Established in 2015, POW Ideas is the brainchild of Kuala Lumpur-based artist collective Kyle E and Jun Ong.
It was started unintentionally when the two men decided to try designing their first project together on the side.
Never did they expect that it’d have led to the amazing opportunities they’ve had so far.
The flow of design
Jun and Kyle are both trained architects with very different trajectories of interest; Jun enjoys light art while Kyle likes landscape architecture.
It seems almost unimaginable that they could work so well together.
On how they could’ve gotten this far despite their different interests, Kyle explained, “It’s a good balance that allows us to capitalise on each other’s skill sets.”
“While I’m more into the outdoors and natural elements, Jun brings in a more product-focused and manufactured point of view.”
POW Ideas wants to present another perspective in the Malaysian design scene, a never-before-seen point of view.
“To us, we should not be pigeon-holed into our design streams but instead be encouraged to explore different forms of design and to express ourselves freely,” Kyle stated.
Finding a way to stand out
Malaysia has no shortage of design firms, something that Kyle and Jun are aware of. How they stand out with POW Ideas is by coming up with designs that have very distinct features.
Kyle acknowledged that their designs may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but clients who are drawn to their style will undoubtedly seek them out.
“To be honest, we do not think we have a distinct style but we do look at things with perhaps a different eye,” he added.
“We like taking things that are mundane and putting them in a new light so that others as well can look at them with a fresh perspective.”
This has earned POW Ideas a wide range of clients now famous for their “Instragammability” such as the Kuala Lumpur Journal Hotel, Inside Scoop’s refurbished first outlet and Merchant’s Lane.
They come up with designs catered to their clients’ specific tastes and requirements through looking at the client’s brief and location.
From there, they try to find inspiration as a starting point, “Whether it’s the food they serve or the location it’s in or even a book they’ve read,” Kyle said.
These projects don’t just look pretty—each one has to have a balance of functionality alongside its creative flair.
“Instagram is something that we learnt along the way—the importance of framing things in a square frame,” he told us.
“As architects, we look at designs as more experiential than as just being for Instagram.”
Conquering creatives’ challenges
Artist’s block is the bane of many creatives and the team behind POW Ideas is susceptible to it, too.
They get over that obstacle by bouncing ideas off one another, constantly looking for someone else’s perspective to improve their proposals.
“We also take trips to see the larger world of design out there and how different communities come up with their own set of solutions to creative blocks,” Kyle stated.
“We are always inspired by different things around; our travels, designs outside of architecture and interior and even Netflix.”
The issue of an artist’s block is an internal challenge, but POW Ideas also faces external challenges from the general public.
“I think there’s a lack of respect and appreciation for design in Malaysia. Most people feel that there isn’t much value in what we do and think they can do it themselves.
Oftentimes we have people who underestimate the amount of work that goes into designing and building spaces,” Kyle lamented.
To combat that, POW Ideas tries to educate people on why design is important and how it can make a change in lives.
Taking a piece of Malaysia overseas
This year, POW Ideas is bringing an art installation inspired by a Malaysian-Chinese custom to the Venice Biennale 2019.
They were invited by the Global Art Affairs (GAA) Foundation to set up their Gerai Tai Tai installation in Venice for international art enthusiasts to experience.
“Three years ago, we were given a grant by Astro to set up an art installation in a pasar malam (night market).”
“We wanted to create a space where people would enter with nothing and leave with nothing, but have a change in their impression of things,” Kyle said.
That art installation would end up being Gerai Tai Tai which fit right into its original setting of the night market.
The project was conceptualised as a pop-up gerai (stall) manned by a Tai Tai (a Chinese colloquial term for a wealthy married woman who is unemployed).
The Tai Tai would provide fortune-telling services from behind a window of coloured jellies separating her and her customer.
With its covered sides and top, the booth allows for privacy in the bustling environment of the night market.
Customers can tell the Tai Tai their deepest secrets and qualms, then roll six dice and receive three different jellies.
As they take a bite of each jelly, the Tai Tai does her readings with the flavours, colours and textures of the jellies displaying aspects of the customer’s past, present and future.
Blueprint for the future
Located in APW Bangsar, POW Ideas collaborates with the space for projects within APW itself. Kyle described their relationship with them as “symbiotic”.
When asked what the goal of POW Ideas’ designs for each project is, Kyle replied, “To make money.”
It’s quite the practical answer and goal seeing as it is a business and it’s what enables the team to continue its projects.
POW Ideas hopes to grow the team and take on more projects after their move from a temporary space in APW to a permanent one, also in APW Bangsar.
Current projects that the team is tackling include office, residential and retail projects. However, F&B projects remain POW Ideas’ steady stream of work and income.
For the future, POW Ideas aims to take part in influential projects on an international scale and represent Malaysia on the international design stage.
With their Gerai Tai Tai art installation getting a chance to shine in Venice, we’d say they’ve already got their foot in the door.
Editor’s Update: Parts of this article have been edited after publishing, to correct or clarify certain points.
- Find out more about POW Ideas here.