Amy Picanco learnt early on, to always find a way and a means to get the job done!
What’s your story?
I relocated from the UK in 2009 and since then, I have been working on various design projects across the APAC region. Before I started my own interior design company, Aym Design, I was a freelance brand consultant and I realised that I really loved stories and helping to create identities. People buy into stories that they share with a company or individuals. I enjoy being a part of that. I took a leap of faith and started my own interior design company and I have been sharing my passion for branded spatial design ever since.
What excites you most about your industry?
The creativity! Playfulness mixed with keen business acumen. I have the opportunity to shape people’s experiences by the spaces they inhabit.
What’s your connection to Asia?
I was originally introduced to Singapore by my father. He was already located out here with his business. I was a new graduate struggling to find work in the middle of the financial crisis. Nobody in London was hiring, in fact it was hard to even get a placement to do free work experience as the architecture and interior firms simply were not getting enough work in. Singapore on the other hand seemed to be booming. There were (and still are) buildings going up everywhere. The design scene was really taking off and it seemed like the perfect place to start my career.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore – it’s diverse, safe and reliable. Reliability and transparency, though unsexy are very, very appealing in their practicality. In regards to the design, the industry here is still growing. There is a lot of education still to be done on the professional and public side. I play an active role on the Council of the Singapore Interior Design Confederation and help run a Professional Development Program that aims to make everyone more aware of the processes. Having said that, people here are generally very well travelled, and have experienced a range of different things. As a designer you need to take this on board, keep up with trends and strive to create unique places that will leave an indelible print on the psyche.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Google it, YouTube it, learn, do it.”
I had a very unforgiving tutor at University. When he got something in his mind we HAD to find a way to get it done. Normally this also meant within the next 12-24 hours. At one point I remember having a (rather heated) conversation about creating a stop-frame animation. I was at architecture school and I had never made a video before and I didn’t even have the software or the means to produce it. Despite the panic I felt leaving my tutorial session I managed to film, borrow a computer with Premiere Pro, watch several hours of Youtube videos to work out how to use it and then produce the edit and produce the movie ready to be played the next morning in our critique. Ever since I have never said, “No I can’t do something.” I will study, read, chase and do whatever it takes to get the job done.
Who inspires you?
That’s a tough one as I have a few designers that really fascinate me. In particular in Asia I really love the work of both André Fu and Bill Bensley. Both very different designers with totally different styles but both have captured their own unique way of looking at the mix of Asian cultures and diversity and showcasing it in their works.
However, in my day to day life it’s my husband. He has a completely different way of looking at the world that I love. He is very pragmatic and never lets the world around him get him down. He is very mindful and present in what he is doing. Something I think people nowadays are becoming increasingly bad at. It’s hard to shut out all the distractions and something I strive to be better at .
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I had the pleasure of talking alongside Khoo Peng Beng recently (the architect behind the pinnacle). He is working hard to promote sustainability and dealing with mass housing in modern Asian cities. His claim was that if the whole world built in this manner we would only need the land area of 7 Singapore’s to house the entire world’s population and 14 Singapore’s to feed everyone.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Paid more attention at school, in particular Spanish class. I wish I had properly learned a second language when I was younger. Despite everyone telling me it would be useful I don’t think you properly appreciate that until you are older and/or become an expat.
How do you unwind?
Travel. Be it moving away from my laptop to a place that allows me to connect with nature within Singapore or overseas. Nature is the best designer – it has so much to offer in colours and hues, shapes and textures. It is such a big wide world out there.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Thailand. Great hospitality, food, recreation. Everything you could need to feed your mind, body and soul.
Everyone in business should read this book:
The Hard Thing about Hard Things. I actually just finished. Ben Horowitz mixes his own story with very simple what to do and not to do business advice.
Shameless plug for your business:
At Aym Design, we don’t just take a brief and do a run of the mill chug of it. We’re honest, sincere and transparent in our ideas. Innovation for the sake of it isn’t appealing unless there is a story to be told and shared, experiences to be improved.
Interaction are important too; the flow of space, the interaction of objects and humans within that space creates the environment to live and breathe. We understand what it means to be a business owner. We care about the bottomline for the client as much as we do our own. In a nutshell, we are really, really, really good at what we do and very open to new ideas.
This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews
Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.