The ability to shape and champion Singapore design is in every one of us, says Dawn Lim. Just look at the impressive architectural work done on buildings like Pinnacle @ Duxton at Cantonment Road and biophilic skyscrapers like CapitaSpring on Market Street, or imaginative education platforms and spaces like Eyeyah! and Sparkletots Large Preschool at Punggol to simple apps like DBS digibank app and  

She hopes that all of us can be ambassadors for Singapore as a Unesco Creative City of Design by sharing widely about our homegrown designers and their works. Moreover, good design is good business, she adds. “Thinking like a designer enables innovation and growth. Good design is good for the planet and good for humans. We can develop more impactful solutions and achieve the triple P of Profit, People and Planet by design.”

A champion of public policy, Dawn Lim has always sought purpose and impact in her life. Perhaps this is why she has always been drawn to a life in public service. Before joining DesignSingapore Council (also known as Dsg) in June 2022, she worked for Economic Development Board (EDB) for 10 years, and before that, PSA Corporation for six years.

When she did her Master’s at Stanford Graduate School of Business, she became formally acquainted with the world of design at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design. This prepared Lim for her next post as executive director at Dsg where she will draw from her business acumen and commercial instincts to take the company into the future.

“Here at Dsg, I’m doing the same to carve a distinctive niche for Singapore as a futuristic city of design and innovation economy, an East-West connector and convenor for Southeast Asian design and lifestyle, and a purveyor of sustainable and impactful design solutions that address urgent real-world problems,” says Lim. “While I may not be trained as a designer, I am a user of design and a firm advocate of the impact that design can make. I trust my previous experiences will help me to advance Dsg and the design sector.”

Her ultimate vision for Dsg is to be recognised as a champion for design impact and a thought leader on how design will shape better futures. She explains: “We have a tangible impact on the innovation work that will drive Singapore’s economy and the community building that makes up Singapore’s social fabric. This gives us the licence to engage the government, businesses and communities on how design can positively impact their work. 

“Ultimately, it is about building Singapore into a loveable city, a great design hub and an innovation-driven economy, where Singapore design and designers are respected and celebrated for the future-forward impact they deliver locally and globally.”

It is a big year for the council as it celebrates its 20th anniversary. To mark this milestone, Dsg has launched a year-long line-up of initiatives to champion and celebrate the theme, Better by Design. “This reflects our commitment to infusing design into every aspect of economy and society, creating a better Singapore and world by design,” says Lim.

Building Futures Line by Line, designed by Tiffany Loy at Future Impact, Milan Design Week

When Is Enough, Enough? The Performance of Measurement, curated by Melvin Tan, Adrian Lai and Wong Ker How at Singapore Pavilion, Venice Architecture Biennale 2023

Overseas, Dsg presented at the recent Milan Design Week featuring works by Gabriel Tan, Studio Juju, Tiffany Loy and Nathan Yong. It also co-commissioned the Singapore Pavilion with Urban Redevelopment Authority, where the Singapore Institute of Architects (SIA) created an installation to show what makes Singapore a “lovable city”.

Locally, guests can head to Giffest at the National Design Centre until Aug 26. The colourful exhibition is a true visual feat with eye-popping gifs that address the theme of “Imperfect” from both the lens of design and as a social issue. 

Chandelion, designed by AirLab @SUTD at Circular Futures: Next Gen, National Design Centre

In July, Dsg will reveal the recipients of the President*s Design Award 2023 (P*DA). From Sept 21 to Oct 1, the public can look forward to Singapore Design Week and FIND – Design Fair Asia.

Dsg will also host its third edition of the Design Education Summit in November, curated by designer and educator Hans Tan. This is the only summit in Singapore that brings together visionary educators and leading design industry partners to exchange ideas about adopting design in education. For more information and a detailed calendar of events, visit

A year into the job, Lim shares with Options what life in the design world has been like and what she hopes to achieve.

Are you a design geek? 

I’m definitely a design convert and a design enthusiast! My soft spot is jewellery and accessories. It’s a trait I picked up from my late mother, who was always classily adorned. One of my favourite brands is Madly Gems, where I bought my first piece of fine jewellery. I have also gotten acquainted with Carrie K Jewellery, our neighbour at the National Design Centre. 

I love well-designed spaces that instil a sense of peace and tranquillity. One that left a deep impression on me is the Enabling Village which was awarded Design of the Year by the President*s Design Award in 2016. Designed by Woha Architects, I love how much thought the architects have put into designing a space that is inclusive and accessible for all ages, able-bodied or differently abled. Another personal favourite is the Church of Saint Mary of the Angels, also awarded Design of the Year by the President*s Design Award in 2006 — the beautiful, light-filled building is modern, welcoming and meditative all at once. 

What changes have you implemented since joining Dsg?

As a small organisation, Dsg works across business, education and community to infuse design into how we live, learn, work and play. My first priority upon joining was to steer our teams to realign our purpose and recalibrate our measures of success and focus areas to position Singapore Design for the future. 

For that, we refreshed and expanded the Dsg Advisory Board in January this year. The 14-member board hails from various sectors such as banking, design, public service, and technology and has seven new members. We’re lucky to count esteemed names like Bank of Singapore’s chief experience officer of customer experience and design Chooake Wongwattanasilpa, Dyson’s chief technology officer John Churchill, and design firm Eight Inc’s founder and CEO Tim Kobe, among them to consult and help propel Dsg ahead. 

We have identified Emerging Technology and Sustainability as focus areas. We are increasingly intentionally empowering our designers to be at the forefront of sustainability and emerging technologies like Web 3.0, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) and the metaverse through initiatives such as Dsg’s Good Design Research. 

On businesses, we’re strengthening our support and empowering local enterprises to future-proof and reinvent using design. Through our support, SaladStop! has launched its first net-zero outlet at CapitaSpring, while The Soup Spoon is taking a bold leap forward to explore emerging tech like digital twinning as part of their business expansions. 

On the education front, we launched our Learning by Design initiative last August, inviting Singapore-based design agencies to work with schools to impart creative problem-solving skills. 

Beyond empowering our local companies, I’ve challenged the team to think about engaging investors and businesses more meaningfully. For instance, how might we activate the investment community, venture capitalists and impact fund networks to benefit designers here? 

What are your thoughts on how far the design industry has come? 

Design has been intrinsic to the Singapore story, where nothing was left to chance, with our pioneers leveraging design and creative thinking to turn constraints into infinite possibilities. 

I hope our design industry will continue to have this same optimism, bravado and can-do attitude in designing for better futures. 

Local creatives are stepping out of traditional design disciplines to explore and experiment with technology. Last year, Singapore designers Lanzavecchia + Wai and Steve Lawler paved the way by creating NFT artworks showcased at the London Tech Week. We hope to see more designers stepping into new emerging tech. 

We could do with more inclusive, thoughtful designs. This goes beyond accessible or universal design in buildings, such as considering diverse and neurodivergent needs. 

For instance, Dsg scholar Kevin Chiam, designed a special set of kitchen utensils named Folks to help the visually impaired confidently prepare food safely. One of our Good Design Research recipients, Trecia Lim, founder and principal architect of WeCreate Studio, has created a card game Hello Empathy after researching people with autism to understand better how architects and designers consider their needs when creating spaces.

What is your hope for the future of design?

Firstly, we need to shift the perspective of design. Design is in our DNA. While Singapore was designated as a Unesco Creative City of Design in 2015, many are unaware of how innovative we are as a nation. It is important to help people recognise that design is more than just aesthetics. We at Dsg believe that Singapore Design is a mindset, the desire to always seek to make lives better using design. 

Singapore is a nation by design. It permeates every part of our city, whether in beautiful and useful products, services and experiences that elevate individual lives or at the systems level that yields large-scale, national impact. Take our last exhibition at the National Design Centre, Circular Futures: Next Gen, which presented beautiful and useful sculptural pieces such as lampshades and floating farm pods created out of 3D-printed waste plastic. Or, our Good Design Research recipient Claudia Poh has pushed the boundaries of design through her adaptive fashion line, where she worked with stroke patients to design a series of clothes where they could dress with dignity. 

On a systems level, Singaporeans enjoy smooth services in our everyday lives, from the way we file taxes to a traveller’s journey at Changi Airport, each touch point is carefully thought through and designed for comfort and convenience. These are never accidental but all by design, where user-centricity is paramount to ensure minimal friction for a seamless experience. 

Secondly, developing design as a national skill set is crucial to navigating a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) future. With geopolitical uncertainties, climate change, urban density, ageing populations, and technological developments happening at exponential speeds, educating and nurturing the next generation of creative thinkers and problem solvers who can design a better world and a better future is crucial. 

For that, the Design Education Advisory Committee (DEAC), Singapore’s first-ever national-level design education committee, is working hard to shape the quality of design education and embed design into our education system. We have Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs), the design and non-design sectors, and government agencies coming together to advocate design as a life skill and capability through different offerings and opportunities for youths to learn and practice design skills beyond the general education classroom. 

Let us not forget the existing workforce. According to the latest National Design Industry and Manpower Study, there is a rising demand for designers, with more non-design sectors looking to hire talent with transdisciplinary skills. We are working with government agencies through existing initiatives like the Career Conversion Programme (CCP) to groom a larger workforce with design capabilities and meet current and future employment demands. 

Thirdly, as the national agency for design, we need to build our capabilities in design futures, emerging technologies and sustainability to lead confidently. 

As a design-led organisation, we are going through our journey of corporate transformation and capability building to ensure that Dsg is prepared and equipped to take on the future. 

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