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.”
These persons with disabilities (PWDs) tap into digital technologies to make the world more accessible for them.
A conversation with Joseph Chua De Bao used to involve writing on notepads. Born deaf, and unable to adjust to hearing aids or lip-read accurately, Joseph’s only way of communicating with others was in writing — that was until he got his first smartphone, an Apple iPhone in 2007.
“The challenges of communicating with people via pen and paper are lack of patience and time,” writes the freelance software developer in an e-mail interview. “When I noticed the Notes app, it jolted my ideas because it was paperless so I used this technology to communicate with people.”
For urban dwellers – and that’s over half of the world’s population, according to the United Nations – trekking in a nature reserve is a respite from the concrete jungle. Trees are unrestricted by regulations for height and gross floor area. The variety of species is not defined by land-use or conservation guidelines. Greenery is not a single shade, but a palette of textures and hues. Encountering this natural order of growth is a striking reminder (by way of comparison) of how much effort goes into designing, building and maintaining a city.
While city making has traditionally meant concreting over nature, this has given way in recent times to more environmentally friendly ideals. ‘Green buildings’, ‘sustainable architecture’ and entire ‘eco-cities’ are just some examples of how urban planners and architects have acknowledged and even embraced nature by planting more greenery, designing energy-efficient buildings, and investing in blue-green infrastructure. But beyond thinking for nature, cities can be like nature, and step into the wild.