Can a designer use STEM skills?
You might think that a creative career like design lacks hard STEM skills, but you’d be wrong according to Matthew Kwong. He’s the designer that’s worth his weight in STEM skills, like problem-solving ways of thinking that saw him prototype an innovative bike handle in just 48 hours.
He’s got an impressive CV that rattles off experiences with the Hacker Exchange, travelling to Silicon Valley to meet industry mentors in entrepreneurship, for example. He’s also Co-Executive Director of a charity that turns beer into donations called Charity Tap. We spoke to Matthew about why STEM and the Arts aren’t two separate disciplines, and the craziest design challenge he’s ever faced!
Discovering a passion for design
To be honest, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do growing up. It ranged from wanting to be a garbage truck driver to “the suit person who makes a lot of money”. I didn’t discover my passion for design until tenth grade when we were taught how to Photoshop the mole off Cindy Crawford’s face! I spent the rest of that year immersing myself in all sorts of design-related content.
After finishing my HSC, I moved to Melbourne to pursue a Commerce degree at Monash University. I know I said I had a passion for design but at that point in time, a double degree in Design and Commerce wasn’t offered so I picked the safer option (my biggest regret!).
The Hacker Exchange
I attended the Hacker Exchange a few months ago: It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that pushed me out of my comfort zone and gain a broader understanding of the entrepreneurship space in Silicon Valley. It helped me explore unique ways to launch my ideas and provided me the tools and connections I needed to make it a reality.
Using STEM + the Arts in design
I think that STEM and the Arts complement one another, regardless of your career. Designers have a significant advantage over their peers if they can understand the scientific processes of materials, or if they know how to effectively use the golden ratio in making aesthetic products.
The use of 3D printing and coding has bridged a once-significant gap between STEM and design, providing an opportunity for collaboration. 3D printing has definitely become the new symbol of STEM as they come together.
The craziest, most ambitious design challenge ever faced!
Two years ago, my friends and I wanted to challenge ourselves and use our combined skills in Business, Engineering and Design to create a product, so we scoured the internet for a challenge. Turns out, there was an International Bicycle Design Challenge that happens every year and the winner gets around $350,000 and royalties after their bike gets manufactured! How amazing is that?
The only obstacle was the fact that the deadline was two days away. Pretty unrealistic as a goal to design an innovative bicycle solution in 48 hours right? WRONG!
We ended up creating Snapback, a bicycle handle that allows the rider to change between a standard, straight handlebar for commuting mode and the racing-style handlebar with the horn-like form. The idea was to merge the two different types of cyclists and bicycles into one convenient solution. You can find out more on my website.
So in 48 hours (with no sleep and in a lot of agony), we managed to conduct user research on a small sample of cyclists, prototype our mechanism and 3D model our entire bicycle before the deadline! To this day, this is probably still the most strangest but also the most ambitious project I’ve done in such a short amount of time!