GOOD design is good for business, said Malaysia Design Technology Centre (MDTC) president Tan Sri Lim Kok Wing.
Design is applied to everything and no one is spared; we all design when we choose our glasses, clothes, colour and even furniture for our house. Everyone is conscious of a need to design and that is the extent of the importance of design, he said.
Creativity, where good design comes from, will give businesses a competitive edge by increasing productivity and cost efficiency. A well-designed product will also encourage repeat purchase and lend support to the extension of a product line while a well-designed environment will encourage workers to be more productive. Companies would therefore have a bigger profit margin and this would add value to business, he said.
However, he feels the level of creativity in Malaysia is still quite low although there had been more locally designed products recently.
He said the most challenging and difficult part was to get the small and medium-scale industries (SMIs) and bigger corporations to look at design as a means to achieve better quality and to look at creativity as a way to grow their business.
Malaysia has always been driven by agriculture and manufacture of products which were not self-designed unlike Japan, South Korea or Europe which started by creating and designing their products and making them popular the world over.
Lim said the Western world had been setting standards all this while but it had come to a point where Malaysians needed to really originate and learn to innovate.
We must not be afraid to compete with others but instead learn to design and brand our products so well that the world would come to know about the brands that we have. We must build our own reputation as a quality country capable of producing high quality goods, he said.
Our SMIs, manufacturers and retailers must think about expanding beyond Malaysia to the 500 million people in Asean and 3 billion in Asia. They must look at the bigger market and not stop just because they are doing all right here, he said, adding that companies must look at building their products for the next 10 or 20 years by practicing creative thinking in business.
For creativity, productivity and value of a product to be seen as enhanced, Lim stressed the importance of research and development (R&D) for companies. Companies must be prepared to put resources into R&D and engage creative people to develop better products, he said.
He said Malaysia would become less attractive in future as a production/manufacturing base and efforts must be made for it to be known to the world as a country of creativity, as a place where quality products are made. This would draw in designers who will see working in Malaysia as an opportunity for them to do well.
We have a lot of natural resources wood, timber, rubber, palm oil and if we are able to design a product well for all countries, we would become the worlds biggest manufacturer of the product, he said.
However, trying to change the mindset of companies on the importance of design and R&D has left Lim a very tired man. With the MDTC opening its doors in Cyberjaya in September, he is hopeful his efforts to promote creativity and design would be made easier.
The centre is the first of its kind - a fully integrated design centre which will be a nucleus for all things creative. It will become a regional creative hub, he said confidently.
According to Lim, part of MDTCs function is to be a business development centre. It will have, among others, a design museum displaying the best of Malaysia on one side and the best of the world on another. We plan to attract companies who make very good products from other parts of the world to have exhibits there, he said.
The centre would enable foreign business delegations visiting Malaysia to look at our best and business would be generated if our designs were marketed in their country. Designers from other parts of the world may come to MDTC and the centre would be able to link them up with local manufacturers who want people contributing to their business creatively.
Manufacturers wanting to introduce new products could also visit the design museum to access its design bank which consists of products that have been designed but still unused like shampoo bottles or labels which could be incorporated into their own products.
MDTC would also have a business centre and an enterprise development centre incubation centre for graduates who believe their ideas have commercial value, to design new products/service for the market.
Lim said the centre would provide the space and back-up in terms of equipment, facilities as well as support staff. They would not have to set up a business so there is no risk, they just need to use their brains and work, he said.
The design plaza would have continual exhibitions, car shows, concerts, hair and clothes fashion design shows.
Lim said the centre would also be a place to pool together creative businesses like cybercafes, health spas, cinemas, art galleries, designer boutiques and virtual entertainment centres to enable people to experience a good sense of creativity all in one place.
Companies would be invited to set up concept stores where their latest as well as experimental designs can be displayed in a more dramatic fashion, showcasing their best. Lim said MDTC, because of its focus on design, would get people to look at design and be more discerning. It is also a knowledge centre to attract secondary school students and students from colleges and universities to absorb the very meaning of good design.
Besides this, the Limkokwing Institute of Creative Technology would also be situated at the centre. What the Prime Minister had done in turning Malaysia into an education centre is wonderful because countries which provide education to the world are always respected. Malaysia has become a provider of international education with 17,000 foreign students from 100 countries studying here. I think a branding is taking shape, Lim said.
He said Malaysia had a big and wide talent core. We have very talented people who grew up in a multicultural mixture, we can design something Indian, Chinese and Malay. We can even design something universal because of the way we were educated.
He said MDTC would have several roles rolled into one the centre would not only have a commercial role, it would also assist the design and its other related industries to grow and become more sophisticated and educate the public and train knowledge workers and creative thinkers.
Lim said RM100mil had already been invested into the centre for the building and 15-acre land. He expects about 300,000 to 500,000 people to visit the centre in the first year.
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