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Singapore designers present innovative solutions that address pressing challenges with global relevance

Seventeen projects backed by the Good Design Research initiative highlight diversity of solutions and depth of work by Singapore designers

As a nation, Singapore has long been at the forefront of architectural innovation, not just in South East Asia, but in the world, pioneering green architecture and urban co-living. ​ According to the 2018 Sustainable Cities Index, Singapore is ranked as the most sustainable city in Asia, and fourth in the world.. Now Singapore is proposing innovative solutions by its designers, to a diverse range of issues that affect daily life. This builds on Singapore’s track record as a ‘prototyping nation’, using transformative solutions to achieve a more sustainable future. ​ From the problem of plastic caused by takeaway food containers and overproduction in fashion, to giving unwanted felled trees a new purpose, some of these challenges are Singaporean in origin, but they are also globally relevant, offering ideas on how we can make a difference by creating a more sustainable environment for everyone.

Good Design Research (GDR) is an initiative launched by DesignSingapore Council (Dsg) in 2020 to deepen the role of research-based design in solving the challenges faced by societies and cities. The initiative provides designers with sponsorship, mentorship and ​ industry support to empower them to design impactful solutions.

Following two open calls, Dsg selected seventeen projects that exemplify impactful design, tackle complex global challenges and benefit people, businesses and the environment. ​ The designers of these projects, which cut across three key impact areas – Environment; Communities and Culture; and People and Organisations – will now present their research findings, solutions and prototypes in an 11-month rotating physical showcase as well as a series of online workshops and webinars hosted by National Design Centre in Singapore.

“The projects under Good Design Research not only demonstrate great diversity, they understand the role and the potential for research to explore better, human-centred solutions for the many challenges we face today. Living in these VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) times, there’s a greater urgency r to design more thoughtfully for positive impact and reveal new possibilities for a better world by design,” says Mark Wee, Executive Director of Dsg. ​
Hawker Centre, Singapore (image by Reuse Lab)
Hawker Centre, Singapore (image by Reuse Lab)

The first project featured in the GDR exhibition this month is Reuse Lab by multidisciplinary design studio Forest & Whale, which throws light on the issue of disposable food packaging and plastic waste. In Singapore, the best way to eat cheap, good food is to visit one of its many hawker centres scattered around the island. These traditional open-air spaces ​ are pivotal to local life, each home to a diverse collection of street food stalls, ​ where the majority of Singaporeans grab quick meals at a low cost. However, the hawker centres are also responsible for a large amount of plastic waste caused by the disposable containers used by the stalls. The project saw the design studio undertake a series of interviews with hawkers to inform the creation of more sustainable, reusable and user-friendly takeaway options as an alternative to single-use plastic.

Reuse Lab has created three concepts for the exhibition: KopiCup, its local version of a reusable coffee cup inspired by the iconic kopitiam milk tin; Borrow and Return, a reusable clam-shell container inspired by the Styrofoam versions favoured by hawkers; and a Hybrid takeaway model comprising a compostable brown paper liner and a reusable container. In addition, the exhibition will share podcasts and video interviews with sustainability experts, food critic KF Seetoh and Singaporean hawkers.

Reuse Lab’s Borrow and Return clamshell container (image by Reuse Lab)
Reuse Lab’s Borrow and Return clamshell container (image by Reuse Lab)
“Reuse Lab is our way to ignite conversations on sustainable reusable models for hawker centres, where single-use plastic is widely used. Through the exhibition and our prototypes, we hope to discuss topics such as how we can nudge behaviours and redesign the relationship between hawkers and consumers from simply a transactional one back to something more relational. We believe bringing reusable models into hawker centres where most people eat daily can help to scale up the collective impact of using reusables instead of disposables,” says Gustavo Maggio, co-founder of Forest & Whale.
Reuse Lab’s Hybrid takeaway model (image by Reuse Lab)
Reuse Lab’s Hybrid takeaway model (image by Reuse Lab)

This pop-up laboratory will run for three weeks from Oct 15 to Nov 10, 2021 before fellow GDR project, Make in Shop, by fashion label GINLEE Studio takes over on Nov 15 to explore the twin issues of over-production in fashion and the revitalisation of bricks-and-mortar retail with an on-demand in-store manufacturing solution. ​ The fashion industry generates 92 million tons or 4% of the world’s waste each year. ​ In response, GINLEE Studio has developed a new retail concept which could potentially allow them to address the two key challenges of over-manufacturing and the issue of consumers moving online and away from traditional brick and mortar stores. Made in Shop is a new on-demand and on-the-spot manufacturing solution that is both sustainable and engaging for consumers. This involves the redesign of its pleat manufacturing process which will enable the creation of multiple styles and sizes from a single cloth base. By making the process of pleating visible to its consumers, GINLEE Studio hopes to retain the attraction of brick and mortar stores by building upon experiential retail.

Works by GINLEE Studio (images by GINLEE Studio)
Works by GINLEE Studio (images by GINLEE Studio)

The third pop-up will be helmed by design studio Produce Workshop unveiling a new sustainable material for the construction industry. Produce Workshop has used regionally sourced timbers to develop a new Mass Engineered Timber (MET) material prototype with a lighter carbon footprint than imported counterparts.

Also looking at the issues of timber and sustainability is Roger& Sons who will be presenting an initiative that aims to salvage trees that have been felled for urban development. ​ ​ Although more than 13,000 trees will be felled in Singapore over the next 13 years, these logs will not be used due to the high cost of overcoming challenges such as warping. Roger&Sons sought to understand better local wood, to develop sustainable and eco-friendly processes to rehabilitate abandoned logs and stabilise the wood. This can then be turned into durable objects and furniture, giving new value to felled trees. ​ Globally, it is hoped that utilising local trees will allow the woodworking industry to be more sustainable in terms of the environmental impact.

Images by Roger&Sons
Images by Roger&Sons

The exhibition space will be updated monthly to present a line-up of GDR projects delving into other issues such as assistive ageing; inclusive fashion for the mobility-challenged; reusing stone and wood offcuts from factories; and hybrid music performances for the neo-pandemic age. Online offerings of GDR projects will commence next year.

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National Design Centre

111 Middle Road, Singapore 188969

9 am to 9 pm daily

Free admission

For more information on the first showcase, Reuse Lab, visit: www.designsingapore.org/event/good-design-research-reuse-lab-by-forest--whale.html

Images of Good Design Research projects and designers can be downloaded HERE

 

Please refer to the following list of the GDR projects in the rotating showcase and corresponding online offerings, here:

1. We can redesign takeaway food culture by eliminating single-use plastic

 
 

Project: Reuse Lab by Forest & Whale

Research: ​ With Reuse Lab, Forest & Whale aims to reduce the use of single-use plastic packaging for food delivery and takeaway by experimenting with new compostable materials and designing better, user-centric reusable food containers with local resonance. Through life cycle assessment of the carbon footprint in the takeaway container, a more sustainable, shared circular system of reusable containers to deliver food is proposed.

Impact Areas: Environment

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2. We can design away over-production in the fashion industry

 
 

Project: Make in Shop by GINLEE Studio

Research: The fashion industry faces two key challenges: excess stock / over manufacturing and the decline in popularity of brick-and-mortar retail. GINLEE Studio proposes the creation of a new on-demand and on-the-spot manufacturing solution that is both sustainable and engaging for consumers.

Impact Areas: Environment

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3. We can redesign timber construction to be more sustainable

 
 

Project: Sandwiched Variable Eggcrate Structure by Produce Workshop

Research: The use of reinforced concrete and structural steel in construction is time-consuming and generates a lot of material wastage and pollution. Mass Engineered Timber (MET) has a significantly smaller carbon footprint, but its cost and the need to import it into Singapore inhibit its use. Produce Workshop conceptualised a type of MET known as the Sandwiched Variable Eggcrate Structure (SVES) to reduce material used, shorten production lead time, and minimise labour time on site.

Impact Areas: Environment

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4. We can design new uses for unwanted stone and ceramic offcuts

 
 

Project: Offcut Factory by Esli Ee and Edmund Zhang

Research: Material waste is a prevalent issue in the manufacturing industry, and the material offcuts that are produced during manufacturing processes are often discarded. Yet material by-products can grow into a circular industry if used efficiently. Offcut Factory fosters a spirit of sustainability by envisioning a model and community where factories and businesses can find alternative solutions to material waste management. Through the purposeful transformation of waste offcuts, we showcase the local manufacturing industry and revitalise it for the contemporary market.

Impact area: Environment

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5. We can redesign the value of felled local trees

 
 

Project: Stabilising Local Wood Sustainably by Roger&Sons

Research: Although more than 13,000 trees will be felled in Singapore over the next 13 years, these logs will not be used due to the high cost of overcoming challenges such as warping. Roger&Sons sought to better understand local wood, so as to develop sustainable and eco-friendly processes to rehabilitate abandoned logs and stabilise the wood. It can then be turned into durable objects and furniture, giving new value to trees that have been felled for urban development.

Impact area: Environment

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6. We can design fashion confidence for the mobility challenged

 
 

Project: Werable by Claudia Poh

Research: Existing forms of ready-to-wear often fail to meet our needs throughout the different phases of our lives. Werable tackles dressing challenges that arise from reduced dexterity and stiff limbs. The research is focused on finding unconventional ways to cut garments at the design stage, so that dressing can continue to be an exciting, empowering and dignified experience. Werable addresses not only the physical challenges that often come with our personal longevity but also the longevity of our clothing. It shows that relevance and ongoing functionality can be addressed at the genesis of a product.

Impact area: Communities and Culture

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7. We can design urban infrastructure with renewable materials

 
 

Project: KENOPY: Kenaf Biocomposite Canopy Tiles by Studio SKLIM

Research: Singapore is constructing 150km of sheltered linkways by 2040. The materials currently used for shelter construction are non-renewable and generate a significant amount of greenhouse gases. We need more ecological and sustainable materials and a deeper understanding of the potential of using alternatives like biocomposites for interior and exterior architectural tiles. This project will see the development of the KENOPY shelter prototype utilising sustainably grown kenaf biomass and upcycled industrial waste content (such as slag, fly-ash and lime).

Impact area: Environment

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8. We can design new hybrid music and art experiences

 
 

Project: Meta-current by Rizal Yatim

Research: “The turn towards virtual concerts in the wake of COVID-19 seems an obvious transition, but most shows fall short of replacing physical events entirely. Can we elevate the music experience by closing the gap between artistic expression and cutting-edge technology? Meta-current proposes a bold new service model for a novel music and art experience beyond the crisis. It looks through the lens of customer experience, using service design and trans-media storytelling. It also demonstrates how local performing arts practitioners can create new sources of revenue using VR.

Impact area: Communities and Culture

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9. We can design apparel using the region’s crafts and agricultural by-products

 
 

Project: PALFCRAFT: Sustainable Heritage Textiles by NOST

Research: Traditional artisanal crafts are on a steady decline as artisans are unable to compete with commercial mass production. This project uses artisan-printed and woven yarns and fabrics derived from pineapple leaf fibres – an agricultural by-product found abundantly in Southeast Asia – in lightweight apparel and textiles. By ensuring a reliable source of sustainable fabric for artisans, and developing modern architectural prints made using heritage textile methods, the project seeks to combine innovation with heritage.

Impact area: Environment; Communities and Culture

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10. We can design more empowerment for seniors in their daily lives

 
 

Project: Designing for Enjoyable Ageing by STUCK Design

Research: By 2030, one in four Singaporeans will be aged 65 and over, and not all seniors will have strong family support. Design for ageing tends to be approached from an outsider point of view. This project aims to uncover a seniors-led approach to enjoyable ageing, looking beyond the current prioritisation of safety and efficiency in care toward the provision of both physical and emotional support structures. In reframing the idea of ‘helping the elderly’ to ‘supporting the elderly to get the help they want’, STUCK changes the way design can intervene through fittings and furniture.

Impact area: Communities and Culture

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11. We can design products to support local manufacturing

 
 

Project: Design & Made in Singapore by Studio Juju

Research: The design and manufacturing of products contribute to shaping a country’s culture and identity in tangible ways. In recent decades, much of Singapore’s product manufacturing has been outsourced to lower-cost manufacturing overseas.

Inspired by our local production capabilities and contemporary times, Studio Juju aims to establish a collection of products designed and made in Singapore, as a creative movement that strives to find an emerging Singapore design identity.

Impact area: Communities and Culture

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12. We can design ways to improve our mental well-being at work

 
 

Project: Designing Practices for Better Mental Health and Well-being at Workplaces by Common Ground

Research: The World Health Organisation estimates that countries lose nearly US$1 trillion per year in productivity to mental health issues, but organisations are unsure how to provide better support. This project aims to build impactful and preventative upstream initiatives for enhancing mental well-being beyond the medical and/or therapeutic approaches.

Common Ground partnered with Studio Dojo, designers, mental health professionals and organisations, leveraging their human-centred lens and professional skills to redesign mental wellbeing initiatives and find creative ways of mobilising workplace communities. "

Impact area: People and Organisations

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13. We can design ground-up empowerment for youth to be city-makers

 
 

Project: The Next Generation of City-Makers by Shophouse & Co

Research: Urban planning and design in Singapore have evolved to include ground-up and community-led approaches. This project looks at the growing movement of active youth citizenry and connects young people so they may catalyse and design innovative solutions for their city. By identifying gaps and opportunities in the current city-making system, this project hopes to move youths from ideating to implementing change in their city, and develop a ground-up network of young city-makers.

Impact area: Communities and Culture

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14. We can design safe playgrounds to nurture creativity, empathy and meaning

 
 

Project: A Community Playground of the Future by ART-ZOO

Research: The digital age and the pandemic conditions have both influenced how families and communities interact, grow and learn through play. By reimagining learning and playing, this project encourages children to discover their natural curiosity. Art-Zoo believes the playground of the future will be rooted in experience, education and storytelling to help families discover their ‘superpowers’ for making change. The project studies the design experience of Art-Zoo’s playgrounds and touchpoints, and establishes an educational framework that promotes creativity and empathy while creating the foundation for meaningful storytelling.

Impact area: Communities and Culture

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15. We can design a better relationship with our work in an endemic world

 
 

Project: So Near, Yet So Far by Agency

Research: The impact of COVID-19 on how we live and work has been far-reaching, and we need to move past a ‘reactive’ response. How can the employer-employee relationship be supported in a sustainable way? Agency’s design research sprint culminated in a workshop-style session to address the immediate, short-term and long-term needs of Singaporeans in the workforce. A self-help toolkit was developed to assist business owners and employees with reflecting on the individual, team and organisation to inform the transition to a ‘new normal’ for everyone at work.

Impact area: People and Organisations

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16. We can design healthier community interactions

 
 

Project: Designing Communities for Sustained and Inclusive Growth by Common Ground

Research: ​ The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic heightened fears and tensions in every country, including Singapore. Common Ground wanted to explore why some people turned towards the government for intervention in a crisis and why others turned towards themselves as well as each other, building their own response to emerging needs, threats and opportunities. Common Ground partnered a public-sector agency looking to support community-led, neighbourhood-based movements for health. Together, we uncovered emotional-linguistic patterns that predisposed individuals/groups to mobilising themselves or others to take actions that would meet their needs.

Impact area: Communities and Culture

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17. We can design constructive conversations for the well-being of organisations

 
 

Project: Conversation Design for Large Systems and Society by The Thought Collective

Research: Organisations are linguistic constructs. As they grow, their people will face challenges that need to be discussed well to avoid destabilisation. How can we help organisations design constructive conversations that build truly worthy outcomes? This project studied why organisational conversations are complex, and developed useful core practices for change management. The resulting field-guide equips leaders to diagnose their situations and design constructive conversations for better outcomes.

Impact area: People and Organisations

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About Good Design Research

Launched in March 2020 in the middle of a pandemic year, Good Design Research (GDR) underscores the importance of how design backed by deep research can make a true difference – building deep domain knowledge and solving the challenges faced by societies and cities. This initiative empowers designers and design enterprises in Singapore to find their unique value proposition in designing for impact through research and experimentation, supported by a wide network of knowledge partners.

[MH1] ​ For more information, please visit https://www.designsingapore.org/initiatives/good-design-research.html

About the National Design Centre

The National Design Centre is the nexus of design, the meeting point for creative minds and businesses and the venue for presenting all things design. It is also home to DesignSingapore Council. The repurposed, award-winning conserved building is as much an emblem for outstanding Singaporean design and architecture, as it is a thriving venue for visitors to attend showcases and programmes. Find out more at www.designsingapore.org/national-design-centre.html. ​

About the DesignSingapore Council

DesignSingapore Council’s (Dsg) vision is for Singapore to be an innovation-driven economy and a loveable city through design by 2025. As the national agency that promotes design, our mission is to develop the design sector, help Singapore use design for innovation and growth, and make life better in this UNESCO Creative City of Design. The Dsg is a subsidiary of the Singapore Economic Development Board. For more information, please visit www.designsingapore.org.

[MH1]As GDR is not open to international applicants, we can replace this with the simple GDR boilerplate instead.

 

 

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About DesignSingapore Council

The DesignSingapore Council was established in 2003 to help develop the nation’s design sector. This follows from the Singapore’s Economic Review Committee report, which identified the creative industry as one of the three new sectors (including education and healthcare) for economic growth. Developing the design sector can help to enhance Singapore’s value proposition; as well as contribute to the country’s economic growth and social progress.

The vision of the DesignSingapore Council is for Singapore to be an innovation-driven economy and a loveable city through design by 2025. As the national agency for design, the Council’s mission is to develop the design sector, help Singapore use design for innovation and growth, and make life better in this UNESCO Creative City of Design. Our work focuses on three areas. First, we help organisations and enterprises use design as a strategy for business growth; and for excellent delivery of public services. Second, we nurture industry-ready talents skilled in design and innovation; and engender a design-minded workforce for the future economy. Third, we advance the Singapore brand through raising design appreciation on homeground; and making emotional connections with people across the world.

Singapore was designated a UNESCO Creative City of Design in December 2015. This designation supports the development of a creative culture and eco-system in Singapore that fully integrates design and creativity into everyday life. It is also an opportunity for Singapore to collaborate internationally with the cities of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN). The City of Design Office is sited within the DesignSingapore Council to coordinate and implement programmes that contributes towards the UCCN mission.