The Singapore Designer Today: Explained

Last week, I was at the Kaohsiung Design Festival explaining to Taiwanese what I saw Singapore design as today. Here’s a detailed explanation of the slide that sums up my views:

SG Designer Today.007

This is how a Singapore designer looks like today. In the past, a designer used to just be a worker for ‘Business’. Before the 1990s, there was no such thing as ‘Singapore culture’ because the government and country was too busy chasing economic success and neglected cultural development. Instead, Singapore designers looked to the West, the birthplace of design, and often put it on a pedestal. The concept of ‘Global Cities’ also did not exist before the Internet and globalisation. However, since the ’90s, Singapore has gradually developed its own culture, giving Singapore designers a source of inspiration for their designs locally. At the same time, globalisation, the Internet and Singapore’s ambition to be a “Global City” means Singapore designers continue to be influenced by design and culture from all around the world.

This means the Singapore designer today faces three issues:

  1. Design Business versus Design Culture: Instead of only working for business clients, designers also see themselves as culture creators. They willingly initiate own projects that are creative but not necessarily commercial. This is a global trend too.
  2. Globalisation and regional expansion: Increasingly, Singapore designers are working for clients in the region because of a growing reputation. Singapore businesses themselves are also oriented towards serving a global market because the local market is too small to survive. This means Singapore designers are always thinking about what the world market needs because of their clientele. Instead of serving the local market exclusively, they produce “international” and “trendy” designs.
  3. International before National: This relates to the point above. Many Singapore designers set their sights to be recognised internationally from the very beginning. Very often, this is also the only way you can become well regarded in Singapore. This again influences a kind of global aesthetic so as to make a mark in international competitions like D&AD, The One Show.

———– and in Chinese, thanks to my Taiwanese translator ,Yvonne. 今日設計師現況 圖解如下: 三圓圈的圖形意思分別為商業圈、新加坡文化圈、全球都市圈,三個圓圈交集出一個政策就是「先求國際化/國際化優於本國之前」,而商業圈與文化圈共同畫出「商設與文創」區塊,商業圈與全球都市圈共同畫出「全球設計與區域性設計」或「設計全球化與設計在地化」。 這就是新加坡設計師今日的面貌,在商業之前,設計師往往是個工匠,當下並沒有「新加坡文化」這樣的概念存在,因為國家並不認為文化很重要,換來的就是設計師會朝西方看齊,西方也就是設計的發源地。「全球化都市」的概念也不是在網際網路與全球化/地球村出現之前就存在的,是網路出現後才出現此概念。 然而,過了這五十年之後,新加坡逐漸發展出自己的文化,並且提供了設計師許多在地資源/元素當作靈感來源,於此同時,當全球化以及網際網路加上新加坡的雄心壯志三方因素融合為一個所謂的「全球化都市」的概念時,這意味著新加坡的設計師已經將影響力的觸角伸及世界各地。 這也表示今日的新加坡設計師面臨以下三大議題:

  1. 商業設計與文化設計(商設+文創) 新加坡的設計師不再只是為客戶工作,而是視自己為文化的創造者,他們非常樂意提出很有創意卻未必有商機/商業性需求的企劃案。
  2. 全球化與區域擴張(全球化與本土化) 將設計視為商業的話,許多新加坡設計師願意為在地客戶工作/服務,因為可以幫助提升名聲,又因為國內市場太小,新加坡的商業一向也為國家以外的國際市場服務,這代表新加坡設計師必須思考全世界的市場需求而非只是新加坡境內,而這種現象導致了新加坡設計國際化與當時設計的潮流/趨勢。
  3. 國際化先於國家(向外先於向內發展) 這一點是總括前面所有重點的更大重點,許多新加坡設計師是從一開始就希望尋求國際認同,而也是如此,以這樣的思考進入設計圈的方法往往也是成為新加坡全國知名設計師的唯一方法,這同時也影響/型塑他們在追求的設計樣貌。

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