Profile: Kelley Cheng

Published on 19 January 2016

She has published magazines, run bars and curated art shows, including the ongoing augmented reality Martell AiR Gallery exhibition at Marina Bay. What drives creative honcho Kelley Cheng?

BY DAPHNE ONG

Designer. Photographer. Writer. Publisher. Entrepreneur. Double degree-holder. Award winner. Kelley Cheng has all sorts of experiences and accolades tucked under her belt.

Founder and creative director of her own publishing and design consultancy The Press Room, she is also editor-in-chief of Singapore Architect magazine. She is a three-time laureate of the Society of Publishers in Asia, and owner of food and beverage outlets 15 Minutes and Night & Day. Moreover, she sits on advisory panels for design and educational institutions, speaks regularly at international design conferences, and judges design competitions like Red Dot Design and Design for Asia.

Her unstoppable success comes from a firm, selective work philosophy. “I take my work very seriously, and I always try to give my all and best in every piece of work. But over the years, I’ve realised when you have a difficult client, convincing them is often fruitless. So my philosophy at work at this point of my life is to choose the worthwhile battles to fight, and try not to take on any jobs with any nasty and unreasonable clients.”

Cheng says she really began living her dream when she started The Press Room in 2009. After an illustrious career in the Page One Group, she was ready to strike out on her own and rediscover meaning in her work, remembering iSh, the design-centric magazine she had started a decade before. Since then, Cheng and her team have tackled widely-varying projects, from large-scale infographic systems to theatre design to small publications. Branding ‘TEDxSingapore 2015: The Undiscovered Country’ is one example of a project that she is proud of.

Ultimately, Cheng’s love for design shines through, and the freedom to create with her own company is an obvious source of joy for her. “It is the thrill of thinking up an idea, and then working to realise it visually. The endless possibilities of new ideas make my work exciting and different every day.”

The innovative Martell AiR Gallery is Cheng’s latest offering to the local design scene. The Gallery is a celebration of the cognac house’s 300th anniversary, and it involves the work of 15 Singaporean artists curated by Cheng, who is also Martell’s brand ambassador. A geo-tagging technology app directs you to point your mobile devices at locations around Marina Bay to experience the artworks.

With this wealth of experience behind her, what advice does Cheng have for aspiring designers? “Becoming a good designer requires you to cultivate your eye. Developing the ‘eye’ often takes years or decades, and the only way to get there is to work very hard, and work every day. There are no shortcuts to perfecting any skill.”

For more information on the Martell AiR Gallery, check www.martell300sg.com

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