The now-defunct Baharuddin Vocational Institute was Singapore’s first formal school for design. Justin Zhuang looks at how the institute laid the foundation for the design industry here.
I’m typing this essay on a laptop in need of repair. The battery lasts for no more than two hours. The speakers go silent after hours of use. But aside from these defects, the laptop still works as when I first bought it eight years ago.
All of us have something broken in our lives. Tucked away in a drawer. Collecting dust in the storeroom. Or like in the case of my laptop, faulty but still functioning. For various reasons—from the practical to the environmental and sentimental—we have hung on to these damaged goods instead of simply throwing them out.
International, trendy and a blend of east meets west. Graphic design in Singapore is often viewed as indistinct and an inevitable outcome of its physical constraints. But scratch beneath its surface and one is surprised by how much of it is by design like much of the city-state. While the tropical island is exposed to global economic, social and cultural tides, Singapore has developed a graphic design industry on its terms just as it has reclaimed land from the sea to redefine its geography.