Jim Chuah, FNL PRJCT

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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.

Jim Chuah, Co-founder and Project Lead at FNL PRJCT shares his 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.)?

I think the industry and academia are interrelated strongly to one another. The academia should always look into what is the demand/ trend in the industry, the people from the industry should also bring the industry knowledge and experience back to academia because it helps to fill in the industry needs. To bridge the gap between academia and industry, for me, sharing, workshops, and events play an important role for both ends, it is a good opportunity to learn new perspectives from the younger generation, how younger minds think and what they expect from the industry. It is a two-way improvement process.


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?

To me, multidisciplinary means versatility, being fluid, and able to take up all kinds of art and design directions. It is one of the key traits at this very time when everything is constantly changing. There is no specific answer to the question of whether it is more important to be a generalist or specialist but the approach in searching your design DNA. FNLPRJCT is a specialist in versatility and we gained our fame from it, haha.


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?

To me, to provide a unique perspective towards how things work, what is the true value for the current world/ era, and how we envision the future moving forward. As a designer/ artist, our role is to provoke and to solve problems, we are bigger than just a logo designer or graphic artist, we incorporate our belief of what’s right and wrong into the work we do, challenge our audience to think, hope it could change the society (world) a little. I personally think ethical practices are both artist/ designer and client’s responsibility, we are given an opportunity to put our works out there and make a difference, we should use our voice and platform right. In FNLPRJCT, we always question our influence on our audience, what they saw in our work, what they perceived, who is behind the work, and why we do so? You will never know where it goes so we have to make sure it stays true to what we believe in.


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

It is still relevant to many, from business POV, it is a good opportunity for the agencies and businesses to get noticed, it boosts the team’s spirit and inspires others to set a higher benchmark, it’s also free marketing for participating companies. For smaller studios, it is a good place to expose your skills to like minded people and connect with the community. But personally, I am neutral to awards and competition because I have a pretty self-motivated team and we find satisfaction by delivering good quality work to our clients and how everyone enjoys the creative process. I definitely don’t mind a few awards and validation for our hard work but it isn’t our ultimate goal.


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

Sustainability and culture preservation. In my opinion, creating captivating visual and nice art is as simple as it could be now. But the story behind and the cultural influence to it often being sacrificed in the movement. We seek cool design and the work has that wow impact but it often doesn’t last. We attended a sharing event in Shanghai, China and one of the speakers, Wang Shu, who is an expert in using sustainable materials in his architecture, said, “rapid development in China is eroding tradition and cultural memory, often demolishing the buildings and building new ones in the same style. Urbanization happens too fast and it doesn’t give you any time to think about things. I don’t just worry that we have lost our history – I also worry that we have lost our tradition.” Even though it seems unrelated to what FNLPRJCT does entirely but we reference ideology from different fields frequently to expand our perspective, generate creative ideas that are sustainability-conscious. We make sure we are always equipped with the knowledge and ability to work with like-minded people from a different field, well aware of what we do that really contributes back to the world and the ecosystem.