Yong is the founder and director of the creatively-named Somewhere Else design studio, created just three years ago, based on a long-driven desire and a moment of faith. “When I was fresh in the industry, I just thought of starting my own studio one day,” he says. “I simply took the deep dive when the time came along.” Nonetheless, it seems that Yong has settled well into his new position, and says that he takes pride in being able to empower young people to do interesting work. It hasn’t always been easy, however — the design process can be very challenging, he says, and the team has their work cut out for them in the competitive design sphere. “We try to do work that can bring a smile to people, move them emotionally, and somewhat make a difference in their lives, if only for a fraction of a second,” Yong says. “I think it’ll be really exciting when large corporations or larger companies start to embrace and value design wholeheartedly.” We speak to Yong to find out what moves him and his company.
1. Describe a typical day at work.
Because we handle a variety of client types, each day is different from the next, but usually it’s about coming up with new ideas to help solve our clients’ problems, and then wrapping the day at a bar.
2. What is your favourite part of your job, and your least favourite, and why?
My favourite part is helping our clients in their efforts to improve their business, and being part of the process of their business growth. The least favourite part would be chasing the solution down as it can sometimes be very evasive. It can be a very challenging journey.
3. What do you think about entrepreneurship in Singapore? Eg. Are there more opportunities for entrepreneurs? Is it becoming easier or more difficult for people to start their own businesses?
I think it’s probably easier to start something, but the hard part is keeping it commercially viable, and most importantly, profitable. Tools are so much cheaper than before, and with the internet, anyone with a laptop could potentially start a business or service. That said, one has to take into account that Singapore is a very competitive market to get into.
4. If there’s one piece of advice you would like to give anyone who is just starting his/her career, or his/her own business, what would it be? Or, what is the one most important thing you’ve learnt in your years at work?
I’ve always been an impulsive and impatient person, but I’ve come to learn that everything happens in its own time; there are just some things that cannot be rushed. The world, although hopeful, can also be full of rejection, so building a strong sense of tenacity and daring is very important. So I’d say, have patience, guts, and tenacity.
5. If you could wear a uniform of sorts to work for the rest of your life, what would that outfit consist of, and why?
I was toying with that idea for awhile, to just do a white shirt and black pants combination, but I thought it was too harsh for me. Now I’m controlling myself to shop for only blue clothes so I don’t have to spend too much time matching stuff.
6. Tell us something interesting about yourself. What do you do in your spare time? Any unusual hobbies? A childhood pastime? Favourite book/movie/music genre? Role model in life? Anything that you can come up with at the top of your head.
I’m quite obsessed with looking for new narratives, so I watch a wide array of films, ranging from the classic 400 Blows, to the very bizarre Funky Forest. I read when I can, from design books to graphic novels, and I’ve been slowly working on building a personal library of books. These days, I also try to spend less time in the office, and instead work on maintaining my relationships with close friends. Beyond work and my interests, I’m quite a boring person; I just kind of vegetate a lot with a pint in hand but I’m secretly hoping my epitaph would read something heroic like Royal Tenenbaum’s “Died tragically rescuing his family from the wreckage of a destroyed sinking battleship.”
7. Do you have any philosophies, mottoes or quotes that you’re living by right now?
One, never forget your beginner’s spirit. Two, don’t let the blood show. Three, bite the bullet.