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Good Design Research - Challenge Statements

17 min read
Address these challenge statements v4

Keen to work on an impactful project through the Good Design Research initiative, but do not have an existing problem statement in mind? Take on these real-world challenges from potential clients below, or get inspired by one of our open challenge statements to help get your creative juices flowing!

Challenge Statements from our partners

1. Singapore Furniture Industries Council (SFIC)

The SFIC has been established since 1981 as the official representative body of Singapore’s furniture and furnishings industry. As an aggregator and multiplier in the furniture eco-system, the SFIC plays an active role to grow and transform companies and the industry. Its vision is to position the industry as the nexus of tomorrow’s work-life integration for sustainable urban living.

Challenge Statement + Context

How might we use design to develop new environmentally friendly materials from waste and employ these materials in furniture/furnishing making?

Given the rising consumer demand for sustainability or what some call the “eco-wakening”, businesses are pressed to source for more environmentally friendly materials for their products. 

51% of respondents in PwC’s Global Consumer Survey in 2021 say that they consider whether the product was produced with a traceable and transparent origin when making a purchase, reflecting their demand for more environmentally and socially responsible products, and corresponding materials. 

With the rise of eco-awareness and this positive shift in material accountability, new environmentally friendly materials like coffee bio-composites and soft tubular felt from waste plastic fibers have been designed in recent years to minimise the environmental impact of the production, use and disposal of furniture and furnishing products. They generate value by significantly reducing carbon emissions, saving energy costs and minimising the use of harmful chemicals. 

At the same time, waste from the furniture, furnishing and built environment sectors present under-utilised opportunities to develop new environmentally friendly materials, which can generate more sustainable value for both companies and consumers. Research has shown that construction and demolition waste are mostly not recycled or reused, often because buildings are designed and built in a way that does not encourage the breaking down of parts. Hence, there is a significant loss of valuable materials within the system with potential for innovative solutions.

What are we looking out for?

Designers are encouraged to research on/ investigate one or more of the following:   

  • What are the potential waste streams that can be fed into the development of environmentally friendly materials for furniture/furnishing making?  
  • How might we design waste collection and processing workflows in the furniture and built environment sectors to support the development of materials for the furniture and furnishing industry? 

We are looking for:

  • Design proposals and/or prototypes that aim to transform waste into new materials applicable to furniture/furnishing making, thereby reducing the negative environmental impact of current waste management systems. 

For enquiries, please contact Teng Chu Yu from SFIC: chuyu@singaporefurniture.com  

2. Ministry of Education (MOE)

The mission of MOE is to mould the future of our nation by moulding the people who will determine our future. MOE will provide our children with a balanced and well-rounded education, develop them to their full potential, and nurture them into lifelong learners and good citizens, conscious of their responsibilities to family, community and country.

Challenge Statement

How might we use design to increase Singaporeans’ appreciation for different types of careers and experiences? How can we motivate Singaporeans to pursue their goals and dreams without the pressure to conform to a limited, more traditional definition of success? 

We are facing higher risks of fragmentation and polarisation as a society even as we live in an interconnected/interdependent world. Social and economic relations are constantly being challenged and re-examined due to the developments in technology, global economies and international relations, climate change and so on. 

The flux of these changes shapes our values, work and community relations and ultimately, they also affect how Singaporeans live, work, learn and progress in life. 

Against this backdrop, how can we as a people confidently pursue our passions and dreams, while having the openness and empathy to encourage, support and even inspire our fellow citizens to do the same? 

What does it mean to have led a successful, good, fulfilling or meaningful life even as we allow for more diversity and detours in people’s life journeys?  How can we celebrate the dignity and diversity in each of these journeys and acknowledge how we can all bring something unique, and of value to the table?  

What are we looking out for?

Designers are encouraged to:   

  • Research into how different countries and societies determine success or equivalent concepts of value and recognition. This can be done through a study of their life journeys, ambitions, and definitions of success in life. 
  • Research into the evolution of their societies’ understanding of these issues and concepts, and the factors contributing to the change.
  • Use research, data, and design methodologies to reveal insights that can inform or be adapted to Singapore’s context and society.   

We are looking for design proposals that:

  • Are anchored in research that seek to provide insights into Singaporeans’ understanding and appreciation of concepts like “life goals”, “dreams and passions”, “ambitions” and the value of different types of achievements.   
  • Use elements of fun, surprise, and discovery to encourage communication and sharing between people from diverse backgrounds, in various settings and contexts.
  • Are scalable and cost-effective, to enable us to reach everyone who has a say in this. 

Designers may choose to focus on selected stakeholder segments (e.g. parents, teachers, students) but the design proposal should be scalable across the wider ecosystem of stakeholders.

For enquiries, please contact Sharon Chee from MOE: Sharon_CHEE@moe.gov.sg

3. Lien Foundation

The Lien Foundation is a private philanthropic organisation that pioneers solutions to tackle the root causes of challenges in eldercare and early childhood development in Singapore. Its past work includes Design For Death, Genki Kaki, Gym TonicHack Care, Happy UrnsSecond Beginnings, and Care Where You Are.

Challenge Statement

How might we help elderly men find meaning and purpose in their old age?

Elderly day care centres – commonly found at HDB void decks – serve an important role in Singapore’s rapidly-ageing society where 1 in 4 citizens will be aged 65 and above by 2030. They allow elderly who are still relatively healthy to “age in place”, amidst the familiarity of their neighbourhoods and families, rather than in a nursing home.

Yet, these centres haven’t quite managed to attract an important half of the elderly population – the men. Of the 2,800 elderly who used day care centres in 2016, only 37% were men.

Perhaps men prefer to be independent, and cling fiercely to the belief or image that they are still full of vim and vigour. Or perhaps such services and spaces designed around simplistic categorisations such as income, age bands and health status work only to a certain extent as the elderly have such varied and distinct life experiences that such categorisations are rendered ineffective.

Whatever the reasons may be, elderly men are strangely not enticed by the proposition of spending their days in an air-conditioned environment participating in holistic activities, surrounded by professional care, nutritious food, and the opportunities to make new friends.

Instead, they seem to prefer spending hours in “roundtable discussions” at the kopitiam, roaming the island, or relaxing at home (or at the void deck away from the nagging!).

What gives? Maybe you can find out for us. Whether you are interested to redesign services and spaces to meet the men where they are, or wish to pursue the age-old quest of changing men, we’d like to hear your ideas.

What are we looking out for?

Designers are encouraged to research on/ investigate one or more of the following:   

  • What drives/motivates men in their old age? What are their unspoken aspirations, needs and fears?
  • Why do the current available services/spaces fail to engage particular segments of the elderly male population?
  • In order to develop services/spaces that address the different needs of elderly men, what boundaries can we push?

We are looking for:

  • Unorthodox proposals of services or spaces that have the potential to be implemented. We are not looking to create research publications or app-only proposals.

For enquiries, please contact the Lien Foundation at: tzeyong@lienfoundation.org


Open Challenges

Learn more about the Loveable Singapore Project here.

1. Our Sense of Connection

Challenge Statement

How might we build a stronger sense of connection to the community– a feeling of bond and affection for others in Singapore?

Our sense of connection is built through strong micro-communities that exchange care, support and resources, especially within our neighbourhoods. Public spaces where we can gather with loved ones encourage interactions with people outside our social circle can further help enhance this connection while opportunities to co-create or shape our shared spaces engender a sense of belonging. connected to our communities too. However, unfriendly, unpleasant and inconsiderate behaviour that results from a rushed and competitive pace of life can erode our connection to each other.

 

What are we looking out for?

We are looking for designers to explore:

  • Ways to engender more opportunities for positive social connection and interaction among neighbours and community members, particularly within high-traffic areas.
  • How to design for needs that tend to be overlooked in urban design and planning today, especially as our society becomes more diverse. (E.g., needs that may be specific to certain ages, ethnicities, nationalities, genders, sexual orientations, or persons with disabilities).
  • Ways of re-imagining how community building looks like today, as communities are less geographically bound in a digitally connected world.
  • How to design, develop and maintain social infrastructure that is community-driven to increase interaction with those beyond our social circles, and extend care and support to those around us.
  • Ways to encourage meaningful and spontaneous interactions in public areas.
  • How to design online interactions to appreciate diverse viewpoints, where disagreements are accepted civilly and graciously.
  • How to engage and empower our youth, who feel most strongly about building connection, in community-building endeavours.

2. Our Sense of Attraction

Challenge Statement + Context

How might we enhance people’s sense of attraction to the city?

Many Singaporeans felt a heightened sense of attraction to the city when they can experience vibrant civic life and encounter mixed place typologies: from open, unprogrammed spaces to well-programmed, bustling ones. Attractive architecture either in the form of emotive landmarks or cultural and heritage places also adds to this dimension of loveability. Opportunities for spontaneous interactions and surprise discoveries make the city more attractive, although the unpleasant realities of high-density urban life, generic-looking streetscapes and the loss of authentic cultural anchors in our built environment can diminish this sense of attraction.

What are we looking out for?

We are looking for designers to explore:

  • Enhancing the potential for places to provide moments of joy, discovery, beauty and freedom to mitigate the negative aspects of high-density urban life.
  • Ensuring residents have equal access to places that offer moments of discovery, beauty and freedom. Which groups are less able to access these places, and what would they need to be able to enjoy these places as well?
  • Creating neighbourhoods with more distinctive character such that we breathe new life into what is existing, while retaining the elements of familiarity?
  • Ways to design spaces for humour, joy and wit to enable people in Singapore to laugh at and enjoy our local cultural elements, while embedding these local elements into our daily lived experience.
  • The balance between developmental plans and open, unprogrammed and unplanned pockets of spaces to encourage “organic messiness” that people find freedom and beauty.

3. Digital Experiences

Challenge Statement + Context

How might digital experiences be better designed to nurture empathy?

Digital platforms have enabled more connectivity, yet current digital experiences are often still lacking physical human interactions. In physical interactions, there are many ways to build emotional connections that evoke the desire to care: eye contact, body language, tone of voice.

However, in the digital realm, the quality of social connections is compromised which in turn reduces our empathetic capacity1. Already, we are seeing these tensions. Digital users may be confined to echo chambers which in turn results in tunnel vision in relation to real world2.

As technology advances, it can be expected that an enhanced sense of immersion achieved by the combination of VR and other novel technologies such as AI, real-time animations, deepfake videos, gamification, holograms, blockchain, and ultra-high-speed networks will change our behaviour in every aspect of our lives – work, entertainment, and the interactions with other people. How might we design the use of such existing tech tools to promote authentic human connection via digital experiences? What are some untapped opportunities at the intersection of human-centred design and technology to develop more empathetic individuals or communities? What are the opportunities for us to use digital realm to build more loveable Singapore?

[1] The Emerging Issue of Digital Empathy, (Terry & Cain, May 2016), 80 (4) 58; DOI: https://doi.org/10.5688/ajpe80458

2 Bibri, S.E., Allam, Z. The Metaverse as a virtual form of data-driven smart cities: the ethics of the hyper-connectivity, datafication, algorithmization, and platformization of urban society. Comput.Urban Sci. 2, 22 (2022): https://doi.org/10.1007/s43762-022-00050-1

What are we looking out for?

We want to explore the role design will play in developing an ethical digital space. We are looking for:

  • Novel online-offline hybrid experiences leveraging technologies (such as haptic, extended reality, AR/VR, affective computing, AI, etc).
  • New business models for digital or hybrid experiences.
  • Designs that seek to inform the development of policy/regulatory guidelines in digital space.
  • Design interventions that are informed by the needs of disadvantaged groups identified by applicant, for e.g. the elderly, the tech-disadvantaged, the visually impaired, etc.
  • Designs that address the known ills of technology and look to a new way of living in a blended world that is healthier and more inclusive.

For enquiries, please contact research@designsingapore.org

Interested to apply for the Good Design Research Grant?

Applications for the Good Design Research (GDR) grant run twice a year usually in April and October. Get notified of launch dates when calls for applications launch.

Good Design Research Resources

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One of Asia’s premier design festivals that champions design thought leadership
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