Left: Jacob Meyers is a recipient of the 2018 DesignSingapore Scholarship. He is a first-year student at The Bartlett School of Architecture in London.
Right: Yip Jing Xin is currently pursuing a Master in Fine Arts at the School of Visual Arts, New York. She is a recipient of the 2019 DesignSingapore Scholarship.
When “design” is mentioned, people would typically think about aesthetics, or how visually pleasing a product or space looks. However, good design entails a lot more than that. It has become so pervasive, design affects the way we work, live and play.
To name but just a few examples, a well-designed user interface on a mobile device can significantly enhance our experience. Also, an ergonomically laid out building helps the user get to his intended destination in the most efficient manner, again, resulting in a positive user experience.
On a macro perspective, design can even be a key sector for economic growth. For that, the DesignSingapore Council was set up in 2003 with the objective of driving the nation’s design sector and help Singapore use design for innovation and growth.
The DesignSingapore Scholarship is one of the many avenues that contributes to that aim. The scholarship helps talented individuals fulfil their aspirations and grooms professionals to become trailblazers of the industry.
Yip Jing Xin had years of experience as a user interface designer before she took on the DesignSingapore Scholarship in 2019. She is broadening her horizons while pursuing a Master of Fine Arts at the School of Visual Arts in New York.
Conversely, Jacob Meyers has just embarked on a career in the design industry. The freshman from The Bartlett accepted the same scholarship in 2018 and he hopes to bring some fresh insights on how architecture can be used for social good.
“User Experience” has been a buzzword that has been thrown around in recent years and as its name would suggest, it is the overall experience of a person using a product or service. Professionals like Jing Xin designs positive user experiences so that commercial or functional objectives are met.
To Jing Xin, “user experience” is more than just that; it is a means of using technology to connect communities.
“I see the world around me in systems, but more so in stories and human connections,” said Jing Xin, who has a background in Engineering. “In designing for impact, I believe in a co-creation process through facilitation and participatory design methods, as well as building the capacity in individuals, teams and organisations.”
The 27-year-old brought her knowledge and philosophy in user experience design to established organisations in both the private and public sector. Jing Xin earned her spurs at IBM, where she was involved in almost every stage of the user experience design process, and for clients in a wide variety of industries. She then moved on to GovTech, where she worked closely with government agencies to promote design thinking in the public sector.
On her career so far, she said: “The public and private sectors are driven by different motivations, operate under different structures and speak different languages. A key skill as a designer is to be fluent in these languages, build shared understanding, and support teams and organisations in navigating through ambiguity. This craft is honed over time, through the successes and failures I’ve experienced throughout my career.”
She continues to hone her craft at the School of Visual Arts in New York on the back of a DesignSingapore Scholarship. She was well-aware of the scholarship through her peers and outreach activities; it was a natural choice for the experience designer.
“There are a couple of designers in Singapore that I look up to and admire, and I realised that they were DesignSingapore scholars!” she exclaimed. “I decided to pursue the scholarship because of the opportunity to widen my horizons, gain a global perspective and have an overseas learning experience. Being a DesignSingapore associate upon receiving the scholarship also provides access to a network of designers doing amazing work in Singapore, to learn and grow from.”
Jing Xin is expected to graduate in 2021. Thereafter, she hopes to influence organisations on a bigger scale and realise her ambition of bringing people closer through technology.
“I hope to support future organisations in navigating complexity and conversations around creative collaboration.
“There is so much untapped potential for communities to support each other in this complex, tumultuous world, and I believe in the ethical use of technology and data too as a way of enablement rather than what separates us.”
Building Better Lives
Since childhood, Jacob has always been inclined to the creative side of things. He loved to draw, played with Lego and spent hours building digital assets on games like Sim City and Minecraft. Unsurprisingly, he chose School of the Arts Singapore (SOTA) instead of mainstream secondary schools.
And it was at SOTA where he validated his passion for architecture, and discovered the DesignSingapore Scholarship.
“I became interested in economics and systems thinking while at SOTA, and architecture seemed like the perfect discipline for melding the two. Honestly, architecture had been the ‘de-facto’ discipline that I had wanted to pursue from a very young age,” he said, with a laugh.
One defining experience at SOTA that shaped his outlook on architecture was when he embarked on a research project with the St Andrews Autism Centre (SAAC). He discovered that good design can improve the quality of lives, and that good architecture should not be exclusive or inaccessible.
If anything, the project fueled his drive to use architecture to contribute socially to Singapore. He is definitely heading in the right direction, learning the fundamentals at award-winning The Bartlett School of Architecture in London. He is grateful to DesignSingapore Council for supporting his aspirations.
He said: “The DesignSingapore Scholarship was one of the scholarships my teachers suggested that I apply for. It is unique among other scholarships in that it offers its recipients the opportunity to serve their bond in the private sector.
For those interested in studying architecture, this freedom is particularly valuable as most government scholarships involve architecture graduates pursuing roles in policy-making, urban design or planning. I wanted to pursue a career outside these traditional roles or career paths, and the DesignSingapore Scholarship supports me in doing just that.”
Apart from financial assistance, being on the scholarship has helped shaped Jacob’s academic pursuit and gave him specific focus as well as goals.
“Getting the DesignSingapore scholarship made me ask what architecture has meant and can mean to Singaporeans. This question led to an interest in Singapore’s architectural history, an area that is fascinating but still relatively unknown. Heritage and conservation are now some of the areas I’m most passionate about, and I actively tailor my projects in school toward these concerns.”
Jacob may still have some way to go before working as a qualified architect and he is still exploring on ways to apply his skills in the future. But his commitment towards improving Singapore through the built environment remains steadfast.
He concluded, with conviction: “I want to be able to use architecture to contribute socially to Singapore. I believe that socially engaged architecture practice that is interdisciplinary – spanning design, research, and community engagement – can make Singapore a better city for all of us to live in.”