Category: Design

Design Frontiers

They are driving new design frontiers in their fields. Recognised in the President*s Design Award in 2018, 5 designers discuss challenges, renewal and how to stay relevant.

➜ Read the full story in Skyline 10

When Design Met Technology

Two pioneer designers recall how they rode the digital wave in the eighties and nineties when Singapore took great strides to become an IT Nation   

From CD-ROM to CD Bomb

Ching San (centre) with his partner, Gim Lee (left) and their staff at Octogram’s offices in the 1990s.

Once a beaming object of tomorrow’s technological future, the CD-ROM is more likely to be found in a kopitiam today, hanging as a shiny prop to scare birds away. The rise and demise of this medium also reflects the story of Lim Ching San’s design consultancy.

In the mid-nineties, Octogram rode on the incoming Information Technology (IT) wave to become one of Singapore’s earliest multimedia publishing houses. Working with clients ranging from government agencies to the creators of the then popular local comic, Mr Kiasu, Ching San and his team integrated texts, images, videos and games into CD-ROMs to tell their stories on a computer. This was supposed to be the future of publishing, he says, pointing to a yellowed photocopy of a 1993 New York Times article titled “Books will give way to CD-ROM, say experts”. But as the story goes, CD-ROMs died in a matter of years when Singapore plugged itself into high-speed internet at the end of the millennium.

“The whole business bombed, and all my publishing business was gone!” recalls Ching San who ran Octogram for close to two decades until closing it in 2002 because of the CD-ROM flop and the dot-com bubble burst then. “When you talk about technology, you can be right at the peak, and the next moment you can fall.”

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Transforming Old into Gold

Singapore is ageing. Not just its people, but its buildings too. After five decades of accelerated urbanisation, many of the city-state’s once gleaming modern developments — particularly its housing stock ‚ have reached middle age.

Peeling paint, leaking ceilings and creaking infrastructure are some common problems homeowners are increasingly grappling with. The solution for many is to move to a new development by selling their homes en-bloc. It’s no wonder many Singaporeans see their homes as property assets, a shelter built out of money to be cashed out later in life.

While wrecking old(er) buildings for gold seems pragmatic and even inevitable for many, it also reflects the lack of imaginative alternatives in Singapore.

➜ Read the full column in CUBES #94 (Jan/Feb/Mar 2019)