The Philippines unveils new furniture design programme to elevate local furniture industry through training and mentorship

The OBRA Design Masterclass Program aims to address challenges faced in the industry that affect Filipino furniture makers’ creativity and product development

The Philippine Trade Training Center – Global MSME Academy (PTTC-GMEA) under the Philippine’s Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) unveiled the OBRA Design Masterclass Program that aims to provide specialised furniture training and mentorships to young designers and scholars.

The OBRA Design Masterclass Program is designed to empower and uplift local talent within the furniture and creative industries. The programme is set to put the standards of Filipino furniture design to the next level by seamlessly integrating cutting-edge technologies, sustainable materials, and innovative creative processes.

“In the OBRA Design Masterclass, there will be training programmes from mind setting, design thinking, market-driven designs, creative process, design phase, and prototyping. We will be witnessing the participants’ progress from the raw materials to those worth selling to the international market,” Nelly Nita Dillera, PTTC-GMEA executive director, said.

The programme also aims to address challenges faced in the industry that affect Filipino furniture makers’ creativity and product development. Dillera cited escalating costs of imported raw materials and the competitive landscape amid rapid development on both local and international fronts.

Moreover, according to Ruby Salutan, executive consultant of Cebu Furniture Industries Foundation, a critical challenge the programme intends to deal with is the emigration of professionals, including skilled furniture designers, from the country. OBRA Design Masterclass focuses on cultivating a cohort of young designers capable of seamlessly entering and contributing to the industry.

DTI-Competitiveness and Innovation Group undersecretary Rafaelita Aldaba highlighted in her keynote speech the pivotal role of design in shaping a product’s value, influencing consumer perceptions, demand, and market positioning, which generates value in the furniture landscape.

“In an increasingly competitive market environment, design stands as a key differentiator. Beyond keeping pace with design trends, our designs must also align with emerging consumer preferences encompassing eco-friendly materials, digital technology integration, and responsible sourcing,” Aldaba said.

The programme sessions will take place simultaneously across three locations: Pampanga, Cebu, and Manila. Participants will have the opportunity to refine their skills and capabilities in crafting designs and prototypes, guided by furniture designers such as multi-awardwinner industrial designer Kenneth Cobonpue and industry partners like the Chamber of Furniture Industries of the Philippines, Cebu Furniture Industries Foundation, and Pampanga Furniture Industries Foundation.

The programme comprises three phases: the designer’s phase, providing participants with training in planning, execution, evaluation, and tools; the programme consultancy phase, involving participant-companies in product development planning; and the designing for the market phase, where participant-companies engage in an international event, notably the Philippines International Furniture Show in March 2024.

The OBRA Design Masterclass Program sessions have commenced since the second week of December 2023.