Good design goes beyond aesthetics and should serve to better the lives of people and protect the environment.

Today, design trends continue to evolve in this direction, say speakers at the recent Design Perspectives x Golden Pin Malaysia Salon series of talks and events. Held for the second time in Malaysia, the Salon series has taken place annually in various Asian cities since 2015.

The Design Perspectives x Golden Pin Malaysia Salon is a joint effort by the Taiwan Design Centre and KL-based Tsubaki Studio to give a boost to the design scene in Malaysia as well as create awareness about the Golden Pin Design Awards. The annual Awards is the longest-running international design award that celebrates products or projects expressly created for Chinese-speaking communities (DesignPerspectives.org).

This year, the theme of the series is “Decoding the Experience of Design”, with topics of discussion focusing on changes in design trends in recent years such as sustainable design, green design and social design.

“The issues facing the planet such as climate change and carbon footprint have made it even more urgent these days to adopt principles of green design. Some recommendations go as far as managing resources such as heating and cooling, which are sophisticated means to address energy efficiency and waste management,” says Lim Huat, managing director of ZLG Design, a German-Malaysian architectural design firm based in Kuala Lumpur. Lim was one of three speakers at the Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur) Salon.

(From left): Liu, Lim and Wang, speakers at the Kuala Lumpur Golden Pin Salon 2019. Photo: The Star/Art Chen

Liu Keng Ming, founder and creative director of Bito Studio – a motion graphic production company based in Taipei – says a few years ago, sustainability was a lot about recycling, how to divide materials that can be reused and minimising waste.

“Now, I believe sustainability is about three things – using or re-using waste to create something new; sharing instead of owning and turning physical tools into on-demand services; and circular economy. With all that, (we need to) rebuild business models that support healthier and more conscious ways of consuming and disposing,” says Liu, whose opening video for the Golden Pin Design Award 2016 Grand Ceremony won the Bronze Cube at the 96th ADC Award.

Wang Yao Pang, director of InFormat Design Curating in Taiwan, adds that today, green design goes beyond environmental conservation.

“In recent years, there has been a wave of cases that uses design to achieve local revitalisation goals. You can see that it is already an understandable strategy to use design as a tool to complement cultural strategies or to activate the business practices of a city,” says the lecturer at Yuan Ze University Taiwan’s Department of Art and Design.

Lim adds that the last few years has seen the presence of more design tools for understanding building performance and rainwater harvesting. Technological knowledge for urban farming has also become very readily available to ordinary people.

“However, we do not see as yet any development that enhanced social pattern, behaviour or well-being in any big way, except that co-working spaces and instant cities, or relocatable micro housing, have been developed recently to address the high costs of home ownership. In the sector for the ageing community, we see a lot of designers attempting to decode ageing in place or integrated retirement villages,” says Lim, who worked under renowned architects the late Zaha Hadid as well as Ron Herron before joining ZLG Design in 1992.

He points out that design trends or developments are important tools needed to gauge building performances and will continue to prevail for a few reasons.

“One of which is obviously costs. As energy becomes heavy penalties for poorly-ventilated buildings and deep buildings consume far more electricity and so on, these guidelines and parameters will soon see a serious following among the younger generation of builders and entrepreneurs who understand resources and energy,” emphasises Lim.

“Furthermore, the other reason is accountability. We have already seen many more individuals and corporations showing responsibility for the environment, and the emphatic and civic-conscious will also drive more corporations to make it dutiful to deliver projects which help to keep the carbon footprint low and the environment clean of pollutants and toxins,” he says.

Lim adds that there are also companies that believe in well-being and enjoy indirect returns from adapting green principles.

“Biophilia, for instance, has been a philosophy for hospitals in Singapore. This promotes well-being and encourages communities to better understand their role in promoting a stronger ecology for their future generations,” says Lim.