Category: History

#ADesignLibrary: Modes of Criticism #5 (2019)

The grid system. The A-format of paper. Capitalism. Just some of the systems that graphic design operates in and often reproduces. In the fifth issue of the Modes of Criticism journal (2019), editor and designer Franciso Laranjo and other writers take apart “Design Systems” to trace the ideologies that shape the practice. From revealing Japanese design’s historical belief in “cultural supremacy” to exploring alternative values and practices to capitalism’s exploitative nature, the collection offers much food for thought about the systems we live in and where they have led us to today.

#ADesignLibrary spotlights lesser known design books, and invites public access to my personal collection of titles that focuses on Singapore architecture and design, Asian design, everyday design, critical and speculative design as well as design theory and philosophy. I welcome inquiries and physical loans.

#ADesignLibrary: 石汉瑞启蒙者 (Henry Steiner: Graphic Communicator) (2019)

Before design became globalised, some practitioners advocated for a cross-cultural approach that combined modernism’s international ambitions with local sensibilities. 石汉瑞:启蒙者 (Henry Steiner: Graphic Communicator) (2019) brings together the works, essays and interviews of one such trailblazer. The Vienna-born Steiner brought the modern graphic design principles he learnt from Paul Rand in New York to Hong Kong in the mid-1960s just in time for the city’s economic takeoff. By playing off cultural opposites of West and East, he showed one way modernist design ideas were adopted and adapted in Asia. While Steiner‘s works have been published in English, this comprehensive collection, edited by 何东, is entirely in Chinese and introduces him to a new generation and geography. It was published for a 2019 Steiner retrospective curated by designer He Jianping (何见平), who also designed this book.

#ADesignLibrary spotlights lesser known design books, and invites public access to my personal collection of titles that focuses on Singapore architecture and design, Asian design, everyday design, critical and speculative design as well as design theory and philosophy. I welcome inquiries and physical loans.

Discovering Singapore’s Heritage in Old Tiles

You will find them on bathroom walls, apartment floors and even on the facades of buildings. However, few would expect to encounter tiles in the cemetery. Artist Jennifer Lim was surprised by the colourful floral tiles that adorned her great-grandfather’s tombstone when she visited Bukit Brown Cemetery in 2012 to witness its exhumation.

The Australia-born had just moved to Singapore that year to learn about her Singaporean father’s Hokkien-Peranakan ancestry. As Lim retraced her family history in the city-state, she encountered similarly intricately designed ceramic tiles at the family’s shophouse in Chinatown and the nearby ancestral temple that her great-grandfather helped to found.

“With every place connected to my ancestors, these tiles would be like, ‘Hi!’,” recalls Lim.

➜ Read the full article in What’s Up (February 2020)