Leonard Mak, Founder of LM Studio

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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.

Leonard Mak, Founder at LM Studio shares his perspectives 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.)?

Bridging these two has always been a challenge as the students will never know where they could land a job, and the type of projects they will be handling. In general, skills could always be honed overtime, but the question is how long would that be? Attitude is a great deal in terms of coping with what the industry requires. I believe there is also a need for the industry to understand the academia process before over-expecting of the students. Firstly we would need to see what translates to value to a company, the efficiency, street-smartness, ability to manage time, people and gauge self-performance.. many more. If a company requires a particular set of skills, they will make sure the employee will have to master within a fixed amount of time, that boils back down to the learning ability, hunger and initiative of the employee. We often focus more on commitment and then only competence. Commitment represents their commitment to themselves in growing, making an impact in the company and thus their career. This translates to realizing their necessary competence to reach that level. It would be great if there could be a platform to create more conversations between the industry and academic.


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?

We are still a very young company, having now going through the trying times of COVID-19, we came to realise the adaptability of the company is extremely important. I wouldn’t say we’re generalist as of sort, but it allows greater opportunities to explore fields and experiment things. Pivoting within the industry in terms of business model makes easier. The more variant in feedback loop, the quicker we learn. A specialist has its perks too, they are extremely focus, and focused in creating the best there is in the market. It is a niche where students can learn a whole lot from just one typology.


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?

Ethical practices start from us as designers in communicating, guiding and educating our clients. Be it price, knowledge, management and expectation of one another. That is extremely important to first create a boundary of roles and responsibilities to establish a streamlined process in a project. We first target to deal with clients from an educative point of view rather than selling them what we have. We feel that informed clients tend to provide a greater clientele relationship thus benchmarking an expectation of a project.


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

It definitely is. However, often awards and competitions are tied to monetary benefits of some of the organizers. Either through magazine exposures to “obtain” an entry to awards or several other marketing methods. It is conflicting at times from our point of view as creators. It contradicts the idea of certain awards. Competitions are healthy and extremely rare to find in Malaysia. We are also thinking of organizing more competitions, opened to young working designers and students, to cultivate creativity despite soaking ourselves in the mundane industry. Currently during COVID lock down, we also do internal competitions to spark new ideas and concepts. It would be great if we could create a new platform for design conversations. I believe many out there working would like to be in touch with academia- and that is also part of our company’s road map.


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

The idea of conveying great ideas should not be limited to course structure or any form of body/organisation that governs the “standards” of the academic field.
It is extremely important to consider the potential of what design could alter the future of our cities. Study sustainability, well-being in design, thought evoking spaces, urban contexts, place-making etc. It would be great to cultivate an idea in students to potentially change our society and cities!