Browsing Copy Catalog, 2012
Packaging for Milk & Me, 2012
Today we speak to Roy Poh of Beautiful, a design studio from Singapore.
Yanda: Introduce yourself.
Roy: My name is Roy and I’m the creative director of A Beautiful Design, a small design studio set-up on April Fool’s Day in 2008. Before I was at Kinetic for 8 years running the design and advertising department together with Pann Lim.
What do you do first when you get up in the morning?
Take a dump while checking mails on my phone.
What daily routines you cannot do without?
Read emails. Watching at least 1 movie (online). Go through books or the internet to find something nice to satisfy my daily creative hunger.
How would you describe your work in three words?
Not too shabby.
When did you first get involved in the design?
When I was in primary school. I used to scribble logos, create typefaces and draw characters all over my desk. Then I used the montage to design my school t-shirt but it was rejected by my teacher. I thought the idea was quite nice. Still do. Also at the age of about 9 or 10, I was cutting out magazines (which belongs to my elder brother) from The Rolling Stones and The Face. I wasn’t sure why then but I just like to collect these ‘nice’ design pieces like logos and advertisements and stuck them in my jotter-book.
How do you approach design now then?
I dislike things that are regimental and I never follow a fixed system. That was the reason I wanted to be a prefect. And I was for the whole of my secondary school days. I don’t have to ‘line-up’ and attend assemblies, I can go recess earlier than everyone else, I can come late and my fellow prefects at the gate would let me in. And also I hated army, the most uncreative place anyone can imagine (something that I shall not elaborate). Which is why I like design, it is free, it has no rules and it’s alive. My designs don’t follow any thing or any philosophy. As long as I’m happy doing it and the recipients are happy. My designs are also conceptual but not complicated. Something that is easily understandable and not abstract. I always treat work as something fun, that way, you’ll like what you’re doing.
If you have a chance to own someone’s work and wish it was yours, what would it be and why?
I always wish for 2 things. Playing music and doing awesome illustrations (both I can’t do well). I really like to paint like Mark Ryden. His work is serious yet whimsical, happy yet sad, colourful yet dark. If I can draw like him, I’ll get all the girls… heh heh heh!
Who do you dream to design for?
No one. I like doing design for myself, my own projects. Because I am my worst client.
Do you think personal work and collaboration is important?
I believe in sharing. Collaboration allows that. It also allows the project to be on a bigger scale. Collaborators will have their own friends and followers thus the project will be more wide-spread. Personal projects can sometimes keep designers sane. Designers like to create, and not many clients out there allow us to do exactly what we want to do.
What do you see a change in the clients of now and the then of ten years ago.
My first paid design job was to create posters, directional signages and pin-buttons for Sentosa’s Cable Car when I was still in school. That was in 1993. I got the job when someone had to take leave and they needed a visualiser (that was what designers were also called). I was paid $60 a day and the client was very happy with my work because they were not designers and they believed in what I did (even though I wasn’t so sure then). Now many clients are also ‘designers’, they tell you exactly what they want because they think they’ve the knowledge. Selling your ideas to clients are now are more difficult.
Do you think design can really save the world?
What’s your definition of happiness?
Managing my own time… I can go for a swim when I feel like it. Have lunch with my children everyday, watch a movie in the afternoon…I control my own time and I am quite proud of that. I guess when you run your own show, you create your own happiness.
What makes you guilty?
Doing 2 projects at the same time and a particular font is ideal for both.
How do you set your benchmarks?
I guess through experience, you know what is a good piece of work when you see it. It’s usually a feeling. So I’ll not stop a project until I have this feeling. And if I have more time to re-look at a piece of work, I’ll remove elements rather than add things. So sometimes a short deadline is better for me, if not the client will have nothing to see in the end! I don’t like to dread things too long because when I approach a project, usually my attention paid to it is 100%. To go back to an unfinished work, sometimes I might loose a bit of thoughts here and there.
Honest, Contributed Poster for Plus Minus Ten, 2012
Decoration Type. 2013
Branding and Identity for Make Shake. 2013
Part of Your Design, Ad for RJ Paper. 2013
How do you keep educating yourself?
Things and people inspire me. Therefore I see more things and know more people. I get a lot of inspiration from awards judging overseas. I get to meet many top creative people and learn many things from them. And I get to see many entries from different countries that were good but did not make it to the book. I get to listen to opinions, different views on design and experience much arrays of cultures from these events. It’s great to get the opportunity to listen to the comments made on your design projects by these peers.
What place in the world most inspires you and why?
Cold countries. Keeps the mind cool and composed. Doesn’t matter where as long as I enjoy the weather.
What are the three things you are obsessed with at the moment?
Only one. Watching movies online – free. No time for too many obsessions.
What do you do when you get time off?
I spent all of my time on work, if not family. If I can really get some extra time off, I’ll like to do some cooking. Which I’ve not done in years. I used to work at a japanese restaurant for 4 years while in school. That period has taught me much about food and the kitchen.
What if you had an extra hour each day, what would you do with it?
That’ll be nice. I’ve to wake up everyday at 6 am to send my daughter to school. That has gone on for 5 years….I’ll sleep.
What do you think about the education in Singapore?
Gone are the days when a child needs to study to be a doctor or engineer. Design is more acceptable now than ever. The industry has become more vibrant as the world gets smaller. Influences and information are easily available. All because of the advancement of technology. Which is why students are now much more savvy than most teachers, but they lack direction and experience. Teachers here have much to cope. Other than transferring skills and knowledge to students, they have to deal with many other issues that are non design related. And they have no time to educate themselves.
And if it were to compare to other countries?
I know of design educators in some countries that are very well respected even though they are in their 60s. They are very experience and knowledgeable in design related issues like design history, design technology, design crafts etc. Students treat them like god. That kind of culture will not happen here. When students see an educator who is much older, the perception is that they are out-of-date.
Any heroes? What do you admire about them?
Too many. All the people that constantly do good work out there, I respect. Both locally and internationally.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Can taste be taught or nurtured?
Depends. Can be both. But some people cannot be taught no matter how.
What about hunger?
Nurtured. You cannot teach a person to have drive. Its innate.
Do you think our design scene in Singapore is lacking of what they have in the advertising or art world — critics, bitches and their own magazines to hype things up.
Designers in Singapore are quite passive, and many designers I know don’t really like the limelight. I guess that is the nature of the scene here. Compared to advertising, which are mostly MNCs, many design companies are independent. These design companies have few people and the culture is slow and quiet unlike advertising companies which are fast paced and loud. People influence people, so the more people in a company, there will be more opinions, ideas, critics, parties, bitches etc. I think the design industry has its own comfortable pace but a little bit more excitement will be better.
Tell us about your proudest collectables.
I like to collect VIP tags, with my name on it. These tags are from judging award shows overseas, conferences, talks etc… give me an idea of where I’ve been and what I’ve done.
What is one thing you want to see or do before you die?
I want to see my children living a happy life.
Is there something that fans or your friends would be surprised to learn about you?
I’m still using Freehand?
Lastly, if you have a chance to change a public space for the better, what would you do to it?
The hawker centre.
View more of Beautiful’s works at http://www.abeautifuldesign.com.sg/.