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.
The toilet is the last place you expect to see on a studio visit. But that’s one of the first things Michelle Lin points out after I stepped into the office of Singapore branding studio The Strangely Good.
Taking a bathroom break here is to board a train carriage inspired byThe Darjeeling Limited. Like the set in Wes Anderson’s film, The Strangely Good toilet is plastered with Art Nouveau wallpaper and floor tiles, as well as a window to another world—the perfect getaway for the graphic designer who confesses to dreaming up ideas while handling her other business. This interior also weirdly epitomizes the work and design philosophy of The Strangely Good.
Dragons + paper cuttings + calligraphy + an auspicious splash of red = Chinese graphic design? More like a very, very outdated stereotype.
Consider the Chinese zodiac greeting cards by Hong Kong designer Sandy Choi, who’s putting a modern twist on the tradition of representing each year with an animal. The card for this year—the year of the sheep—bleats “BAA BAA BAA BAA,” while the year of the dragon in 2012 has a greeting printed white-on-white—a clever allusion to the mythical animal.