inspiring conversation we had with such an established and seasoned industry professional really triggered me into thinking about what design really meant to me and the designer I really wanted to be.
As a final-year design student and burgeoning young designer, it couldn’t have been better timed as well. The mentorship session left me with considerable foresight into life after design school, and also help me formulate my own narrative of the designer I eventually wanted to be.
Tell us about what you’re doing now, career wise.
I am currently working as an industrial designer at the Philips Design Studio here in Singapore.
Since delving into the topic in my final year of design school, I’ve always had a strong interest in the experiential and empathetic role of design in healthcare. In the industry, Philips has always been one of the leaders of healthcare design and when they approached me to join their team mid last year, it just felt like a natural progression as the next step of my career.
I’ve been learning how to interface and facilitate conversations with various stakeholders of the business through design-thinking workshops, taking their insights and eventually translating them into a variety of design solutions that ranges from retail, spatial, digital interfaces, products and recently even into the realm of virtual reality! I’ve had quite the variety of work so far, almost like a baptism of fire! But in all honesty, it’s been great fun experiencing this new emerging role of designers by operating in more of a consultant’s role for our markets.
In your opinion, what are the most important things young designers should keep in mind today?
For me, the one most important ‘skill’ that designers must have is empathy. To me, it is the most fundamental and enabling aspect of design that allows us to connect with our end-users. After all, how can we even begin to design for our users if we can’t even empathise with their needs?
Check out Nigel Geh’s website here to see what else he’s been up to!
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