Singapore designers are making a name for themselves on the global platform
Story by Carol Kraal
THE SMALL DRAGON – An iconic symbol of the HDB playground in the 1970s with its slides, climb bars and swings, the dragon design is close to the heart of Singaporeans. The rocking horse also comes in THE BIG DRAGON in red. Above: The KOI CHAIR takes inspiration from the scales of the lucky fish
BORN IN AUSTRALIA and now calls Singapore home, Jarrod appreciates artisanal products of quality with unique graphic elements. Jarrod Lim Design develops highly regarded concepts for furniture and lifestyle products as well as award-winning spatial designs for interiors, exhibitions and public locations. Jarrod has previously worked with brands as Herman Miller, Royal Selangor, Oasia Hotels and Bonaldo, Alessi and B&B Italia under Patricia Urquiola in Italy.
What materials do you like to work with for your furniture and why?
I’m happy to work with any materials. I approach each material differently looking at the various charactersitics and how I can enhance those qualities. I’ve been working a lot in wood over the past few years but much of that is due to the fact that it is so common in this region. There are so many factories in Southeast Asia that are set up to work with wood so I just ended up working with companies who specialise in that material. I like designing in different materials as each one provides me with new inspiration and a new direction.
What is your signature selling point in your creations, and where do you get your inspirations?
I believe the signature style in many of my creations at is that I subtly blend a fusion of East-West styles. It’s neither totally Asian or totally European. I think this comes from my background of growing up in Australia with a Singaporean father and Australian mother. And then my first real experience of International design was in the studio of Patricia Urquiola in Milan. Finally my move to Singapore cemented this fusion of cultures that I feel is becoming my defining style.
What are young modern home buyers in Singapore looking for in furniture design?
I think they’re looking for furniture that reflects their personality. Previously people didn’t pay much attention to the interior design of their homes as it was simply a place to sleep. Everything else happened outside the house. Now having a nice interior, even in a small apartment, is a must. But as the apartments get smaller and smaller the furniture needs to be designed to fit, and to often perform more than one duty.
How do you sketch your ideas?
I sketch a lot on my iPad but mainly because it’s an excellent way to keep track and organise all the sketches. In the office I still end up using a sketchbook or any old piece of paper that’s sitting next to me. But so often these get misplaced. So I try to use the iPad more and more. I don’t have a particular type of sketchbook that I prefer. I just use whatever.
What local food do you crave after a hard day at work?
I crave wonton noodles. In Joo Chiat there are several famous wonton noodle stores within walking distance of my office. So it’s simply a matter of choosing one I want to visit.
THE CLOUD COLLECTION – represents a reduction of a functional surface or sculpture, down to a generic volume; a block. Wanting to appear lighter and softer, this block is curved at its lower corners, revealing graphic layering of the plywood that it is constructed from.
AN INDUSTRIAL DESIGNER based in Singapore, Karyn explores the use of craft and technology in the design of products for contemporary lifestyles. She collaborates with brands and production partners to reimagine what a product typology or material could be. She hopes that her designs will bring small moments of joy to everyday life.
People assume that minimalist design is easy. Can you share with us the challenges of creating minimalist furniture, for example, in your CLOUD Collection?
CLOUD was designed during the pandemic. It was a season of chaos and uncertainty, and I wanted to bring a sense of calm through my work. I was living in an apartment with a panoramic sunset view. The generosity of space and transitional gradients that the sky presented me each evening brought a warm serenity to conclude the day with. I thought it would be nice to gift this feeling to someone else through a piece of furniture that they could come home to. CLOUD features a gentle gradient of colour flowing onto a “block of wood” that affords itself as a stool or side-table, and low table.
How do you sketch your ideas?
I like to sketch with pen on paper. I carry a small notebook around to catch ideas when I’m out, and prefer using loose sheets of paper when in the studio.
What colours do you like to work with?
I enjoy the entire rainbow! I usually work in black and white before applying colour. The choice of colour really depends on the design concept.
In Singapore work spaces are few and expensive. Where do designers such as yourself go to process your ideas -build prototypes, sawing, drilling, planing, painting, metal work.Do you do all these things in your studio?
The process varies across projects. I almost always make digital 3D models and renderings before making physical prototypes. If the piece is large, I’ll make scale models before making it in actual size and material. I work with a production partner to build the prototypes if it is something I can’t build in my studio.
How do you relax after a hard day at work and what Singapore food do you like?
Simply spending time with family or friends is my idea of after-work relaxation. I love the variety of food that Singapore has. If I had to pick a type… it would be pau (steamed buns). I love the concept, colour, and form of it.
What advice do you have for a design student who wants to make a living as a designer (product, textile, industrial, furniture) in Singapore?
If I gave you $10 million dollars, what is the first thing you would do/buy to reward yourself?
It is one of my many dreams to have a space large enough to accommodate my studio, small retail space for designart objects, and space for living.
I AM NOT DAVID LEE
ETHEREAL CHAIR – Inspired by an empty cardboard box that had one of its outer flaps up vertically and looked like a chair with a back rest. The designer wanted to build one that looked exactly like how he saw it and so experimented the idea with a variety of perspex sheet that has the same thickness (4-5mm) as the cardboard box. He ended up using matt blue perspex for a blue sky look.
The Designer prefers not to be photographed and goes by a mysterious name
What are your favourite materials to work with?
I do not have a favourite material. All material have endless possibilities and I love experimenting with different materials to understand their potential better and how they can represent our thoughts effectively.
I call my design work – experiments. All my experiments are construction or creation from a diverse range of available materials that I can get my hands on – including common hardware material, pipes, hose, tubes, perspex, steel and wood.
My finished work is never perfect, they bear signs of being handmade – traces of glue, imperfect joints, and uneven cuts are visible. They bear witness to the underlying hand-build process and should be appreciated as a focus on creativity and personal presence.
I hope to give materials new perspectives and uses, by recreating them into different objects.
How do you sketch your ideas?
I am naturally an inquisitive person, I ask lots of questions from my daily observations including how its done/build, why build it this way, can I do it differently…etc
I take photos of my observations and save them in a folder in my phone – Once I am back in my studio (I do not know how to use any form of design software), I will draw the images and sketch my ideas on paper.
Minimalism is not as easy as it sounds. How does a designer make minimalism achieve great results?
Minimalism is basically reducing the clutter in design to highlight the essence of the object, its materials, and its form. However, it is not simplified design. Once you understand that every choice is made with function in mind, you can understand minimalism’s characteristic. For example, a white wall – it is not just a plain blank wall but a canvas for light, shadows, and contrast.
To answer your question, eliminate the superfluous and emphasize on the core qualities of the design and creativity. Minimalist design is defined by of lines that allow you to immediately understand the function of the object, it is all about proportions and materials and is often much more complex than it looks. In my humble opinion, minimalism is also a way of life and a philosophy rather than a style or a trend in design or art.
How do you relax after a hard day at work? What Singapore food do you enjoy?
To me, doing what I do is a form of relaxation. I tell people I am jobless because I don’t work and my work is never work to me. What I do is fun and exciting – truth be told, I can’t wait for the next day to come so I could do it all over again.
I skate or ride my foldie in the morning before I start my day in the studio at 7am. The routine prepares me for the day and allows me time to observe out-of-studio.
I love all kinds of street food especially Hainanese chicken rice, I can eat chicken rice every day.
I also feel happy whenever I have the local “trinity” for breakfast – kaya toast, half-boiled eggs, and kopi-o (black coffee).
What advice can you give a design student about the business part of running your own design studio?
I am not sure if I am qualified to give any advice on this question since I am self-taught- never been to art or design school. The truth is, I have never run my design studio like a business. My design studio is a place that allows me to be creative, a place that allows experiments and a place that welcome failure.
The only advice I would like can give to young artist and designers is not to start thinking of striking out on your own the moment you graduate. Go work for someone, observe, and learn from others and at the same time, save enough money to be financially independent so that when you start on your own, you don’t have to worry about rent. When you have enough maturity, knowledge and experience, you will be able to know what you want from your design studio.
To me, a design studio is not a place to do business but a place that you have freedom to create and a space that celebrates failure. That said, you also have to be extremely brave, or foolish to start one.