Design is more than ideas given form. From product design, service design, and even user experience design, there are countless ways in which good design can create value—something which an increasing number of organisations are starting to recognise.
Established to help the nation’s design sector, DesignSingapore Council recognises these growing opportunities. As the national agency for design, the council’s mission is to develop the design sector, and help Singapore to use design for innovation and growth. To achieve this, DesignSingapore seeks to further the development of individuals with creativity, drive, and passion for design. By nurturing designers who become leaders in different fields, DesignSingapore creates fertile ground for the exchange of ideas, where talented minds come together to push boundaries.
We check in with Victoria Koo, 32, an Innovation Catalyst with DBS Bank, on how her DesignSingapore Council Scholarship empowered her own transformation.
My scholarship journey so far involves working on service design with DBS. I am currently with the technology team where I design the user experience for various services. I’m working with developers and project managers, people that you would not normally imagine working closely with as a designer. It’s a path that would not have crossed my mind without the DesignSingapore scholarship.
Comparing service design to product design, there are similarities in how the two disciplines stem from the same branch – user-centred design. We’re always thinking about our users when we design products, services or experiences. You’re aiming to get insights and understand unspoken needs. The biggest difference now is that everything is digital. We no longer go to a bank to make transactions; we’re doing it online. These online experiences are very different compared to something more tangible, and my work is to design these experiences for our users.
I’m driven by an interest in user experience and how design for behavioural change can be executed in organisations. Just five years back, the field wasn’t as mature as it is now; agencies that were set up here wanted somebody that was in mid-career or quite senior to be able to guide new teams in Singapore. I took this opportunity to pursue my Masters with the DesignSingapore scholarship, so I could really deepen my skill sets and professionalise further.
Victoria Koo Wei Ai
DesignSingapore Council Scholarship
Innovation Catalyst, DBS Bank Singapore
Masters of Arts in Service Design – Royal College of Art
I most appreciate the opportunity to pursue a rigorous masters programme. I had the opportunity to work on real life challenges with organisations that gave us real exposure to their customers, challenges that could really impact how they thought of business, and how they could rethink their user journey.
DesignSingapore also has a lot of connections to the various ministries, and they actively try to position their scholars, which has opened many doors to different opportunities in new industries that might not normally cross your mind.
Some challenges I encounter at work include working to embed the user experience research process in the middle of a backend delivery timeline. The bank has very old legacy systems which we are now modernising, and throughout this process, I need to position and sell the idea that we need to think of the user—be it an employee or end user—and get people to be aware that whenever there is a consumption of data, there is a touchpoint and human beings are involved.
Career-wise, I hope to use my knowledge for design to further innovation and transformation. You need to bring people along and capture their hearts; you need to be able to design and tell a story. If you can understand what motivates people and makes them tick, you can really bring them along the journey and accelerate innovation. This is the best way to meet your goals and visions in a much faster way.
Consider this scholarship if you enjoy being part of a community where you get to meet like-minded people. DesignSingapore thinks about the end-to-end journey of a designer and facilitates the exchange of ideas. It helps to set the tone that the design scene here is active, and that there are people doing interesting stuff in different aspects and different forms. I think we sharpen each other when we have these conversations, and it helps to strengthen the design team in Singapore. DesignSingapore also does well to really push for design as a value creator in Singapore.
My advice for aspiring scholars: The DesignSingapore scholarship will give you a lot of great exposure. It’s a good stepping stone into the industry, and I think design is an up-and-coming field and it’s a value creator; it’s a worthwhile area to explore. Simply put, creativity applied equals value.
If you’re applying for a master, having some work experience will be great. Compared to those who continue through train from bachelors to masters, those who had work experience were able to clearly map out how service design was going to bring them further in their career.