Minister’s Speech at the Opening of Singapore Design Week 2016 and Launch of Design 2025


Dr Beh Swan Gin, Chairman of Design Masterplan Committee
Mr Robert Tomlin, Chairman of DesignSingapore Council
Mr Ng Lang, CEO, Urban Redevelopment AuthorityDesign

Masterplan Committee members
Friends from the design community

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to join you for the opening ceremony of the third Singapore Design Week. The Singapore Design Week has been rapidly growing with each passing year. It has turned into a platform for the design community to share best practices, discuss innovations in design and establish partnerships with other businesses. It has also allowed the wider public to experience and appreciate good design. It is also a good platform where I can share with you our plans for the future of design in Singapore.

Vision of Singapore by Design
Last year, I convened the Design Masterplan Committee to study how we could take the next leap towards our goal of being a global city of design. The Design 2025 Report is a culmination of the Committee’s hard work. It is a holistic plan built upon engagements with stakeholders across the private and public sectors. I am pleased to launch Design 2025 and accept the broad recommendations in the Report. Some of the recommendations build on the progress that the design sector has made and which we will move decisively on, in line with our national priorities. Others have a longer horizon, and we will need to further study and consult our stakeholders in implementing them.

The Design 2025 Masterplan envisions a “Singapore by Design” which is for Singapore to be an innovation-driven economy and a loveable city. Though this vision has two parts, it is established upon the single ethos of embedding design into our day-to-day, and revolutionising the way Singapore thinks, feels, and uses design.

The Design 2025 vision sees design as intrinsically being a tool for innovation, as it creates value by putting the user in mind. We have seen how FRANK by OCBC has transformed the banking experience for the members of Gen Y, and the Gen Y at heart, by focusing on their desire for personalisation and modelling the customer experience after that of a fashion store. By creating consumer value, design supports the creation of new revenue streams, new markets, new industries and new opportunities.

When applied to living spaces, public services, and government policies, design can improve our quality of life. It will catalyse our use of technology and data in our path to becoming a Smart Nation, and encourage the same sense of experimentation and creation as in the Smart Nation Programme. It will be the source of healthcare and lifestyle solutions that will enable Active Ageing and build a more inclusive society, toward a Singapore which is both liveable and loveable.

Promoting the Adoption of Design in Businesses
Design is a new source of growth and productivity in the economy. As businesses realise the importance and value of investing in design, we are seeing companies in traditional sectors build and keep design capabilities in-house. Some have even gone so far as to begin exporting their design thinking – in 2014, IBM invested $100 million in expanding its user experience consulting services, and over time it has shifted from being an engineering-centric corporation to a design-centric one.

Taking a more familiar local example, Violet Oon, who is known for her Nyonya cuisine, took up our design innovation grant to work with local design consultant Black Design Private Limited to carry out brand renewal. This included creating a unique customer interface in her flagship restaurant, which contains a show kitchen that was designed to replicate the feeling of being in Violet’s own home, while being optimized for Violet’s catering business. The result was an enhanced dining experience for her customers and greater efficiency in work operations.

These examples show that more businesses are starting to adopt design to drive innovation and strive for efficiency gains. Today, different companies may tap on a variety of assistance schemes from different government agencies. To more systematically support the adoption of design by SMEs and Singapore-based MNCs, I support the Design 2025 Masterplan recommendation for a single Design Promotion Unit to be set up within government to provide one-stop assistance for businesses who wish to scale up their use of design to achieve growth.

Strengthening the Competitiveness of Design Firms
The Design 2025 Masterplan also contains recommendations that aim to help design firms thrive locally and abroad. We recognise that the majority of design industry comprises micro-SMEs that have design expertise, but have limited resources to grow their business. Many of them have provided feedback that they would appreciate being able to access shared services, for example in the areas of human resource and intellectual property rights management. We will therefore look to implement quite soon the recommendation to set up a Business Centre in NDC that houses a pool of common business services which they can tap on, such as Public Relations, Human Resources and Intellectual Property Management. This will make it easier and generate economies of scale for them to gain access to such services, and allow them to focus on being world-class at design.

We have also observed that many design firms have aspirations to internationalise, and have studied the typical hurdles that they have faced. At the Business Centre, design firms should be able to gain access to market intelligence, plug into a network of business partners, and receive support from government agencies to allow them to internationalise.

Bringing Design into the Community
In the wider community, good design has always been part of Singapore’s DNA. From our HDB flats, parks and gardens, to our approach to urban planning, all are examples of design excellence which many countries have sought to emulate. To take this one step further, the Design 2025 Masterplan invites citizens to participate in co-creating the environment in which they live, learn, work and play in.

The DesignSingapore Council has taken early steps in bringing design to the community, and encouraging co-creation with the public. The recent Designathon was one such example. In the Designathon, designers, healthcare professionals, students and members of the public, including Mr Gabriel Chong, a 71-year old teacher with a passion for invention worked together to come up with designs to enhance the experience of ageing in Singapore.

Infusing Design into our National Skillset
All this will become more pervasive only if we cultivate a nation-wide aptitude and appreciation for design, which was one of the Committee’s recommendations. If we can expose our young to design activities and the value of design, it can become a national skillset that will not only grow the pipeline of talent for the design industry, but also grow a skill that we think will make us ready for the future economy. Together with the relevant stakeholders, we will study how we can most effectively implement this recommendation.

Developing Singapore’s Design Brand
Receiving the UNESCO Creative City of Design designation last year was a testament to how far Singapore design has progressed. To grow mindshare for Singapore Design internationally, we must continue to innovate and promulgate good design. To that end, I am pleased to see that this year’s Design Week schedule is packed with events and activities that include the elements of design thought-leadership and innovation, including the inaugural “Innovation by Design” conference.

This year also marks the President Design Award 10th Anniversary Exhibition, and we are pleased to have partnered the Urban Redevelopment Authority to honour the contributions of Singapore’s design talents.

The vision of the Design 2025 Masterplan can only be realised if all of us, the public, private and people sectors, young and old, come together. With your participation and support, I look forward to us making Singapore an innovation-driven economy and a loveable city, through design.