The Circuitry Of Award-Winning Design
Singapore’s most prestigious design industry honour, the President’s Design Award (PDA) was established by the DesignSingapore Council (Dsg) in 2006 to recognise the talents and achievements of Singapore and global designers working across all disciplines.
In 2017, the PDA was re-launched as a biennial award, and this year, the jury will focus on how design transforms work and business, raises the quality of life, enhances culture, and connects communities. Technology plays a big part in helping designers meet these requisites, and advances in tech will no doubt shape the industry’s future.
We speak to three PDA jury members—Dick Powell, chairman of British Design & Art Direction, Teo Lay Lim, country manging director of Accenture Singapore, and Daan Roosegaarde, founder of Studio Roosegaarde—to find out their thoughts on tech’s impact on design.
How has technology influenced design?
Dick Powell (DP): Nothing pushes design faster than new technology. At a product level, new materials and new ways of manipulating these materials allow designers to do things they could never have done before. For instance, thanks to changes in glass technology, we can make a phone thinner and more shock-resistant than ever.
But tech is just a means to an end. First and foremost, designers need to understand the people who will use their products. Only then can they find a technology that will allow them to meet the needs of their users.
"Tech is just a means to an end. First and foremost, designers need to understand the people who will use their products. Only then can they find a technology that will allow them to meet the needs of their users."
How has technology changed the way designers work?
Teo Lay Lim (TLL): Technology has enabled the free transfer of design ideas and knowledge by allowing people to connect and function as virtual teams. A group of designers can now work together virtually on the same projects across different time zones and cities. It has also enabled design communities to access, view, modify and share material more conveniently than ever. Such accessibility builds a broader following in any field of design, and this sharing helps spread the message and inspiration more widely than otherwise possible.
Technology has pushed large organisations to break down silos between departments—this allows for the confluence of design ideas that are inspired by different cultures and expertise.
Technology has also unlocked the global marketplace for design services, connecting freelance designers with clients using digital platforms. It also enables designers to work remotely and flexibly with a greater number of clients.
What is the best way for designers to use technology?
Daan Roosegaarde (DR): There could be two possible scenarios. One is that of an Orwellian world, where we use technology to reduce our human activities. The other is perhaps a vision that Leonardo da Vinci might have, where we learn how to fly, and can cure and improve ourselves.
I think the purpose of good design should open up possibilities for us as a species, not limit them. I think if we use technology in a human and creative way, it can help us establish connections with our audience, so design becomes more interactive and open. I think that’s the approach we should take to counteract a future where tech usurps human effort.
"The purpose of good design should open up possibilities for us ... (and) establish connections with our audience, so design becomes more interactive and open"
One of the added criteria for this year’s award is the social impact of design. What are your thoughts on this additional requirement?
DP: I have always believed that design is about making things better—better for people, better for business, and better for the world. The aesthetic part of design is only one part of what designers do.
Many people think design is about colour, material, form and finish—it’s much more than that. It’s about the fundamental essence of something. It’s about how to distill the best experience, mood or emotion from a new product or service.
It’s pointless if a design is just nice to look at, or a novelty, but doesn't really change anything. Good design should make a difference in people’s lives—how they act, think, feel, see, and interact with their world. Then you have really achieved something.