Designing a ladder of success
Yong shares how his design company Somewhere Else came from somewhere impossible.
From not having enough money to buy a pencil in Muji to facing possible bankruptcy when he started his own firm, 31-year-old Yong Ng’s journey to becoming the design director of Somewhere Else has been stuffed with challenges. Today, his design firm is now one of the better known design companies in Singapore.
Yong Ng first encountered design when he was 12. He was so intrigued by the design of a mechanical pencil that he stole money from his parents to purchase it.
Throughout his adolescent years, Yong noticed design in the things around him. From popular skating shirts to footwear trends, his interest in design grew, and he decided to pursue his interest by studying Visual Communications in Temasek Polytechnic.
Even in his desired course however, Yong felt the lessons were insufficient in feeding his almost insatiable curiosity.
“My time in school taught me a lot, but most of my learning took place in the library,” said Yong.
Together with a few of his course mates, Yong spent most of his time in the library reading. The scope of their reading covered graphic design, art, photography and even architecture.
“My record, after three years of school, is having read 300 books,” said Yong.
Upon graduating with a diploma, Yong and his course mates struggled to land a job. The demand for designers was far too small for the supply of designers produced. Yong sent out numerous job applications, only to be rejected again and again.
Exasperated, Yong decided to give his dream company, Asylum, a shot. Although the requirements for the job exceeded his experience, fate appeared to be smiling upon Yong. They called him in for an interview, and soon after hired him.
Yong calls his time at Asylum the “best few years” of his life, explaining that the working environment there was “exactly how (he) envisioned a design firm to be like; fun and bold”.
Because he enjoyed work so much, Yong cast aside his entire social life to pursue excellence in design. He was either at work all seven days of the week, or staying back after hours just to read up more on design.
Even after four and a half years of hard work, Yong felt he still wanted to do more. “I told myself I was too young to get tied down to a place for the next eight years,” he said.
That was when he decided to take a leap of faith, quitting his job to start his own design film.
It wasn’t an easy dream to chase. Reality soon hit, and he soon found himself with a huge problem: the lack of clients to keep his firm afloat.
With an almost-bankrupt company that was not growing, Yong rallied the few employees he had. Together, they slogged out to bring Somewhere Else to its present success. All this was done in merely just two years.
Yong explains that although many just see the eventual success, there are many sacrifices and setbacks in pursuing one’s dreams.
“I haven’t eaten a home cooked meal in ten years,” said Yong. As a result of his pursuit of excellence, he sees his mother for barely ten minutes every week, although he lives with her.
Yong holds a line by Yoshitomo Nara as his mantra: “never forget your beginner spirit.” He believes that although life is always about the “what’s next?” and fight to be better, it is always important to remember the days of small beginnings.
Yong wants to inspire the next generation of designers. Taking up the role of a mentor in Noise Singapore, he aims to bridge the divide between budding designers and the public.