Alfred Phua, ICAD Alumni

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As part of the effort to ICAD Design Days to stimulate deeper discussions with the design community on the nature of being a design professional and the values of our work as a collective, we reached out to various industry practitioners and stakeholders, seeking their perspectives on a series of thought-provoking questions on current issues in relation to the core values professionalism.

Alfred Phua, our Bachelor (Hons) Graphic Design, in collaboration with Sheffield Hallam University UK alumni who is now at Kingdom Digital, shares his views with us.


What should the relationship between the academia and the industry be? How are we able to bridge the gap between what the academia is producing and what the industry is demanding (skills/traits/attitude, etc.)?

With the advent of globalisation comes ever-evolving consumer demands, which then leads the industry’s requirements to become ever-changing. Thus, the academia should always keep abreast of developments in the industry. To do so, it is essential for the relationship of the industry and academia to be a symbiotic one.

As the academia aims to produce qualified and highly employable graduates who are ready to take on the challenges of the industry, tailoring the curriculum to be aligned with the industry’s requirements will be crucial. It is also important to make available a learning environment where students are nurtured to be creative, adaptable, and forward-thinking individuals.

My experience thus far tells me that brands are embracing a leap into digital marketing, which utilises mediums such as social media, videos, animations, UI UX etc. This means that knowledge on traditional media will not be as relevant, and could essentially become obsolete. As such, it becomes crucial that the academia is equipped to offer students the tools to develop skillsets for such design mediums. What I find to be potentially useful would be to include industry briefs as part of the coursework, as this gives students a chance to work on an actual client brief, and from there, to learn first-hand what working in the industry requires.


What does “multidisciplinary” mean to you? In your practice/industry, do you think it is more important to be a “generalist” or a “specialist”, and why?

A multidisciplinary team involves individuals of different expertise and experiences working towards a common goal. For example, a designer may work with a software engineer to design a website. The designer takes charge of the creative direction, whereas the software engineer will lead the website building and execution based on the designer’s creative direction. Being a team player is highly important in the design industry, as more often than not, you will find yourself working in a multidisciplinary team.

As more novel mediums become available, consumer demands and preferences will change. In order to keep up, you will have to learn the basics of everything. Once you have that, you will come to find the type of design or style that piques your interest. This is when you become a specialist. However, being a specialist does not mean you can omit improving in other areas. In order to stay relevant, it should only mean that you are particularly adept in this area, but still able to produce quality work that requires other skills.


How has your industry incorporated ethical practices, if there are any? Do you think ethical responsibilities fall on the shoulders of the artist/designers or the client, or both?

I am of the opinion that ethical responsibilities should fall on the shoulders of the client. Clients are responsible for the content and messages they want to convey to their audience or the consumers. As designers, our task is to present the content as clearly and effectively as required by the client.

Fortunately, I have yet to come across such issues of ethics in my career. Should I come to face such a situation one day, I would keep in mind that I may be able to advise or educate the client for improvement.


Are the nature of awards and competitions still relevant today and why?

I do find that awards and competitions are still relevant today. Participating in a competition and receiving an award serve as recognition for the designer’s work and increase his or her credibility. Taking up the challenge provides designers an opportunity to see how they fare in the competitive design industry. Furthermore, there is a certain, enjoyable creative freedom when producing artwork for a competition, which is different from working for clients, where there are often rules and regulations to play by, such as brand guidelines and styles.


What do you think is important for the arts practitioners/designers of the future to think about and challenge?

We certainly have to start thinking about newly available tech and how to utilise them to our advantage. I am particularly interested in the recent advancements in augmented and virtual reality. We do see brands starting to look into these mediums to increase their outreach to consumers. Examples include 3D images and social media filters, which many consumers are actually quite familiar with, and enjoy. It is vital that designers are able to conceptualise ideas using such mediums, as the industry steers further into digitalisation.