Amplifying the Value of Technology Through Design

Amplifying the Value of Technology Through Design

The DesignSingapore International Advisory Panel (IAP) members meet annually in Singapore to discuss issues and propose recommendations that will chart the strategic direction for the future of Singapore's growing design industry.

Today, concluding the seventh annual meeting of the DesignSingapore Council International Advisory Panel (IAP), the members put forward suggestions to use Design to harness new opportunities presented by rapid advances in digital technology. The panel, chaired by Mr. Edmund Cheng, comprises renowned international design and business leaders from Australia, the United States, Europe and Japan.

During their time in Singapore, the Panel visited an Interactive Digital Media (IDM) research centre, and also met researchers and developers from other research institutions and companies. This gave them an overview of the challenges for technology innovators in Singapore, setting the context for them to explore how Design can make a significant difference. By using Design as a differentiator, Singapore enterprises will also be able to change the shape of the growth curve with a better understanding of the user experience.

"Singapore business needs to be agile and flexible in order to take advantage of the investments in infocomm and media infrastructure," said Mr. Cheng. "The Design process can help businesses better understand the new global consumer and how we can tailor a user experience that will create a competitive advantage for Singapore through game-changing innovation."

The panel made some key observations that looked at better addressing economic challenges. Mr. Richard Seymour, Co-founder, Seymourpowell, concluded that there is "A Convenient Truth, where globally we're not being held back by technology, but by our imagination. Singapore's opportunity is to bring human needs and desires to technological innovation through design."

Mr. Chris Bangle, Managing Director, Chris Bangle Associates Srl, elaborated, "Design is often misunderstood, especially in a business and technology context. The process should be referred to as 'Designing' because it is an interactive process that when applied at the outset of ideation, catalyses the adoption of technological innovation and acts as an economic multiplier."

The IAP proposed the definition of "Designing" as a process which melds human needs and desires with industrial and technological capability, to create new and meaningful products, services and experiences. To demonstrate the relevance of 'Designing' to the technology, business and design communities, the Panel suggested that Singapore develop a global initiative, driven by international thought leaders from multiple disciplines to explore how Design has been integral to the success of some of the world's most popular technology products. This platform would also clearly articulate Singapore's ambition to focus on the global imperative to zoom in on human needs as a core principle of Designing and how products can be made more human and desirable.

"To encourage design and technology entrepreneurs to reach out beyond their disciplines more readily, Singapore has the opportunity to take the strategic lead in facilitating partnerships between these dynamic groups by producing a forum where ideas and prototypes can be explored and implemented," said Mr. Hael Kobayashi, Associate Director, Creative Industries Innovation Centre (CIIC), University of Technology Sydney.

The IAP also discussed the need for an infusion of global ideas and talent to work on projects germinated in Singapore. This could be supported by configuring a funding model, which could become self-sustaining; that would enable better idea generation through to product realisation with the addition of design at the outset of the process. To that end, the Panel outlined a process for the DesignSingapore Council to explore, labelled the Vision Engine: Fuelling Imagination and Innovation.

"There are three distinct steps to the Vision Engine which will reward ideas through collaboration. By providing micro-grants to foster ideas, as opposed to fully-formed prototypes, we can instantly amplify and accelerate innovation where technology and design are working hand-in-hand," said Mr. Dick Powell, Co-founder, Seymourpowell. "We are taking away the fear of failure by configuring the funding system to be used to generate ideas, not business plans."

Ideas that show a potential to leverage the Designing process to improve the user experience, could then be further funded in a lab environment. Should they make it to a prototype stage, there is the possibility to showcase the ideas internationally for venture capital funding. Additionally, this could be a way of attracting design and technology innovators from around the world to come to Singapore to develop new products.

Singapore's multi-cultural background is also a key advantage and a good resource. "Singapore is well-placed to act as a global Microcosm that extends the government's living lab concept by providing a reality-testing environment with superior, faster and more accurate development," explained Mr. Toshiyuki Kita, Product Designer, Studio Toshiyuki KITA. "There is an opportunity for Singapore to share design insights with the wider global community and this will not only encourage great collaboration but also focus more attention on this global design city."

DesignSingapore will review these proposals in further depth and work with sister Government agencies and parties in the private sector to test the feasibility of these plans and explore bringing these programmes to life.