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From Manila to London: Navigating cultures in the TPXimpact Design Academy

From Manila To London

by Ron Digao

Ron Digao shares his journey to our Design Academy and his experience in the programme so far this year.

My design journey began in the Philippines, my homeland. A place deeply woven into the fabric of my identity. The vibrant culture, warm people, and rich history have shaped who I am. 

Ron With His Mum In The Philippines Circa 1990’S
Ron with his mum in the Philippines circa 1990’s

My love for the Philippines runs deep. But it’s exposed me to scepticism about public services. People saw the government as unreliable. These flaws were not only bureaucratic, but a result of outdated services not adapting to evolving needs. This ignited my awareness of the impact of design on communities, service users and stakeholders. 

Six years ago, I relocated to Stockholm, Sweden. This introduced me to a country where thoughtful services and design weren't a luxury, but a part of everyday life. Attention to detail went beyond fulfilling basic needs, which contributed to an enriched overall experience for citizens. 

It was here that I encountered the concept of design thinking, an approach that views every design as a continuous work in progress, open to evolution and enhancement.

The idea that design can be open to iteration, even in the Philippines, excited me. While I acknowledge the need to consider context, this way of thinking is freeing. It made me believe that there is a way to make any design better, outdated or not.  

It’s important to understand that Western design methodologies might not be universal. There are vast differences in population and cultural contexts between places. It resonated with me that it's not about perfection from the start but about continuous learning and improvement. This mindset became the catalyst for my passion to learn service design.

Where I am now

I’m currently living in London, and TPXimpact accepted me into their inaugural Design Academy last September. This opportunity gave me new avenues to explore with my design mindset – a conscious decision to join a community dedicated to making a tangible impact.

The designers at TPXimpact took on the role of mentors. They imparted valuable insights into understanding the intricacies of design projects.

Being part of the Design Academy is both humbling and exciting. Our first project was looking at the complexities of the UK rail ticketing system and its impact on users.

Navigating through a range of communication styles presented challenges. It also offered opportunities for learning and adapting. Our solutions weren't only functional, they were culturally resonant and relevant.

The Design Academy's first sprint taught me about collaboration. Working with individuals from different backgrounds and skill sets is an experience. Our collective strength lies in our diversity. It intensifies our ideas and surpasses what any single culture could achieve alone.

Optimism about the future

Continuing with the Design Academy, one thing is clear — amidst diverse design stories, backgrounds, and skills, I've found a place where I belong. Learning design methodologies and thinking with an iterative mindset plays a pivotal role. Belonging is about actively contributing to a dynamic and ever-evolving community.

With this mindset rooted in my approach to problem-solving, I'm optimistic about the future of design in the Philippines. The challenges are opportunities waiting to be transformed through thoughtful and innovative design. To clarify, the goal is not to do design for Filipinos - but with them. I am trying to learn as much as I can, and hopefully will be able to relate them to the unique context of the Philippines. 

Being part of the first ever TPXimpact Design Academy, each day is an opportunity to exercise creativity and collaboration. Here's to many more experiences, lessons, and designs to come!

Ron Digao's avatar

Ron Digao

Design Academy Member

Contact Ron

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