Karyn Lim, Singapore Industrial Designer Who’s Making Waves In The Global Design Scene

April 26, 2023

Guided by her inquisitive nature, industrial designer Karyn Lim taps onto creative materials and resources to develop products relevant to contemporary living.

“I’m interested in too many things,” so begins Karyn Lim’s response to the question of where her interests and aspirations in her profession lie.

Founded Studio Karyn Lim in 2015

The multi-faceted designer and founder of Studio Karyn Lim, indeed, has a roster of projects and engagements that speak to her array of talents that range from designing different product types, such as packaging, clothing and playgrounds to co-running furniture brand Industry+, managing communications for design brands, studios and events and teaching.

Designart Tokyo display
Transformation bag (handheld)
Transformation bag was inspired by folded geometric shapes
Cloud stools launched by Industry+
Cloud table and stools

Young designer to watch, Designart Tokyo

Trained in Singapore, France and Switzerland, Karyn has been dubbed as the ‘young industrial designer to watch’ by various accolades and has already racked up prestigious awards, such as her selection as one of five designers awarded UNDER30 at Designart Tokyo.

Having previously worked with the likes of La Prairie, Samsung and Zanotta, Karyn often adheres to the ‘less is more’ aesthetic, with her minimalist and sculptural works sweeping the fairs across major cities around the world, from Milan to Tokyo.

Having returned to Singapore after studying abroad and in the midst of the pandemic, Karyn reveals that she was facing uncertainty having to produce new work with limited resources and materials and without a proper workshop.

Nevertheless, the designer has always had the intention of setting up her own independent design studio.

“It was more a matter of timing,” says Karyn. “This year was when I really put more grit into it, and have had more opportunities to showcase my work post-pandemic.”

“My taste is perhaps quite eclectic,” attests Karyn. “I used to care about trends more than I do today. Most of the time I try to listen to my gut, especially when it comes to colour and proportion.”

Recalling developing her interest in design from various books and magazines, visiting museums and galleries, and simply observing her surroundings, Karyn expresses that she has always been interested in how things are made, why things are done the way they are, how things can be done differently, and how choices can dramatically change the way people live.

In the context of her design practice, this has translated into consciously putting together materials and resources to produce outcomes relevant to contemporary lifestyles.

Focus on Materials

Karyn’s boundary-pushing designs embrace the often overlooked materials and the process of streamlining the fabrication of her productions.

She recalls that for her Transformation Bags series developed in 2015, she had made at least one hundred prototypes to develop an efficient and feasible method of production.

Likewise, her OMO Bag, made with discarded Afoa wood waste and showcased at Designart Tokyo, features a meticulously developed geometric design that can be flat-packed for added functionality.

Co-Founder of Furniture Label, Industry+

The designer’s knack for developing functional, contemporary and mindful products has landed her a collaborative partnership with Industry+, where she is also handling communications.

Cloud furniture is the first project that she has designed, with more new pieces lined up to be launched by Industry+.

Lightness pins
Lightness of Being showcase at EMERGE @ FIND
Lightness bag sold at the Boutique Fairs Singapore

The diverse experiences at Industry+, from handling communications, conceptualision and production of design showcases and helping to set up an e-commerce shop, not to mention developing and producing her own furniture line, are opening up further possibilities and expanding horizons for the designer.

“I had the opportunity to visit international furniture trade shows, and network with people from the industry,” she explains. “Being a part of this furniture brand has definitely contributed to my understanding of the ins and outs of furniture design, production, marketing and retail.”

OMO Transformation bags can be flattened like paper origami

Karyn Lim x Fani Atmanti

“Fani and I met at a design fair in Jakarta in 2015. We became friends then and collaborated on ‘OMO’, a variation of my design ‘Transformation Bags’,” says Karyn.

With an edgy twist on Asian craftsmanship, OMO is a hand-carved upcycled bag using wood traditionally used by the villagers of Nias, Indonesia to build their homes or to carve ornamental sculptures and figurines. The resulting geometric design of the bag can be transformed from a flat two-dimensional surface to a voluminous three-dimensional state.

“Through this project, we reduced the amount of waste while preserving the wood-carving skill that the people of Nias are known for,” continues the designer. “We have showcased this work together at several events including the recent Designart Tokyo.”

Karyn hopes to be able to continue to collaborate with more indigenous communities to translate their craft into outcomes that are relevant to the contemporary lifestyles.

Karyn Lim’s 5 Key Career Moments

Lightness of Being, EMERGE @ FIND Design Fair Asia 2022

Marking the start of Karyn’s dedication to actively designing and producing new work, Karyn exhibited alongside the established and emerging designers from Southeast Asia at EMERGE, curated by Suzy Annetta. As the curation focused on materiality, she took the opportunity to challenge the common perception of metal as cold, rigid, heavy, to create extremely light, ethereal vessels woven from wire.

The collection, called ‘Lightness of Being’, has been growing since its debut in September 2022, from sculptural vessels to include more useable products like bags and earrings.

Linen Clothes for Our Barehands

Karyn collaborated with the local Singapore label Our Barehands on two capsule collections of linen clothing. The first collection was her first time designing clothing for a brand.

“It was meaningful designing for Our Barehands, knowing that the pieces will be produced by a refugee community, and that they are made-to-order, meaning that waste from overstock would be minimised,” says Karyn.

Transformation Bag, Designart Tokyo

For the occasion of Designart Tokyo, Karyn produced a special version of ‘Transformation Bags’ made using FINE FLUTE from Japanese company TAKEO Co. Ltd.

“I am a fan of the ‘Takeo Paper Show’, and enjoyed working with the fine material. I also had the support of OJI Group to produce my exhibition display stand using their material GRAYDAN which is a grey board made from recycled newspapers and magazines,” says Karyn.

The Alchemists, Milan Design Week 2015

The first time Karyn showed her work in public was with a group show, ‘The Alchemists’, produced by Industry+.

“It was Milan Design Week 2015, and we were in one of the galleries in the Triennale di Milano,” she recalls. “I was on my final year of design school, and my work ‘Transformation Bags’, was showcased alongside the works of other established and emerging designers from Singapore.” Karyn remembers the experience as a dose of encouragement, “that I could potentially run my own design studio.”

Young Designers Showcase Grant by Boutique Fairs 2022

In November 2022, Karyn was awarded the Young Designers Showcase Grant by Boutique Fairs in their Gifting Edition. “I was always presenting work at object and furniture design trade fairs,” describes Karyn, “Boutique Fairs was the first time presenting my work in a commercial or retail setting, and I had to consider producing products with more mass appeal.”