On 12th March, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance for Singapore, Tharman Shanmugaratnam, officially opened the National Design Centre marking what was described as an important milestone for the design industry in this tiny island. This coincides with the start of DesignWeek.
“The National Design Centre is where we celebrate and promote local design. It will serve as a hub to bring together designers and enterprises, and catalyse the use of design to drive innovation and productivity,” said Robert Tomlin, Chairman, DesignSingapore Council. The conversion of the old St Anthony’s Convent Arts now hosts the DesignSingapore Council Offices and a number of design companies. There is a large exhibition space on the ground floor.
It has been a long journey to the opening of this most recent Design Centre. It should be remembered that the newly Designers Association of Singapore (DAS) proposed a design centre way back in 1986. Eventually the Trade Development Board established a Design Centre in North Bridge Road opposite St Andrew’s Cathedral. This was closed and a second one opened later. In those years, DAS fought hard for the recognition of the value of design but perhaps the association was ahead of its time. Despite the strong start with the International Design Congress supported by the TDB and the initial enthusiasm for the Singapore Design Awards, the poor Design Centres had a short life. By the way, it was sad to see Sonny Abdul who pioneered the Design Centres in Singapore standing unrecognised and ignored at the ceremony for the new building.
The importance design plays in selling Singapore products into other markets should not be underestimated. But design goes beyond an economic value. In a recent world-wide survey by HTC, it was shown that being surrounded by good design and aesthetically pleasing environments as well as using well-designed products, actually is beneficial to our health and productivity.