We had the chance to catch N.ZIQQ, photographer, filmmaker, interaction designer and founder of Design Says Hello earlier this year to understand his passion for storytelling and heart for design. He lives by the beautiful motto ‘Design with Humility, Design for Humanity’, and hopes to build a school one day built on that philosophy, making the world better for everyone through Design.
Tell us a story or moment that was a turning point for you.
This was actually before Design Says Hello, when I was still in school and a magazine interviewing me asked the simple question, ‘tell me more about design’. I found I couldn’t answer it, and that really embarrassed me. I spent the next few months and all my days in the National Library, in the Arts and Design section, reading up on all these amazing designers, anthropologists and psychologists writing on the philosophy and principle of design from their perspective. That really shaped how I view design today.
Shortly after I went on a service learning trip to Cambodia, in Siem Reap. It was a simple assignment, and we spent our time beautifying the playground of a local school. We designed a mural for the playground and painted the slides and swings – it was amazing to see how the kids were so happy just from that. It really made me go wow, just with the stroke of a brush you could make someone’s experience, better.
That was the first time I had the idea that I could impact and influence people’s lives through design. It was very touching, and I always remind myself of that. That experience moulded the kind of design I strive to create – an authentic, pure experience that brings joy.
How did Design Says Hello come about?
It started back in 2010 when I just graduated, and I wanted to find out what people thought ‘design’ really was. I went out with my camera and just started just interviewing people on the street. Most of them came back with the same answer: they thought designers were just people who made things look pretty, giving things an aesthetic value.
I then met up with 15 practicing designers who I really respected and sat down with them just to have a candid conversation about what design meant to them. I didn’t expect anything from it. I just wanted to capture what they all thought.
The one main insight I discovered from all the conversations was that design was about creating an experience. It’s about understanding the psyche of a person so that you can create a more beautiful experience for them. I felt that this was a collective voice that people should hear, especially people who weren’t designers, and so released it as a documentary. I just put it out there, and 2 weeks later when I came out of National Service I discovered it had gone viral.
It’s now grown to become a platform that simple shares perspectives on design. In Singapore we are still very young, so certain things about design are still very new. I hope is for Design Says Hello to become a school one day, to facilitate an exchange of knowledge and learning from one another.
Our latest film explores the line between art and design. That’s really challenging, as there is so much overlap.
You have this great talent for listening to people and sharing their stories. Why?
When I was growing up I was quite introverted, and would send my time just observing people around me. Whenever I was on the bus, or just waiting in a place, I always imagined the stories of the people around me, looking at them and wondering what their lives were like. It’s like a whole new world where everyone has a story to tell.
I’ve always been very curious. And now, with technology, to be able to capture people’s stories on film, with the power to edit and retell and share that story with my own perspective, is amazing.
You recently gave a talk at Singapore Design Week. What did you share and what was that like for you as an experience?
I’ve never actually seen myself standing in front of a crowd to share my story, I’m usually the guy behind the lens asking about other people. So it was a new experience for me, and very humbling to be asked to inspire other young people with my own journey.
If there’s one thing I hope they took away from it, it’s to always understand why you’re doing the things you’re doing, especially in the world of design. People often associate this industry with glamour and beauty, and it is that, but what’s most important is the heart and human behind the design. That’s something I hope people always see. That everything that is design, always has someone behind thinking about it, that had the heart to create it.
I hope that the new generation of designers wants to be designers not just for the awards but to be able to use design to do something greater than them. I myself am continually trying to do that. As designers we are always in the equation of making things, and sometimes our ego gets in the way. I try to remove myself from the equation to remember that we do this for others.
Tell me more about the old and new objects you brought.
This is the first camera I ever brought. I did a lot of stuff with it, and it was always with me everywhere I went. At that point I just wanted to capture moments through moving images.
The binoculars and compass are actually new, from my recent trip to Shimla, India. The binoculars are a metaphor for always looking to the future and staying focused. The compass has a beautiful poem by Robert Frost in it, and its about direction, and choice.
How do you think your stories will change the world?
I don’t know if they can change the world, really. I’ve never questioned the value of doing it, just followed the desire to do so. But I like to share people’s stories where they are really doing good, doing things greater than themselves. That really gets me excited, because I want to do great things as well.
Changing the world is such a big thing. Just to know that there are others doing the same things, dreaming the same dream…it gives us support. It’s like the butterfly effect, where if one of us does it, it creates that whole chain effect of change.
Who knows, maybe we can really change the world.
Shortly after graduating from Republic Poly, ZIQQ founded Design Says Hello with the simple intention of sharing perspectives on design. At the heart of his many talents is a passion for storytelling, good design, and the greater impact it can have on the world. He is currently an experience designer at OX:D Studio, the Experience Design arm of Ong&Ong, and is preparing to move to London to pursue further education in Interaction Design.
We are inspired by his heart and humility, and are proud to have him as a Fieldtester, a group of inspiring friends that regularly test MATTER products in their workplace and travels to help us improve durability and design. ZIQQ is wearing The Sideswept Dhoti + Gradiente, Size 2.