S’pore should be global design heavyweight like New York and London: DesignSingapore’s Dawn Lim

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SINGAPORE – When Ms Dawn Lim landed a new job as executive director of DesignSingapore Council (DSG), some of the reactions she received were, not to put too fine a point on it, uncomplimentary.

“Eh, are you a designer?” said one incredulous acquaintance. “Why join DSG?”

Patiently, she would explain: “I am not here to be a designer. I am here to lead a design organisation.”

The 40-year-old is not a designer by training, but she is eager to learn the field – “(there’s) much to learn from our designers in our sector”, she said.

Ms Lim has a master of science in management from Stanford Graduate School of Business in the United States and was previously vice-president and head of commercial and professional services/hub services at Singapore’s Economic Development Board (EDB).

Having spent more than a decade at the EDB, she jumped at the opportunity to join DSG, which came about “as part of the leadership transition”.

The self-professed design convert also attributed her move to a “life-changing” experience after taking a design programme at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford as part of her master’s in 2017. Together with classmates, she worked on real-life problems brought by various companies and organisations in the San Francisco Bay Area.

“I saw how my own mindset changed because of the way we have typically approached problem-solving,” she said. “In Singapore, when we see a problem, we jump to the solution as fast as we can. But the design process actually forces you to take a very methodical approach where you need to really understand who you are solving it for.”

DSG, a subsidiary of the EDB, is the country’s national agency for design. It aims to use design – across all disciplines &nd...

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