Designer profile

Proud to be a "Jack of all Trades, Master of None"

05 Aug 2020  •  10 min read

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Ms Chew Jia Ying is a DesignSingapore Scholar 2020, and soon she’ll be pursuing a Research Programme PhD at the University of the Arts London (London College of Communication). With her background and training in facilities management and industrial design, she learnt to experiment with material properties, create models of consumer electronics and launch a crowdfunding project for a lifestyle product.

However, while her peers were excited about developing product sketches and 3D models on the next consumer electronic, she found herself fascinated by the intangible. It was projects in service innovation and experience design that really got her excited. Find out more about this proud “jack of all trades, master of none” in our special interview with her.

1.  Please tell us more about yourself.

I am… Inquisitive, Candid, Dauntless. 

You know the phrase, “jack of all trades, master of none”? That phrase used to really bother me, but I’ve learnt to own that. I guess that’s also why I’m now studying how to blend the boundaries between the various trades— generalists are highly valued now :).

I’m an Education Design Strategist at the Division of Industrial Design, National University of Singapore. My current research interest focuses on transitions towards design-driven transdisciplinary higher education and the role of design in systems-level change. 

2. How did you land on design as your specialisation?

By chance, really… I did an Engineering + Business-based Diploma… So I naturally thought that I would continue in that route. But my curiosity got the better of me. When applying to university, I realised that only 5 programs at NUS (Medicine/ Dentistry/ Law/ Architecture/ Industrial Design) required an aptitude test and interview and I was curious why this “Industrial Design” (ID) program needed an interview. I had no clue what ID was, by the way. 

This is how I see future designers being able to navigate their roles as "translators/ chameleons" — switching between their own disciplinary knowledge and facilitating a collective understanding amongst stakeholders and actors of interconnected, complex problems.

But I applied anyway, went for the interview and miraculously got accepted! It was surprising, because I was (and still am) really terrible at drawing and sketching. In my aptitude test, while everyone was turning their ideas into amazing sketches… I turned in a sheet full of text. I thought I wouldn’t make it in for sure but somehow I did, and I was apprehensive because I thought that not being able to sketch would put me at a huge disadvantage… 

It was only after coming into design school that I realised that one doesn’t need to be able to draw well to be a designer! Admittedly, being able to draw is a huge plus in the visualisation process, but that is only one aspect of design. In fact, I think it was because I lacked that skill that I tried to hone other skillsets key to the design process. 

3. Why did you apply for the DesignSingapore Scholarship?

I had just completed my master’s degree at Aalto University, when the DSG Team visited Finland. After our chat, I realised that DSG had identified similar challenges/ topics and directives through the Design Education Review Committee's report… And when I decided to pursue my PhD, I applied for the scholarship because I knew that this would be my ticket to being more connected/ involved in DSG’s efforts towards the future of Design Education. 

4. What would you say most motivates you to do what you do?

I’m learning something new all the time and that excites me! People often have the impression that research and teaching is mundane, but I think that’s because they assume we’re doing the same things day in and out. But my work transcends the public, private and 3rd sector. I look at blending boundaries in creative ways, finding new perspectives to things. That’s hardly boring!  

5. What would most people not know about you?

Contrary to my serious appearance/ demeanour, I’m actually quite adventurous. Rollercoasters, scuba-diving, traveling and exploring new places and cultures… These are some things that get my adrenaline pumping! I also did competitive ice skating once upon a time, and I used to play the piano and clarinet. 

6. What are your goals for the future? How do you hope to contribute back to the design sector?

As a researcher and educator, I believe that the value of design is not only in problem-solving but in its approach to framing the challenge to develop creative concepts. The challenge though, is in articulating how our design approach can be attuned to business acumen. This is where I see a gap, and hope to be that bridge in advocating for design to be that vehicle in blending boundaries.

This is where my fascination with design-driven transdisciplinarity comes in! I also hope that we would see more progressive models in higher education, where design can play a central role (outside of the design school). This is how I see future designers being able to navigate their roles as "translators/ chameleons" — switching between their own disciplinary knowledge and facilitating a collective understanding amongst stakeholders and actors of interconnected, complex problems. 

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Chew Jia Ying

DesignSingapore Scholar

Chew Jia Ying is a multidisciplinary design strategist with passion in social innovation & education. She is an Education Design Strategist/Teaching Assistant with NUS' Department of Industrial Design, developing a transdisciplinary module spanning design, engineering and psychology. With the Dsg scholarship, she will pursue the Research Programme PhD at the University of the Arts London (London College of Communication).

 


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