For Professor Leong Yap, design isn’t just about objects; it’s also about system thinking, how we do things and make connections with other disciplines.
He is renowned for wanting to change things, a trait which found him rebelling against the ethos of his first employer The Accident Compensation Commission because he wanted to focus on accident prevention rather than compensation. The ACC sent him to do an MSc at the Human Sciences Department of the University of Loughborough in the UK, a leader in ergonomics.
He has gone on to rethink concepts and products as diverse as giving birth – designing a birthing chair – to recording patient information and along the way he has drawn the conclusion that design is not about art or aesthetics; it’s a behavioural science.
Having developed AUT University’s Master of Design programme, Professor Yap believes that innovation comes when different disciplines are combined. Hence, he draws on expertise from many fields, including film makers, architects, engineers, product, web and fashion designers and brand developers.
“Creativity is the audacity of designing new artefacts, processes or systems that are informed by research and judicious synthesis,” says Professor Yap, who was given an outstanding achievement award by the Designers’ Institute of New Zealand in 2008.