Singapore vs Japan and many many questions about Singapore

Hi, this is my story, and I hope people from Singapore will answer, as I need an insiders opinion not just a vision from outside. I’m product / web designer from Europe, working for four years in web design with a team of four people as an art director and designer, I’m particularly interested in product design and have made few concepts and won few international design competitions yet I want to study, as I’m self educated and want to have more design ideas and vision in my head, definitely want to meat more creative individuals and make something big together.

I’ve been planning to study in Japan, I speak/write/read Japanese (proficiency level 2) and absolutely no problems with English (I have linguistics education), the problem with Japan is the visa regulations and the thing my institute screwed it for me, so it seems I’m going to miss this year, and altogether it made me rethink a bit, I’ve been to Japan few times and have no questions about the design world there, yet I‘ve been to Singapore only ones (receiving the red dot concept award) and my stay was something near two weeks, so I though may be Singapore suits me more.

We know many great designers from Japan like Tokujin Yoshioka, Naoto Fukasawa and others, and I personally know none from Singapore, but this doesn’t mean a thing to me, I’m looking to the future and in future there can be anything possible.

My questions are:

Design world in Singapore, possibilities, work opportunities, perspectives in general:
How would you (people who work or used to work in Singapore) name the current design situation in SG? What do you think? Do you see any perspectives for product design?

Business related:
Are Chinese companies and manufacturers presented in Singapore, those who work ODM / OEM, like Chinese cell phone manufacturers, and others? Can Singapore be considered to be a kind of a window to Asia (china). Here I’m speaking as a company (design bureau) interested in manufacturing abilities, to manufacture custom design furniture, fashion accessories, high tech gadgets.

With the price on the same level I’ve been offered in Japan = 50 000 US Dollars for the course of three years, is it, by any means, worth it?

Any opinions about design in Singapore are welcome.

Any thoughts? :cry:

Sorry to hear you’ll miss out on the opportunity to go to Japan. In Asia, that’s where Design is happening. But I think Singapore has a striving Design community. You mention “window to Asia”. May be more of a “window to China” but Hong Kong would be another choice for you. There’s a few universities with Design programs, although the quality of their outcomes is questionnable. It’s certainly not on the international or Japan level. Hong Kong’s design industry, although barks real loud, has little bite outside their own little circle. Singapore is a much more innovative place. If you’re not looking to be close to the Chinese manufacturers, I think you’d be better off in Singapore. If you do want to be close to China, then go straight there - design opportunities there are really picking up, surpassing Hong Kong.

I see a lot of Advertising design from Singapore, one of the illustrators from my team is from Singapore, why not so much about product design, are manufacturer’s possibilities weak? Or the market is too small?

Ok so the education is a “no no”, with the same price as in Japan it isn’t the same level, now that’s quite sad, though I’ve expected to hear something like that.

As for Japan I didn’t miss the opportunity to go, yet first of all I’m speaking more about moving to, not just a short time thing, and secondly it has became extremely complicated yet I still can co my best and probably go. I just don’t feel good about it. So I considered my feelings as an opportunity to think one more time.

Hi Takomi,

As a designer living and working in Singapore I supposed I should jump in here. Sorry for the late visit as I have been very busy.

In terms of education, the Industrial Design courses offered here are one of the better ones. There are quite a number here, but the top I would say is from NUS (National University of Singapore). Their focus is more Multi-disciplinary rather than Art school. This has been successful as many students have won awards with their work, including the recient Braun prize.

I have lived and work, in HK, Taiwan and Australia, as well as frequently travel to China, the rest of the asian region and Europe. Personally, I would not want to be anywhere else. Perhaps London or Sydney, then again maybe.

The design industry in general here is pretty triving, but unfortunatly ID is still very small part of it. There is still a lot of work, but much is off shoots of packaging or POS type products. Hard Core ID is limited to the big multi-national brands like Philips or HP and consultancies such as BMW Design Works. There is also a lot of product work with the local contract manufacturers, but it tends to focus more on case part design, rather than the more strategic ID work.

I would also say that I rather not be IN china, but instead being near china is good enough. Being in china your viewpoint might be a little warped to local sentiments. Personally as I see myself as a global designer, I still like to keep close ties with the rest of the world. Unfortunatly many tend to forget and think its all about China these days.

Therefore Singapore is unique as it grew from a trading post and a natural port. As a result, many of us are normads as it takes us the same amount of time to get almost anywhere in the world. I find this particularly important.

Ultimatly, You have to decide what sort of design career you want. If you want to design more craft and lifestyle type products then Japan is for you. China is also buzzing and the work is often fast and thankless. But you get tons of experience.

But if you want something more international, multi-disciplinary, covering the entire product development cycle, and like to develop consumer type products then Singapore is the place to be.

Best of luck!

lingmiester, well said. Maybe sometime in the near future we could meet up :wink:

ps I now know who you are …

but having said that,we shouldn’t really measure the quality of design work so tightly to wining competitions. (though competitions do guage where adesigner’s standard to a point)

Winning a prize is something, but I value character and uniqueness more.

Similar levels of living costs yet a higher pay even after tax.

A more creative and inspirational environment, there’s no where in Singapore that is comparable to Harajuku or Ebisu in Tokyo, Sannomiya in Kobe, Umeda in Osaka.

More media freedom, less governmental censorship, equats to more possibilites to explore, less of a need to worry about rules. Having lived in Europe, you’re going to find the scene in Singapore bland, cramped and restrictive.

Even with China, Japan has overtakened the US as China’s largest trading partner.

There’s really not much reason to pick Singapore over Japan unless you want to experience life in a totalitarian pseudo-democracy .

Japan’s not all roses though. As a foreigner, you will be treated like a foreigner, whether you’ve lived there for 1 day or 10 years. Many people had considered the Japanese to be racist, the truth is that they’re just unsure of how to communicate with foreigners due to the language barrier, thus come off as cold at first. Once the ice is broken through, you can count on strong, sincere friendships to be made.

Those living in western Japan (Osaka, Kobe) are more open to foreigners compared to Tokyo. Tokyo, however is several times more active and most opportunities are found there.

University education here is a little lacking, definitely when compared to those in Europe. Unless you make it into the top 3 art/design schools here, you’re going to have to depend mostly on yourself. The facilities may be top notch in the other schools, but it’s the lack of motivation in most of the students around you that really pulls you down. As they say here, 流されないように。 Remain focused and you’ll easily stay on top.