Yunong set up her own design studio and works across multiple scales, which she says, keeps her thinking laterally and creatively.
What’s your story?
I am trained as an architect. I have worked for almost a decade designing beautiful towers, user experiences in virtual and physical space and sustainable smart cities before taking the plunge to start my design studio. Some of my current projects are 100% compostable bags, a smart compost bin and designing a space in Etsy’s HQ in Brooklyn.
What excites you most about your industry?
Being able to work on multiple scales. The changes in scales that exist in design, from sculpting a doorknob to master planning a city block, require us to always think laterally. I find this forces us to be inherently creative in our work and also explains why process and iterations are so important to architects and designers.
What’s your connection to Asia?
My blood, soul and stomach! I was born and raised in Singapore. I was an exchange student in South Korea and worked in Beijing and Shanghai for a few years. My startup is based in New York and Singapore. Most importantly, I have a recurring need to eat Asian food all the time.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Most definitely Singapore. Apart from safety and efficiency, my ex-students at Singapore University of Technology and Design also gave me a first hand experience of a strong and motivated workforce.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Kindness is free, give it out more often.” I try to remember and practice this daily. It’s definitely easier said than done, but I honestly believe kindness can change our world. You never know, your simple act of kindness might make someone’s day or change someone’s life.
Who inspires you?
My ex-boss Dame Zaha Hadid, one of the greatest architects of our time. I find her extremely inspiring, not just because she was a visionary practicing her craft in a field occupied mostly by men, but also because of the new ground she broke for the younger generations coming after her. She proved to so many younger female architects, myself included, that you can be female, not western and still be one of the best in your field.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I learnt recently that different materials are making huge leaps in research and development. I’m particularly blown away by bio leather, a type of leather made from plant-based materials like pineapples, mushrooms and water hyacinths. Imagine that, no animals and no plastics! I am extremely excited to be in the process of designing and creating products using bio-leather.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Every year, there is one new year’s resolution that doesn’t get checked off and that’s improving my coding skills. If I could turn back time, I would most definitely freshen up my coding skills.
How do you unwind?
For high stress days, I rotate between making beeswax candles, homemade granola or handmade soap. Practicing yoga regularly also helps.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Bangkok, because of the food. It also makes a huge difference that one of my best friends is from there, and Thai people are the kindest and friendliest group of people I know.
Everyone in business should read this book:
Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies by Nick Bostrom.
Shameless plug for your business:
KHEW + CORNELIUS is a multi-disciplinary design firm based in New York and Singapore. We are interested in how social and cultural changes interface physically and digitally with the im/material thresholds of the built environment. We deal with multiples scales, from product design to interiors, VR to buildings and everything in between because there is no boundary for design. No project is too small or big since we collaborate with multiple talented fabricators and workshops. We’re not the only ones who think we’re great to work with, our work has also appeared on Inc.com, fastcoexist.com and Curator’s Choice.
This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:
Callum Laing invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries. He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence. A 40 week training program for business owners and executives.
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