Vivian (left) and Chia Yi (right), founders of MUKK. Photo: MUKK
Welcome to our first ever Feature Friday post, where we feature conversations with designers from all over the world.
Today we have two very talented Malaysian designers, Chia Yi and Vivian, founders of MUKK (木 meaning “wood” in Mandarin), a lifestyle brand with its core values set around sustainability and responsible design. Both Chia Yi and Vivian are both trained and experienced industrial designers with numerous accolades to their name (their awards and achievements are listed at the end of the post) and solving the needs of people became the core of their living ideals.
Viam. Photo: MUKK
Hi, and thank you for taking your time to do this. First of all, can you tell us how both of you started your design careers, as well as how you met and decided on creating MUKK?
CY: When I was a child, I enjoy exploring at the same time I love to sketch, I remembered how I used to tell people when I grow up I’m going to be an artist.
VV: I love beautiful things since I was a child. I made lots of crafts and always wanted to be a painter.
Then we embarked on the journey of design by studying Industrial Design.
How we met:
We met in a talk. It was during World Industrial Design Day 2015; that year’s theme was #RENEWID, it means redefining Industrial Design.
We really didn’t think much in the beginning. All we did was for the love of design and we just wanted to create something. That’s how it all magically began. Most importantly we wanted to nurture the state of design in our home country, among the local communities, businesses, designers and non-designers alike.
Your products (and many wood products in general) tend to lean towards them being handcrafted and every piece is unique, so with the advancements of 3D printing technology, how does it affect your design process?
The design process is the same, I think the strength of a design lies in the creation of an idea, however the most important factor is to verify your ideas, make sure it does not stay as an idea but rather be executed out and to be tested in the real market. We love technology very much too! It only makes design processes becoming more convenient, as for wood every piece is indeed unique, because wood grains come in different forms and patterns, it will never be the same duplication as it is a living thing just like a biological human, even twins have differences. Now that’s the beauty about wood! 😀
You must be quite busy setting up your new design studio. Can you briefly tell us what it takes to run a successful studio?
Love what you do, think thrice before starting anything, ask yourself every now and then if you’re on the right track, if not stop what you’re doing as soon as possible, think it through and start again! Be persistent yet flexible enough to adapt to change! Make sure you’re happy doing what you’re doing!
Can you tell us about something you’re currently working on?
We are currently re-evaluating our business model and looking into better opportunities. A lecturer once taught me about incubation period. Right now, we are back at the incubation phase. Incubating~
Luna Hills. Photo: MUKK
What do you think of the design industry in Malaysia, as well as how it is compared to other Asian and Western countries?
CY: Progressing, with our younger generation filled with zeal, independent thoughts, passion and the exposure to various design worlds through the internet, we are progressing. If we talk about comparison, the thing that we lack the most is a little bit of guts; therefore we just need more guts! Be brave and hustle!
VV: We have many home grown talents in Malaysia. Due to the lack of exposure and appreciation in design of the general public locally, designers are always undervalued for our capabilities. Malaysians only start to appreciate designers when they made it overseas, after they are recognised outside of Malaysia. Hence Malaysia is still a trend follower.
Chia Yi: The thing that we lack the most is a little bit of guts; therefore we just need more guts! Be brave and hustle!
What must local designers do to elevate the standards of industrial design?
CY: Listen and learn from others, preferably the most experienced people from various industries, find the real problem and solve it. Exposure, exposure, exposure; explore, explore, explore as much as you can. Learn and practice with the best of the best to elevate your standards!
VV: Industrial designers are always known as the all-rounder who is neither here nor there. And sadly enough, local designers take that and do exactly what people tag them. In order to elevate the standards, designers must understand their role in the industry. Industrial designers are trained to solve problems and provide solutions in a creative way. Designers should focus on creating value through building and leveraging unique design competencies, with a good understanding of people’s needs via contextual strategy.
Vivian: Designers must understand their role in the industry. Industrial designers are trained to solve problems and provide solutions in a creative way.
And finally, any advice you can give to aspiring designers who want to create their own design collections?
CY: Just do it! You will learn what’s right and wrong along the way. There’s no one formula to it. Lastly, make sure you really really really love it (your outcome of design, products, etc.) before you even try to convince the whole world about it.
VV: Design with a good cause in mind, be it creating unique experience or solving a daily problem. Not just to contribute to another piece of beautifully designed object in the world.
Sim Chia Yi graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Product Design Futures from the University of East London and a Master’s degree in Applied Ergonomics and Human Factors from the University of Nottingham. She has won numerous awards and received multiple achievements, including being one of the Top 11 finalists for the Furniture Design Award (FDA), Singapore in 2016, publishing New Collection in Salone Satellite, I Saloni in 2015, represented Malaysia in publishing a concept furniture design in Salone Satellite 2014 and winner of Mobili Milan Malaysia 2013.
Vivian Shi Wei received a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Design (Hons) from Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin Terengganu, Malaysia. Among her awards and achievements include the Gold Medal Asian Youth Innovation Awards & Expo in 2014, 3rd prize in the National University Challenge in 2013, a top finalist in Mobili Milan Malaysia 2015 and MIFF Furniture Design Competitions 2015, as well as having her designs exhibited in the 2016 Malaysian International Furniture Fair.
Be sure to check out our article on MUKK here.