Undergraduate Focus: When thinking outside the box is everything
People who create things – that’s what architects and designers are often referred to as they make intangible works of art come alive. Three professionals tell us why they chose to pursue this creative field.
As an architect, Leong’s role is to manage and co-ordinate projects from inception to completion. From the seed of an idea to the first laying of bricks, right until it is handed over.
“In short, we draw a lot, talk a lot over the phone with contractors, consultants, councils and clients, and when necessary, we put on our thinking cap to try to solve issues that may arise from the start to the finish of a project,” he says.
Leong started working soon after moving to Melbourne and was fortunate enough to be employed in an interior architecture firm that focused on hospitality projects, including restaurants, bars and cafe fit-outs. About four years ago, he moved on to a mid-sized firm involved mainly in residential projects.
“I have been working since 2004 and working in smaller sized practices is always beneficial as you are given more responsibilities and room to grow and learn,” Leong says.
To practice as an architect, Leong says one would need a degree in architecture. “In Australia, you are required to achieve at least 3,000 hours of practical experience across all levels of competencies before you can sit for your exam. It is similar to what accountants have to go through to get their stripes,” he explains.
As architecture is a lot about cultures, arts, societies and philosophies, Leong believes studying and working abroad is extremely beneficial as it opens the eye and mind.
“In order to have a bright future, one must live, see and experience all that is on offer and if they choose to return, they bring with them all that they have seen and experienced.”
As Malaysia is a developing nation, Leong says opportunities will continue to arise. The same goes for nations such as China, the UAE and countries in Indo-China that are developing at an accelerated rate.
The study of architecture, according to Leong, is not for the weak-minded. Students intending to take up the course must be prepared for hardship and long hours.
“They must also have a sense of appreciation for structures, buildings, art, culture and philosophy as well as the innate ability to problem solve, to think laterally, to lead and to follow, and to learn and to ask.”
As a whole, architecture is fun and exciting, and if you can get past all the above, can be rewarding.
“There is a certain sense of fulfilment, pride and contentment once you see your project built – the project you spent months, and sometimes years, agonising over. And even though architects do not garner much respect within the built environment, at least you’ll know you’ll be cool at parties!”
Yong Wing Hol
“I studied at Curtin University of Technology, in Perth and I graduated with Bachelor of Applied Science (Architectural Science) in 2005 and Master’s of Architecture in 2007,” says Yong.
To obtain a degree in architecture, he says, one will be looking at a study period that is between five and six years, depending on the institution. Also depending on the university, students are required to attend a three-year course graduating with a Bachelor’s of Science (Architecture) and completing their studies with a two-year course graduating with a Bachelor’s of Architecture.
“Students are required to complete both the degrees if they intend to become a registered or professional architect with the Malaysian Board of Architects. Although the study period may seem torturous, the reward in the end is highly rewarding,” he goes on to say.
Typically, graduate architects hold very junior positions in an architectural practice such as helping a senior architect with design work. “As you move along, your responsibilities in design will grow and you will have to start to prepare construction drawings with the senior architect – this, of course requires good knowledge in building construction and co-ordination of your drawings with the rest of the consultants,” Yong explains.
He continues that it may take between four and eight years for one to become a senior architect for an established practice depending on the graduate’s ability. “As a senior or associate architect, you are required to hold meetings with clients and the rest of the consultants. You are also often required to perform presentations to clients on your design and as the lead consultant in a building project and as an agent to the client, you are also required to manage the whole project from designing to the completion of the building,” he says.
Yong says it is often a wrong perception to think that architects are always wealthy and glamorous – but it is not impossible.
“Fresh graduates in Malaysia may find that they are earning less than their peers in Singapore or Australia, but if you are armed with the correct attitude, knowledge and skills, you will definitely be greatly rewarded.”
Having spent 13 years in the design field, Low has built up a multi-disciplinary portfolio spanning traditional, production, post-production and more recently, online and social media advertising. He is currently a senior art director cum copywriter in an advertising agency. He specialises in art direction, copywriting, ideation and creative strategy.
His current job requires him to ideate, strategise and execute projects from both an art directional and copy perspective.
“As you can see, I have been around the advertising block and over the years, you can say I have picked up different skill sets to answer the different positions I have held,” he says.
It took Low approximately eight years to get to where he is now and he says that it is quite normal as promotions don’t usually come easy. “But as with any job, if you show diligence and pro-activeness, it will help you go a long way.”
Low says that graphic designers are generally required to have at least a diploma from a public university or an art school.
“Art courses usually take between two and three years to complete and fresh graduates can earn along RM1,800 to RM2,500 depending on your portfolio quality, skill set and certification,” he explains.
Coming from a traditional media background, Low sees a massive paradigm shift in the design industry in terms of creative evolution. He says that old school media like print and broadcasting still hold a sizeable portion of the consumer market but because more and more people are spending their time online; consumer behaviours and group dynamics have changed rapidly making websites and Internet advertising the medium of choice to reach the masses.
In the future, he sees advertising and mass communication moving well beyond the confines of the traditional mediums, past the Internet and onto handheld and mobile devices, making it more direct, interactive and personal.
Low says that those who want to venture into the design field should possess a solid grasp of creative crafting, critical thinking, good communication skills and an intrinsic understanding of the art process to come up with the perfect selling idea for their clients.
“Most importantly, know the products you are selling, your clients’ needs and have fun creating your first award-winning campaign.”