October 12, 2008

PSFK Asia Conference 2008

Yesterday was the PSFK Asia conference in Singapore at the Asian Civilizations museum where I volunteered for a day as a speaker's assistant, which is actually just a fancy name for backstage help. I heard about PSFK only after I had been nominated by my lecturer for this conference but what I have learnt in the last 48 hours has been an eye opener.

The conference & the volunteers

The conference had some remarkable speakers and stimulating panel discussions about emerging design trends in Asia. This is specially relevant to me this semester at college as I'm working on a project that would (hopefully) predict the future of branding. To start off there was the Singapore snapshot - a discussion between a few of the leading local talent (Chris Lee, Asylum and Jackson Tan, Phunk studio) and some guest panelists. I couldn't catch all of the talk but some parts of what I could hear were very interesting to me. Jackson Tan spoke about the lack of "hunger" in Singapore amongst students and I feel this is kind of true. Maybe it's just my opinion but I feel that there are very few students who actually take initiative to try harder at getting better. There are many cases where I've heard of friends who switched careers once they were done with their diplomas. To me, this is arguably the single most foolish mistake anyone can commit. Why bother studying and slaving over a diploma that you're never going to pursue in your career right? Anyway I seem to be digressing.

Some of the other speakers at the conference were Daryl Arnold(with Profero, who spoke about using the Internet as a new medium to sell things to odinary people), Colin Nagy, Andrew Hopping and Mark Dytham who spoke about the benefits of engaging the employees from all the parts of a company inorder to drive innovation citing the examples of NASA and Klien Dytham architecture's PechaKucha night.

Then there were Nick Barham (Weiden+Kennedy, Shanghai), Floydd Wood & Jerry Clode(Flamingo internation) whose talks were about the emerging Chinese markets and trends among their youth. In the second talk, Jerry Clode gave examples of Asian cultures having a great influence on their youth's value systems. He spoke about the "retro" relation to design in China where the youth now prefer to buy products that celebrate the essence of their culture rather than wear mass produced clothing - a line of t-shirts that had graphics of the old school chalk board drawings of boys and girls but in a more contemporary context.

Jerry & Floydd's speech

After lunch were some very exciting panel discussions. The first being the creator class consisting of Piers Fawkes(PSFK), Paul Tan(POOL), Jason Anello(Yahoo) and Brian Tiong(B-side). They spoke about the emergence of a new generation of designers who do not restrict themselves in terms of a typical desk job and about how there are younger creatives who become entrepreneurs very early on in their careers - the AWE5OME network of creatives based in Singapore. This was particularly very close to my heart as this is something I aspire to be someday after I finish my studying.

Jason and Paul at the panel

The next panel was a discussion on youth trends in Asia and the impact they will have on the global markets. The panelists were Achara Masoodi(Mindshare), Micheal Keferl(CScout, Tokyo), Sonal Dabral (Bates 141), moderated by Piers Fawkes. Being part of an Asian culture myself, I could relate to some of the trends that were being discussed - about wanting to be from a generation of 'doers', wanting to be different and yet maintain the essence of the culture we belong to.

The next few talks were my personal favourites of the day. Charles Ogilvie(Panasonic) spoke about innovation in in-flight service, re-looking at how to make the flight experience more memorable through finding the right insights. He gave the example of Virgin American airlines whose cabin was re-modelled and designed to have state of the art technology, mood lighting and a more personal feel to it rather than the typical cramped seats.

Achara & Rob at Superfamous(after party)

This was followed by Rob Campbell(Sunshine/M&C Saatchi) who spoke about how the greatest creatives change fate not just create ads. He gave some great examples such as Tesco supermarkets that continually find new insights everyday to make shopping a fun experience rather than a chore (shopping carts equipped with DVD players to keep the children occupied). I think this kind of mentality should definitely be encouraged amongst designers today. More than designing something 'pretty' I feel we should be designing something 'smart', that has potential to change the way we experience the product itself.

Finally the last talk was by Jeff Ng(Staple Design) who spoke about his career path which is a series of creative ideas, hardwork and being at the right place at the right time. I couldn't enjoy the entire talk as I had to assist outside (I was afterall part of the help!) but I liked the approach he has in his design projects which he discussed at the beginning.

All in all the conference was a great experience and mingling with the speakers afterward at the post-conference party was the icing on the cake for me. Jeff Squires from the PSFK team was the friendliest person I met at the conference who managed to arrange a great conference in such a short span (3 months). Hats off to him for pulling that off! I hope I get lucky and get to attend a few more such conferences that may help me be a better designer someday.

For more info on the conference goto www.psfk.com

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