Eugene Ng is a former DesignSingapore scholar. He is currently pursuing his second postgraduate degree in educational leadership and policy with Monash University. Eugene sees lifelong learning as a way to remain competent in his work and enrich his life. If he’s not catching up on his readings and assignments, he’s spending time with loved ones and close friends, or engaging in an active lifestyle with a swim or run.
1. Why did you decide to carve out a career in design?
I enjoy solving problems and coming up with new ideas. A career in design seemed the best way to use my strength in creativity to make a living. So, armed with both diploma and degree in communication & media design, I worked towards being a communications designer. After I completed a master’s in the management of cultural and creative industries sponsored by the DesignSingapore Council, my career path changed.
I was exposed to new career opportunities – those which were non design-practices, but roles which required the integration of design. My ‘design DNA’ also enabled me to be innovative and creative in my subsequent appointments in the public and higher education sectors.
2. Masters of Arts in Cultural and Creative Industries seemed like a relatively interesting course. What made you decide on the course of study?
It was an exciting time for the cultural and creative industries (CCI) globally in the early 2000s. The master’s programme at King’s College, London was the first of its kind then.
I was passionate about design, and also wanted to explore the social, cultural, economic and political aspects of this dynamic industry. I learnt to adapt and apply theoretical frameworks and management methodologies to academic research in design.
A key highlight of the programme was my internship with the London Design Festival (LDF), one of the most renowned design events in the world. It was a memorable learning journey. I picked up various management and promotional strategies, and saw the event came into fruition. I was also given the opportunity to be involved in Singapore’s inaugural showcase at the LDF, and subsequently contributed my experience to the Singapore Design Festival in the areas of strategic planning.
3. Could you share with us some of your current work and also the job experiences prior to joining the team at SMU?
When I was with the DesignSingapore Council, I was part of the team that drafted the Dsg-II Strategic Blueprint, which charts the development of the Singapore Design Industry. I also established a social enterprise that enables social change by design. Now at the Singapore Management University (SMU), I continue to advance social inclusion and accessibility through design for students with disabilities
My work at SMU involves the design and development of the university’s disability services, and I received training at the Association of Higher Education and Disability in the U.S. to prepare for this emerging area of work. Using service design thinking methods, I implemented the student-centric disability services and developed a service operation plan. I knew we needed to continue reviewing the service improvement process so I maintained my working relationship with students throughout their varsity life at SMU.
My work also requires me to be creative in addressing the social, environmental and systemic learning barriers. The experience I developed in policy analysis and design provided me with the proficiency to be both micro and macro in my approach to address the complex and challenging areas in my work.
4. What are some of the interesting projects you have worked on? Which one inspired you the most?
I recalled a Student Assistant programme which I co-developed two years ago. Many students with disabilities were not able to undergo the complete varsity learning experience, particularly those with severe physical and sensory disabilities. I wanted to help these students receive equitable learning experience in the classroom, so I co-designed the Student Assistant training programme that included student trainings along with the disability support and learning access for educators.
I also worked with students with severe visual impairment. A number of the course materials were visual – charts, diagrams and images; some could be described through words, others like the charts and diagrams could not be easily translated. I wanted to make learning resources accessible to students with visual disability. And my background in design helped to turn the visuals into tactile format and create relief markings of the images, so that the students could feel and ‘see’ the images with their hands.
5. What are your short-term plans?
My colleague and I co-wrote a proposal for SGEnable, the Tote Board Enabling Lives Initiative Grant. This was to raise standards and capabilities of our disability services, and to better support students at our local Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs). SMU was awarded the grant to implement this proposal for the next two years. It was an exciting project, the first of its kind to research and address the disability services in IHLs in Singapore.
For this project, we will develop a set of guidelines for disability services in local IHLs, to improve the learning access and inclusion standards in higher education. We are also working on developing the competencies of these disability services officers to better address the learning needs of students with disabilities.
With this, my colleagues and I also have plans to research on Universal Design for Learning (UDL). This is an inclusive educational framework and instructional design strategy and will guide the learning development regardless of abilities. We hope to promote the use of UDL in local IHLs, so that students with disabilities can have better access to learning and student life.