How James got into Aalto University!

Oct 30 / Elina
Exploring your passions and striving to achieve your goals can be challenging but fulfilling. James learned that sometimes the best path is not always the most obvious one. In this blog post, we will explore James’ inspiring journey at SDS (Scandinavian Design School) and how he got into Aalto University. His story highlights the importance of determination, creativity, and a willingness to try new approaches, which can help turn your dreams into reality!

James found out about SDS through Google. Initially, he was skeptical about the course, believing it to be too good to be true. However, his desire to succeed motivated him to give it a try, considering that the first time he applied to Aalto, he was not prepared at all. So when the second time came, he understood that this time, there was no space for any mistakes. He had no idea that his choice would be life-changing. Despite the course’s initial high cost, SDS offered a program that would ultimately prove its value.

“The design briefs SDS created allowed me to push my boundaries to see how crazy I could get, and I think Aalto was looking for those types of qualities.”

Having studied in Singapore before, he felt the need for more inspiration and enthusiasm for design around him. Despite facing difficulties, he remained determined to become an industrial designer and searched for additional opportunities. Eventually, he discovered Aalto University, known for fostering creativity and innovation, and saw it as the perfect place to turn his dreams into a reality.

“In Singapore, we had to have all the answers at the same time. However, at SDS, it was more like, let’s focus on finding one answer at a time.”

He used to have a practical approach to design, focusing on solving problems most efficiently. However, this approach didn’t allow for much creativity or visual appeal, which James desired. SDS allowed James to break free from the rigid template he had grown accustomed to. The course encouraged playfulness and experimentation, transforming his ideas into imaginative and vibrant solutions. 

“I want to be a playful designer; I want to treat serious problems in a playful way and create some life fullness in society.“

SDS homework example

“The assignment was supposed to focus on material modelling, practising how to turn 2D ideas into 3D models. However, I focused too much on the materials, thinking about what I could use. One day, while cooking spaghetti, I dropped a piece on the floor and left it for a day or two. It hardened but stayed in the same shape, which gave me the idea to use it for modelling. I boiled the spaghetti until it was soft enough, then put it in a cardboard mould and hardened it in the air. Although it didn’t turn out exactly as I wanted, it helped me come up with more ideas. If I had more time, I could have perfected it. The chair was meant for public transportation, whereas in Singapore, giving up your seat to the elderly is expected. Unfortunately, some people refuse to do so, leading to others shaming them with photos. Even tho there are people who do not want to give up their seats, so I say, why not take it into your own hands? What if you have extra seats in a train station, bring it on a train, hook it on a bar, and sit down, then, when you exit, leave it at that stop.”

At SDS, James discovered the balance of design thinking approaches. How to use both structured and open-ended design thinking methods. He acknowledged that each approach had its strengths; structured methods yielded thorough solutions, while open-ended approaches fostered creativity and experimentation. By combining these two approaches, James has developed a diverse skill set; that allows him to craft innovative solutions that blend technical precision with creative thinking.

“Although the lessons were in groups, I could still say that the SDS course is very individual; they approached us individually, meaning that they helped us to improve and develop the skills we lacked or were not sure about.”

James’ story is an example of how determination and creativity can lead to success at SDS and Aalto University. His transformation from a practical industrial designer to a playful problem solver highlights the impact of open-minded learning environments like SDS. James continues pursuing his passion for design at Aalto University’s design program. We hope his story will inspire other aspiring designers. Showing that dreams can become a reality with the right mindset and educational opportunities!

“In Singapore, we always like to compare what we spend and whether we have gotten the worth. One day, my mom and dad asked, “Have you gotten your worth back? Have you gotten what you need or maybe even more than what you paid?” I said,” That I definitely had.” I was very relieved it was probably the best money I have spent.”

Join Scandinavian Design School’s Aalto preparation course!
Created with