Making meaning with design

Sheryl with her pneumatic jacket (left) and sweater that insulate with air

The NUS Design and Environment’s Division of Industrial Design (DID) Graduation Show 2019 premiered on 31 May showcasing close to 80 innovative design projects by the Divison’s graduating cohort and undergraduates.

Themed "Synthesis", the projects explored the use of creative designs to promote better health, wellness and living. Head of DID, Dr Christian Gilles Boucharenc said that the projects featured span across the technical, artistic and economic dimensions of design, and “provide some strong and original answers to problems and issues observed in the world today.”

Indeed, the wide range of ideas and interests on display parallel the vision of the DID to incorporate a mix of artistic, humanistic, technological and business disciplines into design with the aim of improving lives. One such display was graduating student Sheryl Teng’s A Pneumatics’ Touch, which comprises a fashionable-looking pair of jacket and sweater made from a plastic-coated polyester cotton mix fabric that keep a wearer warm when inflated, with the pockets of air in the clothing acting as a form of thermal insulation.

Sheryl shared that she had noticed how warmwear tends to be bulky and difficult to carry around. This together with a keen interest in exploring the overlap between the utility and semantics of clothing led her to explore the idea of creating a “transformative” garment that can inflate with common travel amenities such as a hairdryer before it is worn, then flattened and packed, and ready for travel when needed. “Pneumatics is particularly interesting because by using something as simple and available as air, a multitude of transformative effects can be created,” she said.


Jia Jun demonstrating how Romo should be used

For graduating student Leung Jia Jun, it was his grandmother’s experience at a stroke rehabilitation centre that led him to create Romo, a portable shoulder gaming device designed for stroke rehabilitation on the go. Modelled after pinball, and consisting of a ball catcher, transport maze, tray and some wooden balls, the game challenges the patient to use his shoulder strength to pull the device’s handles in order to raise the ball catcher loaded with a ball to holes along a vertical board. Upon successful entry, the ball travels downwards pin-ball style to the tray for the next lift upwards.

Jia Jun shared how typical rehabilitative equipment are functional in nature and that patients easily lose interest in the exercises because of their repetitiveness. He said, “I decided to design something that injects fun into the exercises. Gamifying the rehabilitation experience engages the patient’s attention and motivates him to repeat the exercises.”


The Qilin (left) and Pixiu of Qiu Xia’s Ji Jian Wu presents a contemporary take on these traditional fengshui objects

Inspired by the richness of Chinese culture embedded in fengshui articles, graduating student Lin Qiu Xia’s project Ji Jian Wu, which means ‘auspicious simple objects’ in Chinese, presented a series of fengshui items in contemporary design. Shaped in the form of “lucky” animals or shapes such as the Pixiu (mythical winged lion), Qilin (mythical hooved creature), horse and gourd, the items can be used for fengshui or as decorative gifts. In her research, Qiu Xia had observed how some fengshui practitioners have begun using objects outside of Chinese culture in their practice instead of traditional fengshui items, because they felt these items looked dated; which could remove the cultural significance of the products in the process.

She said, “Traditional fengshui objects reflect the rich imagination and culture of the Chinese who have created these items in their wish for better lives. I designed these to draw people’s attention back to the cultural stories and significance behind fengshui items. This is a new channel to pass down cultural heritage to a new generation, as well as open the door for foreigners to understand Chinese culture.”

Other innovative designs featured include a blood glucose simulator, a healing kit for postpartum women, and a book that teaches children the value of mistakes. The DID Graduation Show will run till 5 June at the SDE4 building.