Tag: Substation

Graphic Designers + Poets Collaborate on Love Letters Written by a Building in Singapore

What would a building have to say on the subject of love? For five years, this unusual question has brought together poets and graphic designers to give a voice to The Substation, an independent arts center housed inside an old power station in Singapore. Each month“The Substation Love Letters Project” has issued a free postcard featuring the commissioned poem and accompanying graphic interpretations, to talk about what love means—from the point of view of the Substation itself.

This idea was dreamt up in 2010 by then newly appointed artistic director, Noor Effendy Ibrahim, as an affordable means for the center to address the public. Instead of producing a marketing flyer, The Substation’s team (namely Annabelle Aw, and later, Chris Ong) worked with local poet Cyril Wong to curate a thematic series of love letters. Each year, the center seeks out 12 Singaporean poets to muse on love in a variety of languages, and then invites a graphic designer to visually interpret them.

Read the full story in AIGA’s Eye on Design

Déjà vu: A review of I Have A Room With Everything Too


Many would have recognized, but few actually seen IRL (in real life) the works displayed in I Have A Room With Everything Too. This recent exhibition at The Substation Gallery (2-12 July) showcased over a hundred books, magazines, and printed ephemera by design studios around the world—offering a rare opportunity to appreciate avant-garde graphic design outside the digital screen. Instead of viewing endless studio shots on infinite scroll and click thumbs up, graphic design aficionados could actually pick up design and flip, stroke, or even smell.

An annual report retold as a travel diary by Singapore design duo Couple, an art catalogue with a cover made from amusement park tickets by Indonesian studio Artnivora, and a calendar resembling a miniature pallet of printed sheets by Hong Kong based Co.Design were part of a line-up of eclectic projects assembled by curator Yanda Tan. Laid out across a single row of makeshift tables spanning the 23-metres long gallery were the mostly arts and cultural projects Tan had acquired from bookstores and designers via his art and design blog THEARTISTANDHISMODEL and recent travels to other cities.

The collection is a diverse portfolio of graphic design production possibilities which reminded visitors of “the joy of holding something tangible in our hands that took hours, days, months to put together.” But this worked only up to a point. There was little context besides the name of the designer and their city of origin in order for visitors to appreciate the works beyond design as a process of production. This was particularly telling for the foreign language publications whose contents were indecipherable, rendering them no different from a mockup by printers. Even as many of the works wowed with their cool surfaces and exteriors, the lack of details on production processes or a nod to the printers meant how the designs were created remained a mystery unless the curator was on hold to conduct a walk-through. For instance, Yoshie Watanabe’s One Plus One Crossing book is an intriguing flip book of die-cut pages, but what makes it even more impressive is it was actually a packaging designed in 2006 to hold the story behind an engagement or wedding ring. 


As the exhibition title suggests, the showcase is the personal inspiration library of Tan who runs the creative studio DO NOT DESIGN. The self-taught designer has clearly studied his materials well, as seen in his works which also feature in the showcase. The elaborate cut-out cover of his latest DEAR magazine and the hand-scrawled marks plus torn edges of his album design for Monster Cat both echo Tan’s obsession for the materiality of design—an aspect that the exhibition rightly points out isn’t always evident in a time where the digital image is our most common encounter of graphic design. I Have A Room With Everything Too presents graphic design in third-dimension, but still keeps it on a pedestal that is to be appreciated as an objet, rather than a material we encounter in our everyday lives.

Visitors may have felt déjà vu at the exhibition for another reason. In 2011, Tan held the first edition of a similar exhibition featuring several of the same works, such as Theseus Chan’s WERK magazines and Stefan Sagmeister’s 1998 album design for song-writer Jamie Block. Back then, Tans’ exhibition was larger and even had a day of presentations by designers. This time around there was a printed supplement featuring question-and-answer interview with designers, as well as personal essays by lovers of print.

Without the shock of the new from four years ago, I Have A Room With Everything Too was less fresh, but still a welcome relief in a city where exhibitions on graphic design remain few and far between. 

Need to organise the diversity

Of late, I have not been able to gather my thoughts and thread something deeper out of them. Maybe I miss the long train trips to school, where I could let my mind run and focus, nowadays time is just too short for me to muse. Instead, I’m going to run a short list of thoughts, after all like the director of a short film said, she liked to make short films because if it’s bad, the pain is short, the disappointment after is short and well in general, life is short, isn’t it?

The problem with news
I was just thinking about a friend who graduated in engineering and loves photography and thought she sounds like a news story because that is unusual. But on second thought, that’s not unusual anymore, in the “new” world today, values of the past become unusual again. That’s on top of trying to outdo what was new. Maybe nothing new can be created… wait, I think Jameson or Lyotard talked about it before. Darn, nothing new here.

On the same note, there is one recurring story line that I am getting bored of. Basically, homosexual repressed in a hetrosexual society, rediscovers his homosexuality and lives happily ever after. I think it’s a starting point of such identities becoming included part of society and when enough of us get bored of the theme, it’ll be nothing new.

The 4th Singapore Short Film Festival
I caught the first set of films today. I was really impressed with For a Few Marbles More, a Dutch film about a group of children fighting two bullies for their right to the playground — short, sweet and funny. The Iranian film Cyanosis, about the life of a painter was a bit slow, but how the director used the paintings as part of the story-telling process was interesting.

Finally, the three local films stood out for different reasons. Londres-London had something interesting going on conceptually but it’s delivery was stunted and I only truly appreciated it when the director explained the movie. Kichiro was lots of blood and gore and I had my eyes close for quite a bit and the director did confess that he was simply exploiting the opportunity to feature violence and I have to say kudos to that. The most curious film for the night was My Keys. I was ready to pan it because it did seem quite ridiculous, a man finds out he is locked in because he can’t find his keys then prays to Guan Yin who appears with his keys but never gives it to him and flies off with it. Moreover, it’s cast were both models from some beauty competition which I highly suspected was to allow him to get sponsorship. It was only when the director explained that he wanted to convey the feeling of being cheated to express how he felt when a good friend he lent money to ran away with it. You had to give it to him.

Brochure Collection
What is with the k e r n i n g of the Singapore Short Film Festival brochure? C a n y o u i m a g i n e r e a d i n g t h i s… Postmodern layout can sometimes be so non-functional.

I finally got hold of the 21st Singapore International Film Festival’s brochure too, the cover was not very impressive too, compared to a few years back.

My favourite brochure this time was The Substation’s “What’s On Jan – Mar”, the events are sectionalised into white boxes that allow the reader to interact and make notes on it. It would have worked even better if the boxes contained the dates and times for the events too.

Cool stuff to share
Teabag font for free! <http://www.josbuivenga.demon.nl/fertigo.html>
Hilarious intellectual stuff and really beautiful publications
Into the Wild (2007)
Inspiring movie, especially when you’re weary of life, and Sean Penn directs!
Woodneuk House
Read the historical background then see my photos of this abandoned house
Cool T-shirts and information graphics
Another nice tote bag and t-shirt site, and your purchase helps a cause