Carmen Au, POW Ideas

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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.

Carmen Au, Senior Design Associate at POW Ideas shares her thoughts 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.)?

There should be a balance of 70% academia and 30% industry integration in the design syllabus. From the perspective of an architecture student, there is a struggle of application in the working industry and how relevant we are in terms of skill set and industry knowledge in order to be hired to work. However, being in an academic setting should allow the student to sharpen their creative thinking skills.

This balance of academia and the industry allows the industry to continue learning as well and be in touch with the latest developments of the education system. Taking precedence from Bartlett UCL, the AA and Royal Academy of Arts.

However, the amalgamation will only be successful if the delivery of objectives of syllabus is clear to the.students, as often times students are not aware of the objective of certain assignments, thus can only rely on the final goal of graduation and joining the industry.


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?

In my perspective, multidisciplinary means exploring the translation of design ideas through various mediums. I think it’s more important to be a specialist in one medium of execution, and be a generalist in others. This encourages more collaborations with like-minded individuals of different strengths.


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 believe that there is a Code of Conduct whereby Architects will have to follow.

The responsibility of ethics should be practiced by both client and designer.


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

The relevance of awards and competitions is diminishing as the value of these recognitions decreases as well. Social media has allowed the world to have access to other design firms and will no longer have to depend on these traditional recognition format.

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

I think it’s highly important that as designers, we have to think critically in pretty challenging situations. As designers, we should also learn tools to be proactive and predict what consumers need, and not constantly react to the problems at hand.