The Malaysia Design Archive actually began in Havana, Cuba. In 2007, founder Ezrena Marwan visited the city for the Icograda World Design Congress, where, as she listened to Cuban graphic designers share how they were limited to creating propaganda by their country’s politics, Ezrena was struck by how different it was from her own experience as a graphic designer back home.
“We only design for commercial stuff, and we don’t really pay attention to anything else,” she says. “I was really inspired by how much they think about design, and how much it’s linked to politics and the land.”
She started collecting and documenting everyday graphics in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and shared them online. That marked the beginning of the Malaysia Design Archive, a website that traces the history of this Southeast Asian nation through its visual culture.
Save precious water. Floss your teeth. Buckle up for safety. Those are just some of the truisms familiar to generations of Singaporeans. Since gaining independence five decades ago, the Southeast Asian city-state has seen countless government campaigns aimed to mold citizens who could live up to the nation’s leap from Third World to First. Design has played a central role in these efforts, as evident in the 6,000+ posters preserved in the National Archives of Singapore.
Since its establishment in 1968, this state institution has archived posters as part of its collection of material culture—including government records, maps, photographs, oral history interviews, audiovisual, and sound recordings—that are significant to Singapore’s history. Most of its posters come from government campaigns, with a small number created for cultural events, movies, and corporations.
They collect books, magazines, posters, and ephemera for inspiration just like many other graphic designers, but Kind Company’s Greg D’Onofrio and Patricia Belen aren’t your average graphic design hoarders.
Their collection of book jackets by American designer Alvin Lustig, ads for Milanese tire company Pirelli, and classic design periodicals like the Swiss Typographische Monatsblätter are just a slice of the mid 20th-century graphic design the duo have amassed over a decade. With over 3,000 pieces of works housed within drawers, archival boxes, and bookshelves stored inside their 650-square-foot home office on the Upper East Side of New York City, the couple have literally built a house for modern graphic design.