Hair How by Grey, shot by Eldo Kawa
We all should be rejoicing when Singapore is being awarded a UNESCO Creative City of Design and especially so when we are one of the first two ASEAN cities to get the designation, alongside Bandung of Indonesia.
With so many the red tape and its restriction, campaigns championing Singlish and majority of work are unsightly, while most of our citizens don’t value or know good or bad design, I don’t think we deserve this for now, came a bit too early if you were to ask me.
On an external outlook, we may seems to have Thomas Heatherwick’s The Hive at National Technological University, Mofie Sadie’s Marina Bay Sands, National Gallery and Esplanade, PARKRoyal on Pickering by WOHA, Toyo Ito’s Vivocity, Zaha Hadid’s d’Leedon. But is it healthy when two third of our landmarks have been designed and awarded to foreigner companies?
And for applied graphic design projects, you might have heard of these from award shows—Theseus Chan’s WERK, &Larry’s 7 Letters, H55’s A Guide To The Flora And Fauna of the World, Holycrap’s Rubbish Famzine, and a few not so popular ones like Bureau’s Door Wedge, Hair How by Edlo Kawa but how many of these award winning projects are not pro bono or self initiated projects? Probably none. To note, not slamming or shaming anyone cause I am probably the same too.
We still can find hope in very meaningful project in Bishan Park where they turned a lokang into a neighbourhood into a park, Spotted Nyonya Collection by Hans Tan, The Browsing Copy project by Beautiful who he made browsing copies in bookstores and gave them second life.
Singapore Insider, published by Singapore Tourism Board
Inside spreads of Singapore Insider
Covers of A List
Inside spread, A List
Biblioasia, published by National Library Board, Singapore
Inside spread, Biblioasia
Challenge Magazine by Public Service Division
Heritage Trails by National Heritage Board
Inside spreads of Heritage Trails
You will be disappointed if you are hoping to see nicely designed currency notes and passport like the Norwegian in us. And it seems like our media has been populating the best works but none of the above have been circulating around. Are these good? Does the clients or initiator even know what is good or bad? Are these bad because most are civil sector or corporate work? Whose fault is it? Client? Designer? To me, choosing to hire a cheaper and bad designer are it’s a keen to going to a bad but cheap dentist. And you probably need two or three fixes to get things correct. Why not spend a bit more and get a better and slightly more expensive one to get things done once? I still don’t think there are bad designers or clients. But the work shown below are probably better direction or strategy. Or perhaps they are nicer because the clients are in the art or creative industry.
Takashimaya Christmas Catalogues, Neighbour, Singapore
Singapore Fringe Festival, various years. Designed by Bureau and Qu’est-ce Que C’est.
Design Film Festival collaterals. Designed by Anonymous
The Design Society Journal no. 0 to 9. Issues 0 to 7 are designed by H55.
NOISE, various years
We will never be a design city unless the level of appreciation of design goes down to every age group and occupation of the citizen we have here.
And as designers and creators, we all wish that there is lesser scenarios of where we were demanded fast, cheap and good. And that our work are valued more and questioned less? Do you go to a doctor and question their practice? Probably not. Why aren’t we treated the same? I wish the day whereby designers can be treated like rockstars—where you adore them with love and kisses.
Yes, we are good in selling ourselves but that’s probably about it. In a talk by Tong Lee from Thought Collective, he mentioned that Singapore is only built by the name. No corruption. Things get done. Clean and green. No pollution. No natural disasters. And we are nothing if we don’t have these name we built for ourselves. And he also mentioned that it’s actually the 19 to 22 years old generation that took Singapore from 3rd to 1st. They were clueless but hungry too in 1965. Our next generation may not have as much hunger or vision to build up Singapore. So not all hope is lost.
To end off on a curious note, I wonder why not many dare to venture overseas and make it big. John Clang, Leslie Kee, Ashley Isham, ND Chow, Yang Yeo are a few notable names.