Olivia Lee was a hyperactive, highly sensitive child with an overactive imagination, however, this also meant she was quite self-directed and always found things to do from a very young age. Her parents said that the only thing that kept Olivia still, was if she became engrossed in her many self-initiated ‘projects’. This included collecting insects, conducting science experiments, making Rube Goldberg machines, raiding her father’s tool shed, designing elaborate video game levels on paper, taking toys apart and making Christmas presents for her family.
Today, Olivia reflects that “I am still that child, just in a bigger neighbourhood with new friends to play with”.
Olivia has design in her blood and when she came into the profession of industrial design, she felt that she was home again. “All my disparate interests of wanting to be an inventor, philosopher, artist, storyteller, architect and explorer suddenly made sense under the wonderful umbrella of design” Oliva says.
As such, establishing her own studio just seemed a natural and inevitable decision. It has not been an easy path founding the studio and taking the initial leap of faith was the most challenging step. But, for every challenge and setback there is gratification as Olivia can write the rules of her own design practice and create the opportunities that manifest in her work.
As a designer, Olivia’s emergence was radical for the time in Singapore, as there were very few female design-auteurs globally. However, she stayed true to her design interests and strengths, rather than try to accommodate the market. By incorporating the poetry, lightness, messiness and wonder of design in to her work, Olivia slowly found her audience, that continues today.
As a studio, Olivia loves the challenges of rethinking hotels and hospitality concepts in the new paradigm of a post-pandemic world and there are untapped opportunities within Singapore, to develop new domestic experiences where locals can spend time meaningfully and be engaged. As a designer, Olivia continues to bring a sense of wonder and beauty to unexpected places and is always looking for new opportunities to “expect the unexpected in the years ahead”.
Photography: Lavendar Chang, Jovian Lim, Dieu Tan, Olivia Lee