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Does Design Make Sense?

We have heard more than often that pursuing design, especially in Singapore, as a career option is probably not the wisest of choices as it is definitely not the choice if one would want to bring home the bacon. 

In conjunction with our store's theme at Singaplural 2016, we have spoken to several designers and makers from Singapore and around the globe, to share with us their views with these connotations and what it truly means to be a designer.

Adamo 3D Bag Original

What does it mean to be a designer? 

Being a designer is different from being an artist. Design is about creating something that brings positive feelings or good influences to the world. In Adamo 3D Bag Original, we wish to promote animal rights to consumers and to raise public awareness of environment conservation and mistreatment of animals worldwide by our eco-friendly animal 3D bags.

Share with us what's the most memorable positive AND negative comment that someone has said about your design or you being a designer?

The most memorable comment is a story of a Taiwanese customer. She bought our Black Tuna Cat Clutch because it reminds her a black stray cat she rescued from the street. The cat accompanied her for many years until the day it disappeared. Although the cat is still missing, she keeps reminding herself the precious memories by carrying our Tuna Cat Clutch everyday and hoping that they can reunite in the future. We are grateful that she shared her story and our Brand Creator/Chief Designer also shared similar experience, which inspired him to design the first cat clutch of our brand.

We faced negative comments for sure, mostly said that our designs are too realistic and different from the general concept of handbag design. We understand that the design is subjective sometimes, but we listen to all and make use of these comments to improve our designs if reasonable.

How has your journey at Adamo 3D Bag Original been thus far? 

We have to admit that it was quite rough when we first started. Our Chief Designer was in the action figures industry for many years and had never designed a handbag before. We had spent a long time to learn and faced a lot of challenges. Moreover, creating a 3D Bag is more complicated than a normal handbag. It requires more time, resources and knowledge, especially our designs emphasise on the carving techniques, we hand-carved the animal hair one by one. Each design was created with passion.

Over the years, the design and production teams had overcome many challenges and obstacles. We are still facing a lot of challenges everyday but our experiences have made us better.

Were there times when you were discouraged and you just want to give up on your brand? If yes, why so?

As mentioned, the journey was not easy as there were many difficulties and failures along the way. But, we are blessed because we have a loving and supportive team. We are all animal lovers and share the same belief that our designs will make the world better by raising the awareness of animal protection. With a strong belief, we continue to create more meaningful designs. For example, our Tawaki Penguin series was inspired by the endangered Fiordland Penguins. We hope that customers will aware of the endangered animals when they see our designs.

How does design make sense to you?

Design makes sense in many ways as long as it fits the purpose. It involves communication and share of ideas, so that the design is not only for yourself, but also for the others. It is about creating something that relates to different people and satisfy their needs. Design is important to us and affects our daily living in many different ways. 

Eugenia, Cane Art

Share with us what's the most memorable positive AND negative comment that someone has said about your design or you being a designer?

The most memorable positive comment that someone said about our designer walking canes is that her friend whom she gifted the cane to was move almost to tears upon opening the gift. She had just come out of a serious operation and was getting ready for a long recuperation process. She was not aware of the existence of walking aids that were made to be both practical and aesthetically pleasing.

The most negative comment that someone has said about our designer walking canes is that walking canes regardless of design are meant only for the infirm.

How has your journey at Cane Art been thus far? 

Full of surprises and a steep learning curve. What customers like and want have varied widely from our expectations and past experiences. It’s a humble journey to constantly gather feedback and produce products that customers appreciate, both aesthetically and functionally.

Cane Art’s canes go beyond being visually appealing in design and function. Its underlying purpose is to use modern design to stimulate a more positive response to using a walking aid. In a culture where seniors will rather struggle with a limp or hold on to another person to move around, selling a walking cane goes beyond its medical function. We have learnt that in many ways, we have to soften the product by adding colours, modern prints, and introducing the idea that canes can be used by people who are not in desperate need of one- (for example, sightseeing during a holiday), in order to shake away the dull image that is tied to a walking cane.  

Were there times when you were discouraged and you just want to give up on your brand? If yes, why so?

Discouragement comes in periodically when we get turned down by customers who feel insulted by the thought of using one. Potential users with strong characters and who are fiercely independent take time to realise that prevention is better than cure. Many times, it takes the support and encouragement of an entire family to coax the user into understanding the importance of using an aid when you need one. The demand for walking canes is not that strong in Singapore despite our nation having an aging population. A lot of education and exposure is needed to sustain and bring our brand to the next level- and for this we are thankful for the opportunity to work with Naiise, who has supported our cause and brand from the start, allowing us to reach out to a wider audience through them.

How does design make sense to you?

Design has to bring about a practical aspect of the product that is human centric, in order to improve the lives of the user.

Alvin, ConcreteEverything

What does it mean to be a local designer? 

It means that we represent the dreams, hopes and the aspirations of young entrepreneurs to whomever who sees our designs. We represent not just ourselves but the industry and Singapore. 

Share with us what's the most memorable positive AND negative comment that someone has said about your design or you being a designer?

Positive: People asking me to keep up the good design that I have come up with and that they are huge fans of us. (It's really cool to hear some echoes of people being fans, you almost feel like a mini celebrity, haha)

Negative: It's a love-hate thing with cement. To a certain group of people, they don't see the beauty of its bareness and find it too incomplete and therefore hate it.

How has your journey at Concrete Everything been thus far? 

It's been quite a journey for me and from a personal hobby, it has transformed into a mission for me - to expose my brand to everyone. The beauty of such business is the unknown of it and going into unchartered waters, scary yet exciting. The rewards aren't just monetary but the people you meet, connections you create, stories you hear, these are invaluable.

Were there times when you were discouraged and you just want to give up on your brand? If yes, why so?

Definitely! It's tough work for me as I do this as a 2nd job. Working 9-5 takes its toll on me and having to run errands for the business everyday is tough. Plus, I have a newborn child to spend time with and 24 hours is tight. I'm glad to say it's so much a part of me now that it's almost like breathing for me. When I'm making for ConcreteEverything, i feel most alive.

How does design make sense to you? To me, design has a role in evoking a feeling, an emotion. much like how a comedy seeks in creating laughter, I think design should create delight. An echo almost of the viewer's taste and wants, such that he/she wants the design as it best represents them. 

Stephanie, Inky Cat studio

What does it mean to be a local designer? 

I think that Design and Art work best when it is the result of a connection you’ve made with someone or something else. As a designer, artist and human being, this means I like making meaningful connections with the community around me so I can share in their ideas and experiences. Learning about how other people see the world influences the way I see mine and stimulates my imagination. It may not show in my work so obviously, but I’m a believer that what you learn from other people helps you grow, which is why I think the most important part about being a local designer is to never be afraid to connect with those around you. 

Share with us what's the most memorable positive AND negative comment that someone has said about your design or you being a designer?

Happily, I’ve been told a few times that my pieces have made people smile and that it’s made their day. On the other hand, I’ve also been told that my work is ‘nothing new’ and that I shouldn’t be a designer / artist. Ouch lol.

How has your journey at Inky Cat Studio been thus far? 

Inky Cat Studio is still very new. I only started this brand in August 2015, so there is still a lot of room for improvement and growth. But what I’ve noticed is that everyday has a different lesson and paying attention to what I can learn helps me feel that I’ve gained something from even the most frustrating day. Sometimes it could be a lesson in patience, other times I will learn resilience.

My favourite lesson is to appreciate the ‘wins’, no matter how small, because even something tiny and insignificant now will add up to something great later. It’s also led me to appreciate the kindness of others and their willingness to help. I’ve learnt that if you ask nicely, most people are willing to help. Don’t be afraid to ask.

Were there times when you were discouraged and you just want to give up on your brand? If yes, why so?

Inky Cat Studio is my first business venture after many years of work in a different industry. The appeal of a steady pay check and a cushy office job can be very strong sometimes, especially when growth seems slow or when you put in effort but there seems to be little recognition. The most discouraging of all, is when you compare with other bigger brands and the joy inside dies. Well, I guess this would be discouraging even if you weren’t a brand owner. The fact is, I built my brand on the notion that it would march to its own beat while creating designs that make people happy and as one Facebook meme puts it: ’The grass is greener where you water it’. So my remedy to those low days, is to just keep doing.

How does design make sense to you?

Design makes sense to me when I can talk about the design, or use the design in the same way as every one else. I think design makes sense when lots of different people see one clear message.  

Jaren, JXKL


What does it mean to be a local designer? 

We grew up in a harmonious multi-racial and cultural society and we have the courage and vision to be different. With that, it kickstarted our creative thinking since young. We used to hear people saying that Singapore is a dead-end for design, but that did not stop most of us from chasing and working on our creativity and design thinking. Especially in the recent years, we are seeing more local designers' works being recognised internationally, we feel genuinely proud when we present ourselves as Singapore designers as well. 

Share with us what's the most memorable positive AND negative comment that someone has said about your design or you being a designer?

“Design can make money meh?” That’s certainly the most negative comment we’ve ever come across as a designer. Although money is essential when it comes to making a living, we don’t think it should be the fundamental fuel to drive your creativity. We believe not everyone is doing design for the sake of money and, surely along the route of being a designer, some of us may change course. But for those who chose to stay are probably the ones who found the passion for keeping them going and, in addition, enjoy bringing home the sense of satisfaction and achievement when they see their products are out in the market – not the money.

“Thank you for making these necklaces.” We are definitely happy to hear customers commenting that they love our products, but a few months ago, and for the first time, a customer wrote in and thanked us for making them – explaining to us her feeling and understanding of the particular concept (which by the way is totally on point with what we have in mind while designing them). So that makes us feel that our humble effort has been recognised and appreciated and it was an out-of-the-world kind of feeling. Simple words, but oddly empowering.

How has your journey at JXKL been thus far? 

To be honest, in the beginning, we have never imagined ourselves to become what we are today. Back then, we were as good as just kids playing with ideas and making whatever we want. Our first step onto Instagram was to document our journey in creating products together and, fortunately, everything else just started taking off from there. We are very grateful to everybody for all the opportunities and support to realize our ideas and letting this collaboration eventually blossomed to become a full-time business. Till today, it still feels kind of surreal to us and we can’t wait to bring out more creations in the future.

Were there times when you were discouraged and you just want to give up on your brand? If yes, why so?

Maybe not to the extent of giving up the brand, but there were a couple of times that we were really discouraged. It isn’t easy to run a business as a couple and it seems like most of the problems or arguments boils down to the same issue – the relationship. As the business gets busier, it became more difficult to distinguish when is our personal time and when is the working hours and this can lead to many other arguments. That said, the solution is actually simple and can be easily obtained – in the relationship as well. We’ll always have each other’s back no matter what and we know how easy it is to listen and understand certain things from each other’s perspective and solve things together instead of letting emotions getting the best of us. And eventually, we matured together as a couple, which I feel is actually pretty amazing.

How does design make sense to you?

To us, “design” means to solve a problem or a subject and not just tackling on the aesthetic part of everything. We love designs that focus on functions over appearance and those with little details that the designers paid attention to despite knowing not many people would notice. It could be to bring across a certain message, to enhance people’s lifestyle or as straightforward as improving a current product - regardless of what the subject may be, as long as it can present a good answer for the issue it’s created for, we believe that’s a good design. 

Julie, Mokuyobi Threads

What does it mean to be a designer?

Being a designer means making the world a more beautiful place through your own eyes and being able to add to the world in illustrative and fun ways that evoke feeling in your own personal style.

Share with us what's the most memorable positive AND negative comment that someone has said about your design or you being a designer?

One of the most positive experiences I have had in how I see my own design has come out of negative experiences in learning how to separate myself from my own design and understand that my design is not me and I can improve on anything I make with a different perspective and being able to listen to others about how they see and interpret your design is invaluable and should never be taken badly. Negative comments are much more helpful than positive comments.

How has your journey at Mokuyobi Threads been thus far?

I started my journey down this path because I always had a love for making bags and backpacks. I love construction and figuring out how to put something together in the 3rd dimension. I started sewing when I was 13 in middle school economics class. I was terrible at first but just couldn't put it down. I would rip bags and clothing apart to see how they were constructed and make my own versions. After sewing well into high school and the beginning of college messing around with applique as a way to make a fabric my own I realised that a product wasn't fully mine unless I designed the print on it as well so I went to Parsons in New York City to study Illustration and Textile Design and it was then that I was able to incorporate my design with my sewing background.

Since then I have developed the brand into designing new products every season, experimenting with new techniques and applications to add to my process, and have hired a small team to help with sending out orders and working with stores.

Were there times when you were discouraged and you just want to give up on your brand? If yes, why so?

There are always difficult moments that really test you to become better and learn from your mistakes. These moments can be plentiful or rare depending on what you're tackling but if doing what you do is what you love which for me it is then you will find a way to overcome your problems everytime.

How does design make sense to you?

Design for me is a way to create something out of nothing. To take an idea from your mind or brainstorm with sketching until you have found an object or a backpack or a patch you want to make in real life. The way we are able to create amazing designs in real life with thought and action with the resources that are available to us is always amazing to me.

Ashley & Shawn, Simitaiji

What does it mean to be a local designer? 

We are a showcase to the world of what Singaporean designers are capable of. Being "a local designer" challenges us to keep up with design standards and trends worldwide, and to pit ourselves against the best whilst bringing recognition to design in Singapore.

Share with us what's the most memorable positive AND negative comment that someone has said about your design or you being a designer?

Positive: "This is brilliant, why have I not thought of this?" To us, the best and most successful designs are the simplest ones that get people questioning why they did not think about it in the first place.

Negative: "So, how is your t-shirt business doing?" We try very hard to dispel the notion that we are a t-shirt brand. This may not be a negative comment per se, but we do not want to be pigeonholed either. We want to spread the word that we design across many mediums, including but not limited to t-shirts.

How has your journey at Simitaiji been thus far? 

It has not been exactly smooth-sailing. Simitaiji is a full-time commitment and we need to be constantly dedicated to it in order for it to grow. Unfortunately, both partners have full-time day jobs. Therefore, there is always a struggle to balance doing what we love, and what would sustain us.

Were there times when you were discouraged and you just want to give up on your brand? If yes, why so?

It has yet to happen. We are still highly positive on what we have got in Simitaiji and we want to continue to grow this brand to our best abilities.

How does design make sense to you?

The great thing about having two creatives is that we have conflicting (but complementing) design philosophies. One of us believes in Form before Function while the other prefers to design with Function before Form. What we have as a result is a relatively good balance in our designs. 

Jacqueline, The Fingersmith Letterpress

What does it mean to be a local designer?

A local designer could be one that is born and bred in Singapore whose artwork may not necessarily carry a local theme. He or she could also just be based in Singapore, producing artwork with a local theme.

Share with us what's the most memorable positive AND negative comment that someone has said about your design or you being a designer?

Positive: A lady in a long distance relationship told me that she rekindled her joy in writing postcards to her boyfriend through my local themed postcards.

Negative: I haven't heard any; not in my face at least.

How has your journey at The Fingersmith Letterpress been thus far?

Running a business is not all smooth sailing but I love the flexibility of doing different things everyday. I'd like to share a quote by Dr. Seuss about making your own decisions be it in life or in a business: "You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the guy who'll decide where to go."

I believe everyone's a captain of their own ship. You can choose to anchor yourself in a safe harbour, or go on an adventure and I for one, pick adventure any day. 

Were there times when you were discouraged and you just want to give up on your brand? If yes, why so?

Discouraged, yes plenty of times but giving up on my brand, never. I've been discouraged by mistakes due to bad decisions. They were mostly financial mistakes but I believe that money can always be earned back. So I rather pick myself up, get an ice cream instead and start again.

How does design make sense to you?

Design doesn't always need to make sense. Sometimes I love designs that do not make any sense but done as a break away from a society that has to make sense of everything. 



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