Interview with Benson Lee

Winner of Protective Equipment Design Awards

Award Winning Designer Benson Lee shares insights


Interview with Benson Lee at Monday 14th of May 2018:

DL: Could you please tell us a bit about your design background and education?
BL : Ever since I was a child, I have always been fascinated by how objects work. This curiosity led me to the start of my formal design education with a Diploma in Product and Industrial design in 2005 from Temasek Polytechnic. I then obtained my Bachelor's Degree in Product Design in 2012 from Lasalle College of the Arts, and I am currently doing my Masters in Design. Through the course of my education and professional career, I have helped start up several design companies/departments.

DL: What motivates you to design in general, why did you become a designer?
BL : I feel that the world is cluttered with unnecessary objects as a result of consumerism, that does not add value to our way of life. This, in turn, gave a very wrong impression of 'design' to less design-developed countries, especially in South East Asia. My motivation to design is to declutter and to present what I feel design really is about to society.

DL: Did you choose to become a designer, or you were forced to become one?
BL : I chose to become a designer.

DL: What do you design, what type of designs do you wish to design more of?
BL : As a result of working for a firm, my current practice focuses on product and spatial design. These past years I have worked on transportation interiors mainly in the field of aerospace. I would like to be involved in more craft related design.

DL: What should young designers do to become a design legend like you?
BL : Know what you want to do, and plan how to get there even if it involves taking a longer journey.

DL: What distinguishes between a good designer and a great designer?
BL : A good designer troubleshoots in a creative way, but a great designer knows what's next.

DL: What makes a good design a really good design, how do you evaluate good design?
BL : Canadian anthropologist, Lionel Tiger has established a framework that satisfy the four pleasures; physio pleasure, psycho pleasure, ideo pleasure, and socio pleasure. I believe a really good design satisfy these four criterias.

DL: What is the value of good design? Why should everyone invest in good design?
BL : Good design improves quality of lives the moment you are engaged with it. Bad design only satisfy you momentarily.

DL: What would you design and who would you design for if you had the time?
BL : I would like to design lifestyle objects that suits the Singaporean lifestyle. Most products in Singapore are imported and are forced to fit into our lifestyles.

DL: What is the dream project you haven’t yet had time to realize?
BL : The creative freedom and time to explore traditional raw materials and incorporate them into contemporary design to preserve tradition.

DL: What is your secret recipe of success in design, what is your secret ingredient?
BL : The balance between consumer and business needs.

DL: Who are some other design masters and legends you get inspired from?
BL : Dieter Rams, Naoto Fukasawa

DL: What are your favorite designs by other designers, why do you like them?
BL : I can't choose. They all appeal to me in different ways.

DL: What is your greatest design, which aspects of that design makes you think it is great?
BL : I do not consider any design that I have done as great as there are more room for improvement. I would consider the experience being involved in these projects. However if I were to choose one, I would say the Premium Economy seats for Cathay Pacific that I had a chance to work on will be the one.

DL: How could people improve themselves to be better designers, what did you do?
BL : Practice, and be updated.

DL: If you hadn’t become a designer, what would you have done?
BL : Craftsman

DL: How do you define design, what is design for you?
BL : Everything is design. The moment the creator has an intention to create something out of nothing, he is already involved in the design process. The defining factor is just whether he has put enough thought and consideration into the process.

DL: Who helped you to reach these heights, who was your biggest supporter?
BL : My colleagues and lecturers got me to where I am today. My biggest supporter will definitely be my family.

DL: What helped you to become a great designer?
BL : The passion, and having a goal.

DL: What were the obstacles you faced before becoming a design master?
BL : The ever-changing demands of the industry.

DL: How do you think designers should present their work?
BL : Honestly and humbly

DL: What’s your next design project, what should we expect from you in future?
BL : I am currently looking at ways to contemporise tradition crafts through design in Singapore.

DL: What’s your ultimate goal as a designer?
BL : To have the creative freedom and support to run my own practice.

DL: What people expect from an esteemed designer such as yourself?
BL : Consistency

DL: How does design help create a better society?
BL : Good design helps eleminate the unnecessary

DL: What are you currently working on that you are especially excited about?
BL : Can't disclose.

DL: What would you like to see changed in design industry in the coming years?
BL : Better appreciation, understanding, and acceptance of design.

DL: Where do you think the design field is headed next?
BL : Technology will be heavily involved, however people will start to crave for experiences they have lost.

DL: How long does it take you to finalize a design project?
BL : Depends

DL: When you have a new design project, where do you start?
BL : Reanalysing the brief to see if it makes sense, and looking for opportunity areas to make the project better.

DL: What is your life motto as a designer?
BL : Be confident and humble

DL: Do you think design sets the trends or trends set the designs?
BL : Can happen either way depending on the topic.

DL: What is the role of technology when you design?
BL : Technology changes the way we use things, in turns changes the design process.

DL: What kind of design software and equipment do you use in your work?
BL : Rhino, Keyshot, V-Ray, Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign

DL: What is the role of the color, materials and ambient in design?
BL : It dictates the user and context.

DL: What do you wish people to ask about your design?
BL : The inspiration and story behind each design.

DL: When you see a new great design or product what comes into your mind?
BL : The environment that design will sit in.

DL: Who is your ideal design partner? Do you believe in co-design?
BL : Preferably someone who is creative and has a different skillset. I believe interdisciplinary collaborations always product unexpected results.

DL: Which people you interacted had the most influence on your design?
BL : Everyone will give a different perspective.

DL: Which books you read had the most effect on your design?
BL : Psychology and sociology books

DL: How did you develop your skills as a master designer?
BL : Constantly practicing and learning.

DL: Irrelative of time and space, who you would want to meet, talk and discuss with?
BL : Dieter Rams and Naoto Fukasawa

DL: How do you feel about all the awards and recognition you had, is it hard to be famous?
BL : People have expectations.

DL: Please tell us a little memoir, a funny thing you had experienced as a designer?
BL : A client approached me to design for his brand, and then telling me on the spot how irrelevant design is, and why I shouldn't be a designer.

DL: What makes your day great as a designer, how do you motivate yourself?
BL : The "eureka" moment when I have a great idea or when I managed to resolve an issue using design.

DL: When you were a little child, was it obvious that you would become a great designer?
BL : No.

DL: What do you think about future; what do you see will happen in thousand years from now?
BL : Earth will be terribly damanged by mankind, and everyone will be suffering.

DL: Please tell us anything you wish your fans to know about you, your design and anything else?
BL : I believe that product design has a lot of potential in Singapore if given the chance.