Saturday 02 Dec 2023
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This article first appeared in haven, The Edge Malaysia, on Issue #82 December 2016 - February 2017.


The ideas and inspirations behind the inaugural design platform that was Royal Selangor Design Week 2016


With over a century of heritage and craftsmanship under its belt, Royal Selangor is certainly no stranger to design. A household name in quality pewter products, the brand recently hosted its first Royal Selangor Design Week (RSDW) at Aloft Kuala Lumpur Sentral. During the one-day event, which culminated with a dinner, an impressive list of top design luminaries spoke at various sessions; the audience was diverse, ranging from aspiring designers and students to industry players and members of the media.


The inspiration 

One of the aims of the RSDW is to educate and promote design to everyone. Yong Yoon Li, executive director of Royal Selangor, tells haven that the idea for the event had been in the works for a couple of years. “We finally did it this year!” he exclaims. “I thought we had a pretty good story to tell — not just the chest-thumping stuff — but also that of the designers who are big names in their own right. They have all proven their mettle in various fields and we wanted them to speak to an audience of aspiring designers, people in the trade and people thinking of using designers to add value to their brand or business. A lot of people in this world think of design as a frivolous process that they need to go through to get something done. In actual fact, design is a very mentally-straining process devised to solve a problem (or address a need).”

As a design-centric brand itself, Royal Selangor has produced and offered a selection of excellent designs, catered for a discerning clientele. Yong quotes Ian Macready and Voon Wong of Viewport Studio when speaking about the importance of design, “The more challenges you give us as designers, the more inspired we will be.” 

For Yong, design is more than a mere step that a product or project has to take before completion; instead it is an intricate process that can either make or break the entire product or project. Besides being a representation of how much Royal Selangor values design, Yong opines that the RSDW is the brand’s way of “telling the world that design is a considered process, a discipline”. The effort has been fruitful at this inaugural event, he adds.


The line-up 

Over the years, Royal Selangor has worked with an array of designers to come up with its many collections and bespoke pieces. Naturally, the panellists and speakers chosen for the event had to be “people who have worked with us before or people who are experts in their own field”, explains Yong.

The speakers and panellists were Katrina Taib, founder of design firm Bilamana; Lillian Tay, senior principal of Veritas Architects; Freeman Lau, partner at Kan & Lau Design Consultants in Hong Kong; Jarrod Lim, founder of his eponymous design firm in Singapore; Lauren Sizeland, director of business development and licensing at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London; Ian Macready and Voon Wong, directors of Viewport Studio in the UK; renowned Chinese sculptor Xu Xiao Yong; Jamy Yang, design director of Yang Design in China; and Nathan Yong, design director of Grafunkt in Singapore.


The programme

RSDW was a sharing platform involving successful industry experts as well as a coming-together of people who were eager to learn more about design. It involved a series of roundtable talks and presentations on the crucial elements that shape contemporary design. The design conference aimed to not only educate a global audience on burning trends that influence the process, craft and practice of design across all disciplines but also served as an avenue for designers to find creative inspiration, network with peers, broker new partnerships and meet renowned design personalities.

Each speaker presented a topic that was close to his or her heart and work. Lau, for instance, spoke about his use of design to communicate ideas. His talk, “Chairplay – Between Standing Up and Lying Down”, was a thought-provoking opening keynote address that explored the hidden symbolism behind the design of a chair. Macready and Wong presented an entertaining talk that tackled issues of cross-cultural design, while Sizeland, in her closing keynote, shared at great length on how the Victoria and Albert Museum collaborated with trend forecasters to identify the latest global design themes. Meanwhile, Malaysian designers Tay and Katrina added a much-needed local perspective and flavour with their invaluable insights into current trends and the future of design. At the end of each session, the experts took questions from the floor, making it a more interactive event and allowing for intellectual discourse. 

Did the event achieve its goal? Yong replies with a resounding yes. He tells haven that while Royal Selangor does not plan to make RSDW an annual event just yet, he hope that it will be a permanent fixture on its calendar of happenings soon. 

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