Left: Jocelyn, Dsg Scholar, is a second-year student pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts at Rhode Island School of Design.
Right: Yian Ling is Head of Design, SEA, ThoughtWorks, pushing new frontiers as the first to be awarded the scholarship for an emerging field of design. She is a Dsg Scholar and has a Master of Design in Interaction Design from Carnagie Mellon University.
In today's climate, design is more integral than ever as it affects the very fabric of how we work and play. As we adapt to “new normals” like home offices, ordering online and cashless payments, good design paves the way for these practices to integrate smoothly into everyday life.
DesignSingapore Council (Dsg) is designing Singapore from the ground up, in every sense of the word. Besides initiatives like the Good Design Research Programme or Design for Business which helps designers and enterprises develop their unique value proposition through design, the council also grooms the next generation of designers through the Dsg Scholarship for both undergraduate and postgraduate studies.
The scholarship stands out for its industry-focused approach that promotes design-led creative thinkers in each generation. Scholars serve their bonds in a design-related role and company of choice – and benefit from mentorship programmes that pair burgeoning talents with industry experts to groom them.
Cheong Yian Ling and Jocelyn Angela Salim are Dsg Scholars who have benefitted greatly from Dsg's support. Yian Ling is Head of Design, SEA, ThoughtWorks, pushing new frontiers as the first to be awarded the scholarship to further her studies in Interaction Design, which is an emerging field of design in the experience-making space. Jocelyn is a second-year student pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts at Rhode Island School of Design.
As they explore the vast design landscape, Dsg will continue to broaden their horizons and push them forward.
First up, why did you take up the Dsg Scholarship?
Yian Ling: I came across several research papers written by a professor, John Zimmerman. The way he approached designing with technology was eye- and mind-opening. My mind was set on meeting and learning from him, so I applied for Carnegie Mellon University where he was teaching and also the Dsg Scholarship.
Jocelyn: I was drawn to how the Dsg Scholarship will holistically develop me as a designer and help me to integrate into the design industry in Singapore. While I get the chance to immerse myself in a new environment and learn from peers and professors across different backgrounds and disciplines, being a Dsg Scholar allows me to stay connected with the local design scene. Another benefit to the Dsg Scholarship not offered by other scholarships is that I would not be tied to a specific type of job upon graduation, which gives me the freedom to fully explore my interests and skills.
Yian Ling, you were the first scholar to be awarded for an emerging design field of study. What potential did you see in emerging design disciplines then and now?
Yian Ling: Most design disciplines tend to celebrate the brilliance of the hero designer. However, designing digital products is a team sport. The engineers, data scientists, business analysts, product strategists, designers all play a part to shape the final product. Drawing on the expertise of each of those disciplines, the possibilities of creating one good product become amplified.
Could you give us an example of design in practice?
Yian Ling: My team and I did a project for the government social sector. The officers (my users) were conducting their interviews with the homeless on paper, then staff back at the office would manually enter the data into the system. The result was that social workers would have to work overtime, and errors arose from misinterpreting handwritten notes.
Our design enabled officers on the ground to enter interview notes on their phones with location and time accurately captured. I felt a great sense of achievement when the social workers reflected, “Now I have time to call our clients and do real case work rather than waste time on data-entry!”
Jocelyn, you have a unique perspective as well, as we see you have taken up business courses alongside your design degree. Tell us more.
Jocelyn: I think that it is important for a designer to develop business sensibilities to complement their practice. Being in an art and design school, I did not have much opportunity to learn about the business side of a design career. So during my summer break this year, I took up Harvard Business School (HBS) Online's Credential of Readiness (CORe) programme, where I was introduced to business analytics, financial accounting, and economics.
As a future illustrator, I don't want to contribute only to the creative aspect of design, but to be informed and involved with the business aspect of it as well. I got the opportunity to do some freelance illustration work for two financial companies, creating informative social media posts about financial management and other life advice. Not only do I get to learn new information from the things I am illustrating, I also gain valuable experience of working with clients for the first time which gave me a taste of the working world - learning to be open to critique and feedback, and gaining experience of collaborating with others.
So, what would you say is your greatest achievement so far?
Jocelyn: My most significant achievement to date is attaining this scholarship! It has brought me to places I never thought I would go. Being able to study in an art school overseas and getting this kind of exposure was a dream that seemed to be out of reach, so the scholarship has helped me to realise my dream to further develop my passion in design.
Why should designers consider the Dsg Scholarship?
Yian Ling: The scholarship is more than a ticket overseas. Through the scholarship, I met local industry leaders and peers with the same passion for furthering design. I had the chance to share my design journey with secondary school students who were deciding their career paths. The network also provided a community of designers to share their latest work and a safe place to reach out for help if needed.
Jocelyn: I think that the Dsg Scholarship is an opportunity not to be missed. Aside from financial support, the Dsg Scholarship also supports scholars in maximising their education and career experiences, such as through connecting individuals with a design mentor. The freedom in choice of career upon graduation is another benefit unique to the Dsg scholarship. It allows individuals to freely explore and develop their interests and opens up the possibilities for individuals to apply their design sensibilities in other sectors as well.
Finally, Yian Ling, can you give us some words of encouragement for your juniors who are graduating into an uncertain time?
Yian Ling: There is a saying in Chinese that means “opportunities are given to people who are prepared.” Use any free time you have to stay informed, stay relevant. So when the opportunity comes by, you are armed with knowledge and skills to sign up for it.