The industry calls it the monobloc chair. To everyone else it’s that cheap plastic chair, the squarish, one-piece, stackable thing that populates the lawns and gardens of the world, so ubiquitous as to go unnoticed.
It seems to be everywhere: inside a storeroom in Florida, outside the Uruguay Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, and on a boat on the Zambezi River in Zambia, to mention just a few of the places the chair has been spotted, according to the Plastic Chair World Map. No one knows how many exist in their different versions or even who the original designer is, but they clearly number in the millions.
What has proximity to the public holidays and the Central Business District got to do with a blood donation drive? Turns out they impact how many people show up for blood donation drives.
This insight was one of several the Singapore Red Cross learned thanks to DataKind Singapore (DataKind SG). Since 2014, this voluntary group of data scientists, developers and designers have been using data to help the social service sector in Singapore get better at doing good.
The Red Cross was just one beneficiary of the group’s recent “DataDive” in April. Over 70 volunteers spent their weekend huddled in an office crunching data to help the Singapore Children’s Society learn about how professionals and the public perceive child abuse, and also supported O’Joy Care Services in measuring the performance of its mental health programme for seniors.
“Non-profits are often struggling with operational issues. They don’t really have time to step back and see what’s happening,” says Raymond Chan, who leads the Singapore chapter of this global organisation headquartered in New York. “We will try to help them see the bigger picture using data.”
Even before graduation, industrial design students from the National University of Singapore have already successfully sold their designs. They regularly fly between China and Singapore; negotiate with manufacturers and suppliers; handle sales from customers all over the world; and keep up with schoolwork — all at the same time.
These students are the products of Launchpad, a course founded and facilitated by lecturer Donn Koh of the Division of Industrial Design. Over 13 weeks, these design students work in teams of three to conceptualise designs, which they then released on a crowdfunding platform for the world to judge with their wallets.
“Within the confines of a design school, students are seldom confronted with the reality of a product that has to resonate with people and really lead to purchase decisions,” says Donn.
“You can have a thousand and one concepts, and people may applaud you. But will they give you (their) money? That’s the real test.”