Tag: Singapore Magazines

Singapore Institute of Architects Journal in the ’80s

Singapore Architect has been published by the Singapore Institute of Architects since the 1960s and is one of the oldest architecture magazine in the region. It used to be called the SIAJ or Singapore Institute Architects Journal.

I flipped through its old issues a while back and was very captivated by the magazine’s covers. I decided to look through the archives in detail again, and here are even more gems that I discovered. These were the covers of magazines published between 1979-1981

I’m really curious who did these covers! Sounds like a story to chase.

After this phase of graphic covers, the magazine switched to photography on its covers, presumably because the technology allowed it to. It was only in 2008, when Kelley Cheng took over the magazine, did it start using graphic covers all over again. But, while the current graphic covers are a stylistic choice, I think these in the past were so because technology only offered these options!

Has media become nothing more than marketing?

“Media and publishing is now just another form of marketing for those who can afford it.

“And those who create good content? Get close to nothing — or nothing.”

So says my friend, Zakaria Zainal, an independent photojournalist.

It’s hard to disagree, going by what I’ve been seeing in the media market both in Singapore and the world. A couple of months ago, I wrote about how new publishers of media here today are not purely media companies anymore, but graphic design studios or companies that essentially do not earn from media at all.

Underscore, published by design studio Hjgher, is a classic case. At The Design Society’s Sessions last night on the phenomenon of self-publishing, I got to ask publisher Justin Long how the magazine earned its revenue. His answer? It barely breaks even. But Underscore is not about making money, he said. Instead, it earns its “value” through the network of friends it has gained, and how it has helped to market the studio to the world. According to Long, only a 1000 copies are sold in Singapore, and the rest, some 4000, are distributed overseas. The other two speakers that evening also had similar models. Basheer distributes and sells books, when it does publish books, it makes sure the market is big enough. Yanda, the man behind THEARTISTANDHISMODEL keeps his blog going purely out of passion, and also makes a living from elsewhere.

What surprised me the most was that none of the contributors to Underscore magazine get paid, according to Long. For someone who earns his keep from producing media, it only proves that I cannot earn from creating media I like. Instead, I have to “sponsor” work that I like by taking on jobs that actually pay — essentially Underscore‘s business model. Although I still continue contributing to magazines and websites that pay very little, because I believe in the magazine and the content that it puts out, you always question how sustainable is this. Will the contributor/magazine who doesn’t get paid or gets paid miserly eventually die out? Highly likely.

A conversation that happened after Sessions also proved Zakaria’s point. A designer told me about a client who wanted to create media online to attract eyeballs to his brand. It shows that people do demand good content, but at the same time, they are not willing to pay for it directly. So, businesses have benefitted the most from the boom in self-publishing. They can easily fund and create media that will eventually attract attention their brands. On the other hand, media not meant for marketing or commercial gains find it easy to start, but hard to sustain.

But this problem is nothing new, traditional media’s approach has been to sleep with advertisers. But now that readers are immune to the advertisement and content distinction, media owners are forced to blur the lines, producing advertorials to keep this age-old funding model alive. Look at Monocle and how it partners with governments and corporations to produce content, events and even products. While a Monocle x Porter bag shows how strong the media brand is, you also question, what difference does Monocle make to the Porter bag? It’s a fine line between meaningful collaborations and selling out.

So where does all this leave media producers like me? Are we cheapening ourselves by sleeping so readily with companies and organisations just for a platform to say our piece? Can we demand media owners pay bigger share, especially if they are profiting from it? Should consumers pay us more and directly?

I haven’t figured it out. But as Zakaria says: “Exciting times nonetheless.”

The Design Society Journal #03 is out!

The Design Society Journal #03

The latest issue of The Design Society Journal is now out in book stores! This bi-annual publication looks at visual culture and is published by The Design Society (TDS). In this issue, we look at a variety of ways at how design has crossed boundaries, entering Singapore’s general elections, hawker centres, nation branding, and even Dutch football! We also pay a visit to The Royal Press, one of the oldest printing press in Malacca. Finally, we also talk to three visual practitioners who are pushing boundaries in their respective fields: up-and-coming designer Yong, veteran commercial photographer Chuang Lee Jen and The New Paper’s inforgraphics and design chief Hup.

Get your copy for $15 at all good book stores! Or sign up to be a TDS member to get yours free.