Category: Media

Aesthetics Aside: Observations on Design in the Everyday

This book was born out of an observation. While reading a recent newspaper review of Antigen Rapid Test (ART) kits, this sentence jumped out at me:

“Aesthetics aside, all the kits were found to be very similar, with only slight differences in procedure.”

Aesthetics aside? In just two words, the reviewer dissected the kits’ design into form and function and so casually dismissed the former. At first, I was irritated by the assumption that form in design was mere styling, or even worse, a distraction. That quickly grew into an existential crisis: If aesthetics could be so conveniently cast aside, then why have I spent all of my adult life researching and writing about design?

So I decided to compile a decade’s worth of writings into a book. The 30 essays in Aesthetics Aside: Observations on Design in the Everyday come from various points in my career, including my very first story decoding a city’s identity by examining the typefaces on its streets to a recent reflection on the role of imitation in design and life. Each offers a journey beyond the stylish “designer” world, on to the designed graphics, environments and objects that we encounter daily.

Design never looked so ordinary, and extraordinary.

➜ Get your copy at our online store

Welcome To A Brand’s New World

Our everyday lives are increasingly intertwined with the digital. But are brands succeeding at welcoming customers to their virtual spaces? Some are forging enticing new pathways, writes regular columnist Justin Zhuang

Flame wars, social media envy and fake news are just some examples of how the online world can incite emotions – often by design. Interactions that encourage snap judgements and the ease of them going viral has resulted in highly emotive spaces that are often polarising too. The digital revolution has not only disrupted how we interact as individuals but also with brands. On the one hand, brands can have deeper and more meaningful conversations with their customers. But they also have to be on their toes. A single angry customer rant or a misstep by a brand can be amplified quickly and often disproportionately, if not dealt with correctly.

➜ Read the full column in CUBES #99 — Emotive Spaces

30 Years of Conservation: Keeping the Past Relevant

Straits Times heritage correspondent Melody Zaccheus believes telling good heritage stories helps connect people and their relationships to places.

Melody’s foray into the heritage beat can be traced back to an article she wrote in 2012 on the National Heritage Board’s efforts to document Singapore’s eight remaining traditional bakeries known for producing conventionally prepared breads and buns. Learning first-hand about the struggles of these dying businesses, which once numbered up to 200 in the 1970s, inspired the then fresh journalism graduate to pursue more of such evocative stories.

Inspiring deeper conversations about Singapore’s heritage and giving a voice to forgotten historical figures and everyday people with stories to tell, are some of the reasons why The Straits Times has a reporter covering the heritage beat, says Melody. Since 2012, she has assumed this role in Singapore’s main English-language newspaper, carving out a niche in the newsdesk.

Beyond just the recounting of nostalgic events, much of Melody’s job is to figure out how to make a story relevant to readers today. Over the years, her coverage has ranged from reporting on new historical discoveries to overlooked heritage, and occasionally, even correcting misconceptions about the past.

➜ Read the full story in 30 years of conservation in Singapore since 1989