This article was originally published here: Su Eing Chee – President of Design Business Chamber Singapore
An interest in design from an early age has led to Su Eing Chee being a passionate advocate for design as a tool for beauty, efficiency and social good.
What’s your story?
Since I was young, I’ve been interested in Art and Interior Design. I pursued Architecture at the National University of Singapore (NUS) and founded D’Perception, the parent company of a group of full-suite interior design firms in Singapore and Asia.
My experience in the design industry is in line with DBCS’ mission of embracing design excellence and as a problem-solving tool. I came onboard DBCS for the diversity of passionate people and it’s my honour to work alongside world-class leaders in elevating the value of design. I’m looking forward to leading the way for better business by design.
What excites you most about your industry?
DBCS has been serving the design community as an independent association for 36 years.
We rally businesses and communities to not just achieve Better Business by Design but to use design for social good. I’m excited about the fact that DBCS is taking a few bold strides, such as shaking the traditional Trade Association and Chambers membership model and partnering with ministries to implement design solutions in tackling real-life issues.
These initiatives will be an enabler for us to impart to different communities that every voice matters and social cohesion can be achieved through brilliant and intentional co-design.
What drives you in business to push beyond what other people consider normal?
Though designers are natural problem solvers, they cannot tackle all the issues alone. It takes an ecosystem of creative thinkers and problem-solvers to address them.
When it comes to problem-solving, we take a more holistic approach. This is the basis of design thinking and exactly the foundational practice of DBCS and why we exist. Design thinking helps the designers gain a clear understanding of the users’ needs and challenges, which will allow them to create solutions that address problems better.
We believe and advocate the notion that design is an enhancer, a clarifier and an enabler.
What have been the most useful skills you have learnt and applied in your journey?
Design thinking has been very useful not just in my projects, but also in leading my team to delve deeper and strive harder to push the envelope for excellent work. Oftentimes, as I set out to understand others, I gain new discoveries of a certain situation or even about myself!
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
To act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God. Being a devout Christian, I lean on this biblical wisdom. Admittedly, I’m imperfect and may miss the mark; but this remains as my guiding principle in the way I manage situations, people and matters.
Who inspires you?
He was a true genius and architect ahead of his era.
He conceptualised his works by taking hints from nature and I love his quote:
“Those who look for the laws of Nature as a support for their new works collaborate with the creator.”
In his architecture, he demonstrated the mastery of forms not only in an aesthetic or ecstatic way but also processed the functionality of sustainability in the application of engineering and materials.
His approach has reinforced my conviction that design is more than just an enhancer but also excellence is measured beyond pure aesthetics.
What have you learnt recently that blew you away?
One thing I learnt is minimising disruption to the current system of things that are running well; to swiftly re-frame matters that require an address.
The events of 2020 and 2021 have turned many workplaces topsy-turvy. With lines between work and home blurred, I personally have had to be mindful of burnout with the many hats that I wear both at work and at home, working multiple shifts in one take has been no mean feat, to say the least.
At the same time, I feel that the crisis represents an opportunity to build a more flexible and empathetic workplace.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
If I had the chance; I would plan my transition from being a home-maker and back to the workforce differently. Linking up with a community of industry players would’ve been my first step to consider renewing my work-life balance. If I had known about DBCS, my perspective of the design industry and the network with practitioners would’ve expanded beyond my limited horizon.
My advice – to be constantly plugged into a community that could help you in your personal growth. I may be inevitably biased, but DBCS offers this in a way that encourages cross-pollination of collaboration in various platforms.
How do you unwind?
Family time is important to me. My husband and I have 3 young adult children (with my youngest just about turning 21 soon). Meal times are bonding opportunities and I enjoy fixing simple hearty meals for my family whenever I can.
Thankfully, we have good loving relationships with one another. We almost don’t miss any of our weekly family devotion time on Sunday evenings. From enjoying casual chats to words of encouragement, sincere affirmation and prayer for one another, we bond well in spirit and soul.
What is a major mindset change, belief shift or ‘ah ha’ moment that you’ve experienced in relation to your business?
I love the wisdom by Solomon, as recorded in the Bible.
Just to share a few of my favourite quotes:
Ship your grain across the sea; after many days you may receive a return
– Ecclesiastes 11 :1
Ventures take time to bloom and mature, never an easy feat. Of course, there’re risks that should be calculated and measured.
Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap.
– Ecclesiastes 11:4
Whenever I embarked on a new direction/initiative, I lean on this advice while executing plans with my colleagues, with reasonable discussion in place.
Everyone in business should read this book:
Shameless plug for your business:
DBCS exists as a multifarious design association to drive better business by design contributing to social good. I believe that design is not just an enhancer, but an enabler in our day-to-day living. It’s my hope that more people will understand and embrace design elevating its status in the value chain of all processes. We want to establish this vision as the common thread for everything we do at DBCS.
Through our initiatives like Singapore Good Design (SG Mark) and Singapore Design Award (SDA), they’ve always been dedicated to celebrating design and as a benchmark for good design and quality.
How can people connect with you?
You can reach out to me on LinkedIn: https://linkedin.com/in/su-eing-chee-82b15736
Social Media Links? : Find out more about DBCS on our website: https://dbcsingapore.org/
This interview is part of the CallumConnects series.