That you are reading this report on a print design event online via a digital screen speaks volumes about the state of printed matter today. Once the default, print publishing has been challenged by the Internet and digital technology over the last decade – best summed up by the now cliché proclamation that “Print is Dead”.
Yet the medium has not just survived, but is enjoying a revival as witnessed by the well-attended “Print Design: Books, magazines, zines – here to stay!” event held recently at the National Design Centre. Veteran graphic designer Kelley Cheng of The Press Room, emerging design duo Sarah & Schooling, and magazine retailer Magpie’s founder Annabelle Fernandez were invited to make sense of print’s longevity. The quartet of print lovers offered a behind-the-scenes peek at how they produced and distributed printed publications before diving into a discussion moderated by Adib Jalal, director of Shophouse & Co, the organiser of this event.
“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.
Singapore creativity is all around town these days — if you can catch it on time. Pop-up markets have become a popular platform for local designers to display and sell their wares. These ephemeral events allow groups of small independent designers to rent interesting spaces together, as well as present as an attraction larger than themselves.
While trade shows in convention centres have traditionally served this role, the new pop-up style markets present themselves as specially-crafted experiences. They present designers around particular themes or standards, and are usually held in locations outside of typical retail spaces. Creatory showcased over 60 of Singapore’s creative talents in an industrial building in MacPherson two weekends ago, and in February, NÓNG took over the rooftop carpark of People’s Park Complex where organiser Edible Gardens is also building an urban farm.
Reclaiming out-of-the-box locations for creative showcases is not new in this city. Back in 2004, design agency WORK brought the Comme des Garcons Guerilla Store to Singapore, helping the Japanese fashion label open year-long pop-up stores in Chinatown, Arab Street, Bukit Merah and Mount Sophia — none of which were known to be hip districts then. Around the same period, FARM also started regular ROJAK sessions by inviting designers and artists in Singapore to present their work at unconventional spaces such as the old National Stadium and an apartment in Golden Mile Complex. That today’s pop-ups are filled with local designers who are making and selling (not just talking), suggests the industry has grown. And it’s not just online design retailers like Naiise and Haystakt who hold such pop-ups, but there are specialist companies like Public Garden and Shophouse & Co that do so.
Even as pop-ups expand, brick-and-mortar stores that retail local design are not going away anytime soon either. Hong Kong based Kapok opened a store in the National Design Centre last year offering products from designers around the world including Singapore. Home-grown design shops, The Little Dröm Store and Supermama also recently refreshed and move into new stores too.
For a country, whose previous prime minister once declared that “Life for Singaporeans is not complete without shopping,” buying local design has never been easier than now.