1. Please tell us more about yourself.
Hello! I’m Serene, and my mornings are most complete with two soft-boiled eggs and a kopi peng siew dai.
I graduated from Ngee Ann Polytechnic with a diploma in Mass Communication, and thereafter received my degree in Design Communication at LASALLE College of the Arts, where I experimented methods to introduce solitary moments into one’s life in a hyper-social society. I spent a year working with a fun and dedicated bunch in a brand design agency, before an opportunity arose for me to join the newly-formed User Experience and Design team in DBS Bank, which, within the next 5 years, grew resiliently by tenfold. The whole journey has been one of learning, growth and gratitude.
Guided by the principle that all life is interconnected, my fundamental belief is that all of us have, inherently, the potential to change our lives and the lives around us. I also believe that dialogue is the first step to the creation of value, and this is probably the reason why I value the approach of collective problem solving.
I also enjoy conversations on topics such as emotional agility, culture and group dynamics, and when I’m not being so serious, I’m likely to be writing silly ukulele songs.
2. How did you land on design as your specialisation?
Victor Papanek once said, “The only important thing about design is how it relates to people.”
I had originally dreamt of becoming a social documentary photographer, and upon graduating from Ngee Ann Polytechnic, applied for both sociology and design degree courses because of their relevance to that job. The study of society and human behaviour fascinated me, while communication design felt like an extension of what I studied in polytechnic, focusing on speaking to an audience via, mostly, visual mediums, and I was always amazed how design can be used for social change.
Long story short, I didn’t make the cut for the sociology course, and neither did I end up specialising in photography at design school. I got my degree in Design Communication, fell in love with research and design, and the rest is history. Seven years on, I’m still in love with how design exists in everything we do, everywhere, and the fact that we can improve and impact lives directly in our line of work is something so honest and precious—something we should never, ever take for granted. As for my childhood ambition of being a documentary photographer… I’m fortunate that there’s such a thing as ethnographic research, and the human narratives are what I can still capture as a designer.