DesignSingapore Scholars Wu Huei Siang and Justin Tan Wei Yang may be as different as the fields of design they come from, but they share common traits and objectives – they are game-changers who are further developing Singapore’s design sector.
Good design is good business. And the DesignSingapore Council (Dsg), through the Dsg Scholarship, aims to nurture our leaders of tomorrow who recognise the value and impact of design.
Huei Siang and Justin, both Dsg Scholars, embody the Dsg ethos of leveraging design for business growth and innovation, and lead organisations that deliver design solutions that bring lived experiences to the next level.
Recipient of the Dsg Scholarship in 2009, Huei Siang founded WASAA Architects & Associates in 2016, where he conceptualises and constructs beautiful spaces with natural light and meaningful architecture that engender creativity and repose.
As for Justin, recipient of the Dsg Scholarship in 2011, he co-founded APT811, a design and innovation agency which provides strategic brand advisory and consultation services for forward-thinking companies in Asia. The agency also runs a specialised design advocator arm, Thinkroom, which empowers children with design thinking skills and knowledge.
From Sketches to Scholarship
The interest in art and craft started early for both Scholars.
Huei Siang hailed from a family of woodworkers where every piece of home furniture was handmade. So unsurprisingly, as a student, he enjoyed sketching, and even made the switch to study Architecture after he was enrolled into an Engineering course.
Just like Huei Siang was inspired by his family, Justin was equally inspired, but by his art teacher. He still remembered what his teacher said: “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.”
“I was fascinated by the idea of giving art a purpose, which eventually grew into my current passion for design,” Justin said.
Designing Possibilities with Dsg
Huei Siang, who pursued a Bachelor of Arts in Architecture from the National University of Singapore (NUS), explained: “The Dsg Scholarship is one of the most prestigious scholarships. It provided the flexibility of allowing me to either continue my studies in Architecture at NUS or further my studies overseas.
“In addition, the Scholarship came with excellent resources and a support network, which provided me exposure for an exchange in Delft Technical University, Netherlands, School of Architecture.”
The opportunity to study overseas, and understanding design’s impact in a different environment and culture was a big draw for Justin as well.
Having just finished an internship in Yahoo! Bangalore India’s User Experience Design department, Justin chose to apply for the Dsg Scholarship to further his studies in Australia, pursuing a Bachelor of Design (Communication Design) from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Design
“Besides the opportunity to further my studies in Australia to enhance my understanding of communication design, being able to contribute to Singapore’s design capabilities and be part of the growing design talent pool are also key reasons I applied for the Dsg Scholarship,” he said.
Helping Businesses and Giving Back to Society
Design can help businesses to thrive and empower communities to venture beyond their boundaries. This is evident from what Justin and Huei Siang have been endeavouring to achieve after their studies.
Today, Justin infuses his agency, APT811, with a design-led and customer-oriented mindset that leverages artificial intelligence to enhance its design development and design management approach.
One of Justin’s most significant achievements is implementing processes for clients that optimise project turnaround times, as well as putting together design methodologies that a layperson could understand. This has allowed his business to flourish as his clients are now integrating design into their core operations.
As more CEOs and business executives adopted design in their organisations, Justin thought to reach another demographic – youths. He wanted to empower them with design thinking skills and help them apply it to their lives.
“In 2015, the APT811 team saw growth in young students’ drive to make positive changes in the world. We then realised that we could help them accomplish these goals through design,” he elaborated.
“Thinkroom is the product of those desires. We equip youths with the skills to tackle existing and future problems. Participants go through our process step-by-step, including on-the-ground research, to ensure the learning points are understood and solutions are proposed.”
Huei Siang started WASAA Architects & Associates with the focus on craft-making and creating spaces that are meaningful. His practice has amassed an impressive portfolio, from small apartments to expansive houses. Apart from creating employment for architects and other designers, he has also contributed to the sector through collaboration and interaction with fellow Dsg Scholars through the Dsg Associates Network and renowned creative directors.
For one, he worked on a project, “Singapore: Inside Out”, an international and experimental showcase recognised Singapore’s top creative talents from a spectrum of disciplines.
Looking Back and Into the Future
Having received the Dsg Scholarship for more than 10 years, how has the Scholarship shaped their design journey and career since?
Huei Siang shared: “It is a worthwhile journey; equipped with a lifetime membership, and given the chance to make a difference to Singapore’s creative design scene.”
“The Dsg Scholarship gave me the confidence to start my design agency right after graduation,” said Justin.
“Go for it if you wish to do good with your deepened skills acquired with the help of the Scholarship. If one has the heart to do good and influence using design, this is the Scholarship for you!”
|Name of Scholar||Programme & School||Current Role|
|(i) Wu Huei Siang||Bachelor of Arts in Architecture, National University of Singapore||Founder, Principal Architect of WASAA Architects & Associates|
|(ii) Justin Tan Wei Yang||Bachelor of Design (Communication Design), Royal Melbourne Institute of Design||Design Director, Co-Founder of APT811 Design & Innovation Agency and Thinkroom|
This article was first published in BrightSparks February 2022 magazine. Reproduced with permission from Kariera Group (Singapore) Pte Ltd.
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