Public voting is now underway for the speakers of The Design Society’s third annual conference. For the first time ever, you can decide the four Singapore graphic design studios that will be invited to share their tales in going on their own to practise design independently.
This is also the first time a list of Singapore studios that have come and gone since the 1960s has been compiled, all presented in a beautiful timeline designed by ROOTS. While most would be familiar with studios set up since the late 1990s, the earlier pioneer studios might be unknown to many. So here’s a short write-up of some of the studios I’ll like to hear from based on interviews I’ve conducted with them.
HAGLEY & HOYLE (1969)
This is one of Singapore’s earliest graphic design houses set up by British creative directors John Hagley and Brian Hoyle. They were part of the first incarnation of the Creative Circle in the 1960s and set up their own design house to offer specialised graphic services in what was essentially a market made up only of advertising agencies. They gained a reputation for their print publications and typographic swashes, as seen in their logo. Amazingly, the studio is still alive today, now headed by Peggy Tan, who joined it in 1972.
DESIGN OBJECTIVES (1979)
Arguably the longest-existing design studio set up by a Singaporean, Design Objectives was founded by Ronnie Tan over three decades ago and is still going strong. He was educated in Baharuddin Vocational Institute, Singapore’s first graphic design school, and worked briefly for all of the country’s big studios of the ’70s including Hagley & Hoyle and Central Design. The studio has done corporate identity work for Comfort Cab and EZ-Link card and has continued to work on major projects such as the signage of Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, which won Design of the Year in last year’s President’s Design Award.
VISCOM DESIGN (1980)
This studio was started by Sylvia Tan, who was probably the most educated designer in Singapore during the ’80s. She received a degree in typographic design from the London College of Printing and a Masters in Communication Design from Pratt Institute. Viscom’s speciality was in book design and the studio has worked on many “national” books and also regional publications like Mimar: Architecture in Development.
SU YEANG DESIGN (1983)
Another design studio set up by a female designer, Su Yeang is regarded as the most commercially successful designer of her times. She started her design career working in Cold Storage where she was the in-house designer for the corporate identities’ of the company’s various arms and the packaging of their products. In 1983, she formed her own studio and eventually sold it to a multi-national branding company. Her studio worked on the packaging of Tiger Beer for years, and also created the identities for The Esplanade and National Library Board. In 1997, the World Trade Organisation adopted the logo the studio designed as their official emblem.
IMMORTAL THE DESIGN STATION (1990)
The founders of Immortal broke out from Addison Design, Singapore’s biggest multi-national design company in the ’80s. These overseas-trained designers set up during a period when there was much discussion about Singapore’s national identity and seeing design and creativity from an Asian perspective. It’s an issue close to their heart and they’ve continued to grow in Asia while being rooted to it by being part of The Design Alliance, a network of design studios across this region.
BLACK DESIGN (2004)
This studio is fairly young but its founders Jackson Tan and Patrick Gan curated several design exhibitions that have helped establish the current network of Singapore designers from various disciplines by connecting them with one another and showcasing them to the world. Through their exhibitions 20/20, New Wave, UtterRubbish, UseLess and Shiok — Singapore designers had a platform to reach out to the world.