Award-winning designer receives University of Waikato award


Singaporean criminologist-turned-designer Edmund Wee will receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Waikato this month.


Edmund-Wee-DAAD-webMr Wee is the Managing and Creative Director of Singapore-based design company Epigram, and Publisher and CEO of Epigram Books. 

Psychology beginnings

Edmund Wee travelled overseas for the first time in 1971 as a scholarship student under the Colombo Plan for developing countries within the British Commonwealth.  He was assigned to study psychology at New Zealand’s newest university – the University of Waikato.

“Fresh off the boat” is how Mr Wee describes himself when he arrived in New Zealand. Struck by the informality of life in New Zealand, he soon threw away his suit, grew his hair long and joined a community set up by Anglican priest, psychologist and social policy campaigner Charles Waldegrave.

“I met a range of people from the outer fringes of society. There were Hell’s Angels, drug addicts, delinquents on probation – it was a real education,” he says.

Edmund Wee graduated from the University of Waikato in 1976 with a Masters in Social Sciences in psychology with First Class Honours.

After returning to Singapore, he served his compulsory three-year military service as a military psychologist and later spent time researching secret society gang members in prison.

Creative career change

Seeking more creative fulfilment, Mr Wee made a complete career change when he joined Singapore newspaper The Strait Times as a journalist, and later became Design Editor before leaving in 1991 to set up his own design agency – Epigram.

Design success

Epigram initially focused on the under-appreciated annual report, introducing new design concepts in Singapore and scooping a string of awards in Singapore, Asia, Europe and the United States. 

Mr Wee was awarded the prestigious Singapore President’s Design Award in 2008 and in 2011 he was named one of Singapore’s top 10 most-influential people in the arts. 

In 2011, Epigram added a publishing arm to its business with the establishment of Epigram Books. 

Distinguished Alumni Award

The University of Waikato’s Distinguished Alumni Awards for 2013 will be presented on September 20 at the Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts. The two other recipients are Distinguished Professor of Mathematics Marston Conder and Māori Land Court Judge Stephanie Milroy. All three recipients will be presented with a limited edition cast-glass figure created exclusively for the award. 

Mr Wee said he was humbled by the honour. “This award has brought back many fond memories and reminds me how much Waikato meant to me. It was four and-a-half formative years of my life.”

University of Waikato Vice-Chancellor Professor Roy Crawford says Mr Wee’s Distinguished Alumni Award highlights the value of a Waikato qualification on a global scale. “From humble beginnings in Singapore, to studying at Waikato and returning home, Mr Wee has gone on to make exemplary contributions to the arts, design and business communities of Singapore.”

Three Distinguished Alumni Awards are presented every year. The awards celebrate and honour Waikato alumni who have made outstanding contributions in their careers and communities, taking into account excellence in the professional, cultural, creative and voluntary sectors.