Agnes Kwek is a different kind of diplomat. Rather than negotiating climate pacts or trade deals, she advocates for Singapore’s design and culture overseas.

Kwek is the country’s new Design Ambassador. From 1 October this year, she will be based in Paris, networking with global brands, manufacturers, designers, and retailers to introduce Singapore-based design talent, and bring some new ideas home.

But before she took office in the glitzy fashion capital, Kwek built a career working with civil servants to design better public services. She gives GovInsider three tips to ensure citizens have a good experience with government.

1. Keep it simple

Improving the design of services doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive, and even incremental changes can create a surprising effect.

First, get rid of text-heavy, jargon-filled, or legalese-ridden letters, emails and announcements. “Just tell people clearly and simply what they have to do, and use layouts to organise key pieces of information to help readers understand,” Kwek says. “Use “The Grandma” test – does your grandmother understand it?”


“Use “The Grandma” test – does your grandmother understand it?”

2. Reorganise

Next, agencies should reorganise information based on users’ needs, and not according to departments or functions. They should also think about linking up with other government services that could be relevant for the user.

For digital services to be effective, they cannot simply be the online version of a manual process or paper form, for example, Kwek argues. “It must start from the point of view of ‘How do we make it more convenient for the user?’, not how the agency functions today,” she says.

3. See others’ point of view – literally

And finally, for agencies with physical service centres, Kwek suggests inviting a first-timer to the centre to navigate its services, armed with a Go-Pro camera. By understanding the perspective of someone who is completely new to the centre, agencies can make “small but meaningful improvements” – better signage and queuing systems, for example, according to her.

Meanwhile, in her new role, Kwek will find opportunities for Singaporean designers and companies scale up and take on global markets. Governments elsewhere could surely learn a thing or two from Kwek’s experience in designing public services.