Tag: Design Counsel

Design50: The Humble Kopitiam Stool (1990s)

The Unica Plastic Stool | Pix: SINGAPLASTICS
The Unica Plastic Stool | Pix: SINGAPLASTICS

Most Singaporeans have sat on one before. Plastic stools support the bums of kopitiam goers around the city as they tuck into their wanton mee, nasi lemak or prata.

They come in all shades and shapes like the customers they serve, and one in particular is the design of Mr Chew Moh-Jin, a Singaporean industrial designer who unexpectedly created what is now an icon of Singapore’s food culture.

Picture a 30-centimetres wide circle bounded tightly by a square. Extend a third of the square to a height of 44-centimetres to create a leg. Repeat for the remaining three corners and you have an outline of the stool Mr Chew designed—a modern solution for a decades-old Singapore plastics manufacturer.

Read the rest in SG50 Pulse

From Craft to Industry: Reflecting on Histories of Making in Singapore

Four exhibitions retracing Singapore's craft, design and manufacturing history (L-R): Tools That Built Singapore, Made in Singapore Products, FIFTY Years of Singapore Design and Craft | Singapore.
Four Exhibitions (L-R): Tools That Built Singapore, Made in Singapore Products, Fifty Years of Singapore Design and Craft | Singapore.

“Made in Singapore” has always been a challenging term for Singaporeans. Manufacturers grumble about the high costs of labour and land here. Designers lament the lack of expert collaborators willing to experiment and innovate. Consumers complain about paying a premium for local products that are no better than overseas imports.

Four on-going exhibitions in Singapore coincidentally retrace the nation’s history of making, offering an opportunity to understand and reflect on some of the issues that plague craft, design and manufacturing in the city-state today.

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More veteran design studios

There was much interest in my previous post introducing some veteran design studios that I think should be voted to speak at The Design Society Conference in April, so I thought I’ll try to profile the rest of the studios that I missed out:

Design 3 (1981)
Started by two industrial designers who could only find graphic design work viable during that period. Its two founders, Tan Khee Soon and Lim Lay Ngoh, were  part of the 13 that founded the Designers Association Singapore, our country’s first multi-disciplinary design association. Two pieces of their work that many Singaporeans will remember growing up with is the old logos for the Neighbourhood Police Posts and that of the Singapore Civil Defence.

Ransome Chua Design Associates (1986)
One of the few locally-trained designer who was brave enough to set up his own studio. After graduating from the Baharuddin Vocational Institute, he worked at Hagley and Hoyle for three years before starting his own studio. They specialised in editorial work, working on several art books for the cultural institutions here.

Lancer Design (1989)
Mark Phooi started out as a freelancer and dropped the word ‘free’ from ‘freelancer’ to form his studio name. Over the last two decades, he has grew his business to include a design school, First Media Design School, which wants to nurture “designpreneus” of the future.

Design Counsel (1989)
Another powerhouse design studio of the ’90s that was formed by a female, Kim Faulkner. She was the marketing manager at multinational Addison Design before breaking away to create her own multi-disciplinary design studio and she made it explicit that it was to help the Singapore industry grow. Some of her corporate identity clients include custom shirt maker CYC, slimming studio Expressions International, and the former Television Corporation of Singapore. Eventually, she grew the studio big enough to sell to multinational branding agency Interbrand.

Duet Design (1990)
This all-female team left Viscom Design to do their own thing and have quietly built a reputation serving the hospitality industry in Singapore and around the region. They’ve worked on the signage and environmental graphics for several of WOHA’s architecture projects and also did Rj Paper’s calendars for several years.

Crunch Communications (1993)
This studio was started by Sim Kok Huoy, who founded Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts’ graphic design course. He got a graphic design degree from the UK in 1973 and returned to work in various multinational advertising agencies throughout the ’70s and ’80s before coming out to start his own studio.

Bonsey Design (1993)
Jonathan Bonsey was the creative director at multinational Addison Design, Singapore’s biggest foreign design firm in the ’80s. The studio did many packaging projects for F&N because it was a relatively new field here. He then went to Addison’s overseas offices and returned to Singapore to start his own studio in 1993, focusing on branding, then also a rather new concept.

Momentum Design (1993) + Then Design (1993)
Two firms started by expatriates in Singapore and fondly remembered by younger designers for their cutting-edge designs during that period, e.g. Then Design was said to have worked on many Song + Kelly projects. However, founder Spencer Ball eventually sold the studio and is now with Anthem Worldwide’s Singapore office. As for Momentum, it is now based in Malaysia and is still run by creative director William Atyeo.

DPC Design (1996)
Patrick Cheah headed the Singapore office of Australian multinational Cato Design through the 1990s. Cato was one of the three big foreign design studios to have an office in Singapore together with Addison and Landor. Patrick left to start his own studio in 1996 and worked on projects like the corporate identity of Keppel Corporation’s family of companies, Boncafe and the Swissotel. He currently also runs design offices in both China and Indonesia, an arrangement that is quite rare for a Singapore studio.