FURNITURE DESIGN TO KICK START EVOLUTION TO THE INDUSTRY

The Furniture Design Services Programme (FDSP) under the Furniture Design Division (FDD) is a flagship project by the Malaysian Furniture Promotion Council (MFPC) to cultivate and nurture young designers in its vision to effectively establish Malaysia as a globally recognised source of world class furniture.

Launched in May last year, freshly graduated and/or working furniture designers with backgrounds in furniture or interior designing are contracted to work hand in hand with key Malaysian furniture manufacturers. The programme enables both parties to share a mutual understanding in developing world class furniture designs using high technology production capabilities, catering to discerning taste and conforming to global standards. This collaboration will be fully guided and supported by the MFPC and other authorities in the industry.

The objectives of the FDD programme are to cultivate a design oriented furniture industry in Malaysia in addition to creating new furniture designs, to research or analyse furniture design trends for Malaysian companies and to create a vibrant pool of Malaysian furniture designers. Realising these objectives would strengthen Malaysia’s position in the international arena and establish it as a world class provider of original designs. 

Under this programme, the designers are contracted by the MFPC over a three month period with all expenses borne by the MFPC. During this period, designers can either be attached to specific furniture manufacturers or given the flexibility of working independently at the MFPC or at their own facilities. The designer will specialise in producing a specific range of furniture such as bedroom, dining, living or outdoor with the objective of determining suitable product lines and designs that would be appropriate to the manufacturer’s interests and purposes.

In the first month of the programme, both the manufacturer and designer develops a mutual understanding to acknowledge each party’s interests and available resources to fully utilise the resources for maximum benefits and results. The designers are given the opportunity to explore their ideas and concepts and communicate them in sketches for performance evaluation. Following the evaluation at the end of the first month, qualified designers will be invited to continue with the programme for the next two months. Designers are selected based on a set of criteria including creativity of design, quality, practicality and choice of material used.

The sketches evaluated are then developed into designs in the second month of the FDD programme. The evaluation process continues where selected designers are invited to continue with the programme for the following month for prototyping.

In the final month of the FDD programme, furniture designs are transformed into full scale technical drawings with the view to prototype development. Successful prototypes mark an evolution in the furniture design industry where Malaysia can be elevated to a higher level in the international market. Following the evaluation by a panel of industry experts with much emphasis placed on design excellence, outstanding designs will be given the opportunity to participate in the Malaysian Furniture Design Showcase organised by the MFPC, in recognition and appreciation of the designers’ endeavour. Designers graduating from this programme are placed in the industry with high recommendations from the MFPC to continue the effort of realising the MFPC’s objectives and goals.

Since its launch in May, the FDD programme has produced rewarding outcomes with successful placements of designers in the furniture industry. Up to this date, five designers have “graduated” and been recruited by industry players. Another five in the midst of placement with the manufacturers whilst two were taken in permanently as employees of the MFPC. There are also four designers working independently after their completion of this programme. In the current batch of nine designers attached to the FDD programme, five are on a full time basis and the rest are on a part time basis. The MFPC is confident to place this batch into the industry upon graduation next year.

The MFPC, a specialised task force entrusted by the Malaysian Government to promote and further develop the furniture industry towards future excellence, strives to bring the Malaysian furniture industry to greater heights and ensure its ongoing success for years to come. In its efforts towards mapping Malaysia in the global context of world class furniture, the MFPC focuses on a two-pronged strategy, namely Design Enhancement and Market Enhancement. All in all, the strategic devices planned and to be materialised in the next few years are aimed towards elevating Malaysia’s position and image in the international context. 

Mr Paul Wang, Chief Operating Officer of the MFPC comments, “Design enhancement of Malaysian furniture is the key to work alongside market enhancement. These two strategies should work hand in hand to realise our commitments and objectives. Malaysian manufacturers realise that its industry’s pillar of support lies in the expertise of furniture designers.  This is because changes are constantly taking place in this volatile industry and the only way to keep up with the changing trends and demands of the industry besides competing in the price war is to become a trend setter. To move away from the low markets and penetrate into the medium to high end markets, it is vital for us to propagate our own designs with branding, packaging and strategic promotional efforts. Not only does the industry need to realise the need to change, it must also be ready to accept and implement the changes.”

“It is important for us to progress from Original Equipment Manufacturing (OEM) to Original Design Manufacturing (ODM) and later achieving the Original Brand Name (OBN) status towards Malaysia’s future excellence. Therefore, the MFPC strategically develops its programmes and activities surrounding this issue. In addition to providing quality education and high-end training facilities under the FDD programme, we will also expose the furniture designers to evolving trends and foreign expertise through seminars and workshops,” Mr Wang adds.   

With the FDD programme running throughout the year, all parties will be able to share the rewards from this mutually beneficial relationship. The industry will be able to benefit from the constant input of innovative designs, and the designers to benefit from the experience and opportunities offered within the industry. As the programme progresses and participation intensifies, more designers will be assimilated into the manufacturing sector and ensure a smooth transition to a design oriented culture in the furniture industry.

In addition, the MFPC also attends to disclosure of industrial information and resources to students who are doing researches on the industry.