When Passion and Career Come Together

Artistic prodigy Keat Ong lives and breathes design

While most people continue to scramble in search of their hidden talents way into their 20s, Keat Ong, the President at Society of Interior Designers Singapore, started showing signs of artistic inclination at only 2 years old. 

With the knack to captivate audiences with his interior design, he has been awarded Asia’s Top Designers in Singapore Design Awards 2014 and also the Designer of the Year 2016/2017 by the famed Interior Design Magazine. 

He has also been appointed as chief judges and jury members for many well-known competitions and awards, including A'Design Awards & Competition (Italy) and Asia Pacific Interior Design Awards (Hong Kong). 

His prestige in the interior design industry intrigued our thirst for inspiring lessons. So we approached him for an interview to delve deeper into his story. 

First of all, when did you realize that designing is your cup of tea?

I have to bring you way back to my childhood period. According to my fashion designer/ tailor mom, I started scribbling on her super humongous drafting or layout table when I was 2.  I recalled one instance when one of her customers asked me to draw on a few pieces of papers for her collection when she saw my graffiti on the table. It was a good feeling when someone pays attention and enjoys what you have created. I was sent into children’s weekend art class and took part in countless children’s art competitions and won in many of them.

Throughout my earlier school days from primary to secondary schools, I was always the “designated” artist and illustrator when it comes to class newsletters and event posters, simply because I have been doodling practically non-stop, and sometimes too much.

Even when I was enlisted into the armed forces for my national service, I did up quite a bit of creative work for my unit including designing and making the larger than life statues for the unit and so on. 

The deciding point was of course university education. I was at a crossroads to decide what I want to do in life during my 2 years in the army.  Young and adventurous, professions like geologist, photo-journalist, teacher, archeologist, architect all crossed my mind and I was excited but at the same time, afraid of making the wrong choice. I chose Architecture eventually because of its comprehensive curriculum even though it has the longest duration and the highest tuition fees comparatively. 

My foundation in art helped me when I was at the architecture school but it took me a curriculum year to really grasp what true design is.