Shentonista Of The Year 2017 — Put Together



Ziqq, Team Choice winner, Interaction Designer. Shirt, blazer, and pants from Club Monaco.

Ziqq’s words are confident and considered, and when he dashes off opinions in quick succession, it’s clear that his excitability comes less from nervousness than a seemingly endless spring of ideas. He’s found a creative outlet in music, having written songs and released a single, and while he sheepishly dismisses them as “songs about imaginary girlfriends”, we think the ability to play three instruments is nothing to scoff at. Still, there’s no doubt that design remains his first love, and eight years after he founded Designsayshello, a platform to bring an understanding of design to a wider audience, the flame doesn’t seem to have flickered at all. It’s this never-ending passion that contributed to him being the runner-up in our Shentonista Of The Year 2017 contest; his optimism is most evident when he talks about his vision for the future, and he may have found the best way to share his passion—imparting it to the next generation.

You’ve changed your hairstyle since we last saw you. What else is new?
The last time we met, I was about to leave for the United Kingdom (UK) for work, and I just got back in November or December. Since I returned, I’ve been working as a user experience designer. I work a lot with clients in the financial technology industry, and one thing I do is design digital products for banks.

What has the experience been like?
I used to work at an experience design studio, and from physical spaces I crossed over to designing digital spaces. It’s been about a year and a half now, and while it’s difficult sometimes, my company has a fun work culture so it’s pretty good. The work is new to me, so I’m still trying to grow and learn.

Previously, you told us that you’re a musician by night, and you play the guitar, ukulele, and keyboard. What made you pick up the different instruments?
Music is a place I can go to when I have things I don’t know how to express. I like to write and play with words, and music is one way I can do that. I recently released a single in December called Winter, about my first time experiencing winter in the UK.

Who are you listening to right now?
I love SZA’s music, my favourite song of hers is The Weekend. I listen to music to capture certain moments. When I travel or when I experience something amazing, I’ll try to find a song that fits that moment so it’s like a time capsule for me, and when I listen to it again I’ll remember that feeling.

Tell us a bit more about Designsayshello, and why you decided to create it.
I started it in 2010 as a platform for people to understand the work that designers do. A lot of people think that design is just about aesthetics and making things pretty, so it’s an avenue for designers who do amazing work to amplify what they do. It was a chance conversation I had with my aunt after I graduated from Republic Polytechnic that started it. When I told her I studied interaction design, she asked “So do you paint? Is it art or fashion?” I realised that what people thought of design differed from what I had learnt in school, which pushed me to start the project. I interviewed 15 designers across different disciplines, and I shot a documentary.

How did you meet the 15 designers and get them all together?
Between my graduation and enlistment in National Service, I went back to school to see my lecturers and told them that I wanted to learn more about what design professionals were doing in the industry. They gave me contacts and I sent lots of emails, and among those who replied, I managed to film 15 of them. I wanted to share the interesting conversations I had with them, so I pieced the film together and shared it. The film went viral when I released it, but I didn’t know about it because I had just enlisted in NS. My mentor helped me set up the page, and that was how Designsayshello took off.

How do you feel that design can and should make the world better?
I don’t think design itself can change the world; it’s the people who use it. Design is a tool so it’s more about the designer than anything else. Design is a methodology and a philosophy, so even if you know it but don’t practice it you can’t really do much. I used to hear this quote: “Don’t aspire to be a great designer, but aspire to always do great things.” Whatever field you’re in, I believe that if you know what’s true in your heart and you really follow through, then you can really do amazing things.

What are some common misconceptions that people have about design?
A lot of people appreciate design only on a superficial level. But if you go deep into how the designer created an item, you’ll find a lot of thought has been put into it. Many people don’t understand the user-centric aspect around a piece of work—even for something as simple as a chair, someone had to think about the best way to help somebody who was feeling tired of standing too much. That goes into the form of a chair, not just how it looks.

What do you think about the state of design in Singapore? What have we done well, and what can we improve upon?
The design scene here has grown quite a lot. In March we celebrated Singapore Design Week, and that didn’t exist back in 2010. The fact that we have this movement is a sign that we’re growing as a community. At the same time, I think that it’s too easy for creative groups to work in silos because they want to be successful, so they only focus on what they’re doing. One thing we can improve on is to start collaborating and bringing each other up.

Do you think you’ve achieved your dreams? What’s next for you?
I don’t think so. When I was younger I had huge dreams, like wanting to make an impact on the world. But as I got older, I realised that if you can just be a better person day by day, that’s enough. Currently, my biggest dream is to be able to give back—I’d like to be an educator one day. I’m just racking up all this knowledge and experience now so one day I can pass it on. Also, Designsayshello is turning 10 in 2020, so I’m working on a documentary that shows how far it’s come.

Having lived and worked in both Singapore and London, what’s the biggest cultural difference between the two? What’s one thing you learnt during your time in London?
Being in London taught me a lot of independence. The people there are very accepting; they don’t care if you have pink hair or something crazy, and you’re free to be whoever you want. That safety net helps with the creative process, because everyone is a lot more willing to embrace failure; you’re not afraid to do stupid things and experiment. Singapore is different—because we all have goals and performance targets set out for us, our definition of success is very different from theirs, and that affects our culture and how we live.

What’s the last thing you read, saw or heard that inspired you?
Just the day before I watched a short film called The Gap by Ira Glass. It’s a two-minute video about how people in the creative field will always have the feeling of being dissatisfied with your work and knowing you can do better. Everyone goes through that, but you just have to keep going and do a lot more work until it gets better.

Ziqq was previously seen here.

Special thanks to our friends at Club Monaco for being a part of this project.

Also, a big thank you to all the people we worked with last year for coming on board:Club MonacoWe Need A Hero, Grain Traders, Kilo, Camp Kilo Charcoal Club, Kilo Lounge, Freedom Yoga, Gallery & Co., SEEDS and Chikuyotei.

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