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.”
It’s a national icon that’s over 50 years old, yet few have seen this side of Singapore’s tourism mascot – a Merlion that looks straight at you.
This mythical creature’s side profile is typically the face of souvenirs from Singapore, but designer Donn Koh found this “stern and so stone-cold” that he gave the half-lion and half-fish a friendly makeover.
Imagine a child’s drawing of a fish with a lion mane. Add on lines for a smiley face, dots for pimples and eyes, and you have the smiley “Merlion Chouchou”. This is just one of three designs, including a cheeky and a sad-faced version, of a cute pillow-like Merlion plushie designed by Koh of industrial design consultancy STUCK.
“This is the first Merlion that looks at you. I think that gives it a bit of a friendly connection,” explains Koh who was also assisted by designer Ng Xin Nie. “It has that combination of innocence, a bit of silly and suddenly its approachable. In some ways, it also feels a bit Hello Kitty-ish because it’s got an unassuming face.”
The Merlion Chouchou is just one of 50 “Souvenirs From Singapore” STUCK designed in celebration of the nation’s golden jubilee. They had been approached by local design label Supermama to produce souvenirs based on the 50 national icons selected by the SG50 campaign.