Author: Justin Zhuang

JUSTIN ZHUANG is writer and researcher with an interest in DESIGN, CITIES, CULTURE, HISTORY and MEDIA. I run a Singapore-based studio In Plain Words and a recent graduate from the MFA in Design Criticism at the School of Visual Arts, New York.

Dear Friend

Dear Friend,

It has been two weeks since I returned to tropical Singapore. The sweltering heat outside makes me yearn for the cooler weather during my recent trip to Tallinn, Copenhagen and Helsinki. More than comfort, I find that living with the seasons makes one more sensitive to the environment. The daily need to respond to the weather — be it making plans or dressing accordingly — reminds us of how we relate to nature. But weather along the equator is significantly less drastic. In fact, I used to think we had no seasons until I attended a discussion on produce in Singapore last week. One of the chefs reminded us that different species of fish thrive in the seas around our island depending on the time of the year. But as few of us cook and shop in supermarkets selling only imported produce, we have lost such knowledge of how nature works…

➜ A project by Sandra Nuut and Ott Kagovere for the Estonian Academy of Arts

Thinking Beyond the Box

A cardboard box, a poly bag or a padded envelope – these generic pieces of packaging define the ubiquity of e-commerce today. Regardless which online retailer one patronises, it is probably impossible to tell the difference when the package arrives. While e-commerce boasts of designing all sorts of interactions, including predicting customers’ preferences and nudging more purchases, its delivery of an online purchase in real life remains unsophisticated and in need of better design.

➜ Read the full column in CUBES #96 (Jul/Aug/Sep 2019)

How Innovative Print Publishing Takes Creativity from Local to Global

Estonian indie publisher Lugemik on its last decade, and why it still takes forever to reply to emails 

When graphic designer Indrek Sirkel first conceived Lugemik, he planned to translate and publish important texts about design and art into Estonian. A decade on, his publishing initiative has become known for the opposite: translating art and design from the Baltic state and bringing it to the rest of the world.

The plan changed when a client of Sirkel, Mari Laanemets, wanted a catalog for a show she was curating but lacked the budget for a traditional publisher. Sirkel, a graduate of the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam, offered to design and publish Life Would Be Easy in 2010. This was quickly followed by several exhibition catalogs with other artists from Estonia, and Lugemik was born, co-founded with Anu Vahtra.

➜ Read the full story in AIGA’s Eye on Design