SUTD Ministerial Forum

05 Apr 2018

A dialogue session for the SUTD Family to interact with the leaders of the Singapore Government on issues that affect Singapore. This is a student-run event and for our inaugural forum, we are very honoured to have Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong come and engage us on the topic of 'A Better Nation By Design'. Click to watch the recorded session.

As a token of appreciation, we presented to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong a special linen shirt that is embedded with photochromic materials in the pattern of plant motifs, on a background of molecules of greenhouse gases in abstracted batik pattern. The photochromic material enables the shirt to changes colour when exposed to UV(sun) light. The spectrum indicates the levels of UV exposure.

The shirt also comes with an IoT-enabled raintree leaf patterned pin that has photochromic material embedded in it. The pin can also act as a whistle to alert for help in an emergency.

On Design Thinking

by Edmund Kee, Freshmore student

A blind telephone operator. Chasing rainbows. The human spirit. What do all these things have in common? Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong delivered his speech at the inaugural SUTD Ministerial Forum with the aforementioned as examples central to the forum’s theme: A better Nation by Design. In his words, “Singapore is a nation by design” – from how the Singapore river was cleaned as it was pungent enough to orientate the blind, to being able to dream bolder with the assurance of safety nets should one fail, and to how the public transport system serves as economic mobilisers and social equalisers so that the human spirit can flourish. Our pioneer generation redefined problems, gained user insights, ideated, prototyped, and implemented many of Singapore’s success stories. Thus, what we now call “design thinking” was applied to these multi-level issues in the past.

There are some who discredit design thinking as mere fluff, while the more vehement naysayers relegate design thinking to a tool that allows one to frame their solutions in rosy retrospection. As mentioned in the forum, such is the danger of not “amalgamating the software of socio-political elements” with the “hardware aspects” of technical skills and techniques. In the original example of the Singaporean society being overly “focused on numbers”, PM Lee made the distinction that while it is important for a people to be well versed in numerical comprehension, it is equally important to understand the many things that could not be quantified as easily as numbers. Drawing parallels, it is easy to see how “design thinking” is gaining popularity due to its correlation with great solutions. Therefore, it is paramount for “design thinkers” to first empathise with various perspectives and understand the socio-political impact of their ideas before they can truly make a better world by design.     


Full speeches delivered by 
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong 
Professor Chong Tow Chong, SUTD President

Event Photos

Click to view photo album on Facebook.