Forgive me for sounding a tad patriotic. Maybe it’s because National Day is just around the corner.
It’s just that, for some time now, I’ve been bugged by my fascination with discovering, documenting, and even, defining a “Singapore design”. It’s a topic most designers stumble over, several hate, and a category few like to be pigeon-holed in. And as I’ve dug deeper, I’ve been asking myself: “So what?”
What value is there in “Singapore design”?
It’s most probably not going to help designers win jobs or awards. No one out of Singapore will really understand, or even care.
But, maybe, that way of looking is missing the whole point.
As I watched Mr Bean perform during the Olympics opening ceremony in London this morning, it struck me that I could identify it as quintessentially British humour, and I actually felt proud for a community who found themselves and are so willing to show it off to the world.
Comparing Great Britain’s opening ceremony for the Olympics with what China put up four years ago when it held the event, the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei said:
“This was about Great Britain; it didn’t pretend it was trying to have global appeal. Because Great Britain has self-confidence, it doesn’t need a monumental Olympics. But for China that was the only imaginable kind of international event. Beijing’s Olympics were very grand – they were trying to throw a party for the world, but the hosts didn’t enjoy it. The government didn’t care about people’s feelings because it was trying to create an image.”
Self-confidence. Yes, that’s exactly what being able to define “Singapore Design” means to me. Being able to say with pride that Singapore has its own community of people here embarking on creative endeavors. And what matters is not how much they can impress the world out there, but the people whom they share their home with. That I can say the guy who designed this is my neighbour, a friend, someone whom understands this place that I live in, and not some star architect from a foreign land.
At the end of the day, I don’t need someone outside of my home to say that I am good, but it matters to know that I am doing good for someone at home.