Recently, I have been thinking about the high potential of growth in arts and design in Southeast Asia. Unable to hold me back from this newfound excitement, I wrote an article to express my passion. This eagerness then drove me to look for something to do in Southeast Asia for the upcoming summer holiday. This led me to apply for a summer internship at Expedio, a multidisciplinary design studio in Kuala Lumpur.

I came across Expedio a year ago at ACAT, a government-funded tech incubator housed in a beautiful heritage building in Penang. Expedio was invited to talk about their story. I had the chance to talk to a few of them.

Soon after the competition of a 3-day design task and a Skype interview, I was accepted as an Industrial Design Intern for the summer holiday. From there, I relocated from Penang to Kuala Lumpur for the next two months. Last Friday marked my final day at Expedio, and now I would like to share what I’ve learned and experienced during my short stint there.

I applied for an internship at Expedio with two main intentions, to gain valuable work experience that will build my skill sets and to gain insights into the field of design in Malaysia. I’m glad to say that I have achieved those two goals and picked up a few more valuable takeaways.

Once settled in, I was put on several ongoing projects and given tasks that an Industrial Designer would do. I researched, sketched, rendered and 3-D modelled. I learned to practice the skill of generating design languages and implementing those languages onto industrial design concepts. I learned and practiced SolidWorks’ 3D-Modelling and participated in presenting our work to clients.

I learned that the design process could be greatly complemented by a few external inputs, such as market trend research and basic client understanding. We should consider what is trending instead of focusing solely on designing with purely logical form of reasonings. Moreover, we should understand the client as who he or she is instead of just focusing on the stiff and rigid written design criteria given to us. After all, it is the client who has the final say on a design. Through this approach, we can assist them by knowing their preferences and thinkings, and from there, we could form proposals or ideas that would make both the client and designer happy.

Another interesting bit was the long working hours which others may misunderstood as overworking. It seems to be there is never enough time for designers, and very often we find ourselves coming in early and leaving late, yet we happily do so as this never-ending process of bettering our design is what drove us to pursue this career. Creative inspirations often come at odd times. It may be late in nights or during the long weekend. Though the hours may belong, I was exhilarated by the process of designing solutions closer and closer to perfection. At the studio, I was kept entertained by interacting with others in the studio, from mechanical engineers to graphic designers. The learning experience just never stopped!

Another thing worth mentioning was the welcoming and comfortable office space. Other than that, design tasks demand quite a lot from the creative side of our brain. However, this specific procedure is offset by a comfortable and inspiring working environment. Cats would roam around as we talked to each other while having some snacks, and we would joke with one another as we worked.

As to my attempt to find out how arts and design are perceived and valued in this region of Southeast Asia, I’ve learned through the internship and out-of-work activities that arts and design may not be valued reasonably yet. Often, the designers’ individuality in their work may have to be compromised for commercial reason such as efficiency, not to mention the cost. Regardless, I still firmly believe that this will soon improve. I am optimistic that the community would see our local designers’ work and creation at a relatively higher value.

It certainly has been a great learning experience. A big thanks to Expedio for taking me in as a summer intern and especially to Abigail, who has guided me throughout my time at Expedio!