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Articles tagged “design

An Ode for the Creative Soul

Posted on May 7, 2013

If we were living in the Dark Ages, creatives who pursue a craft would find themselves in a respectable profession making things. Whether they were contraptions to build castles or battle armors for knights, these craftsmen made something valuable with their hands that influenced the outcome of wars.

As I sat down writing this piece I realized many people were just getting by with their skill. A majority find themselves crafting marketing material that fills into a junkyard of messages we’re already being bombarded by on a daily basis.

As creatives do we really need to craft marketing material to tell everyone else about their inadequacy?

Or can we put our talent to better use by making something useful?

Do we live to design or do we design to live?

Or if you’re a writer… Do we live to write or do we write to live?

Designers. This is our time. It’s a time for designers who hone their craft of making things, by initiating personal side projects to push the boundaries even when nobody cares. Because an artist creates and they cannot stop creating even when they struggle to pay bills.

Designers. This is our time. You’re not just in the business of making things pretty. You craft and skills mean so much more. You never followed the herd, you picked a profession that won’t make you filthy rich and you did it out of passion. Yes, you’re an outlier. Yes, you won’t easily fit in everywhere. Until you find somewhere you belong, don’t stop looking.


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A Design Battle Cry

Posted on April 30, 2013

This article is part two in a three-part series. The first observes on criticism towards brands, the second on criticism towards design, and the third engages on the state of design criticism.

In the first article, “The Impulse to be Heard”, the perception of criticism towards brands was discussed in relation to Internet anonymity and the prevalence of empty but destructive critique. Its conclusion emphasizes on patience and knowledge as necessary components towards constructive contribution, or otherwise it is as good as noise. This second part, A Design Battle Cry, continues with two supposedly unharmonious areas in the design business: Crowd-smashing and crowdsourcing.

To clarify in this context, crowd-smashing in the article interpretation is the criticism towards creative work while crowd-sourcing is the solicitation of contributions from the creative community. The nature of criticism and crowd-smashing is explained in the first article, as an impulse to be heard. Crowdsourcing, on the other hand, while not an exclusive term to the design field (but shall be referred to as so in this article), holds many subject definitions. The first generic definition of crowd-sourcing is set in 2006 by Jeff Howe, a contributing editor at Wired Magazine, as “the act of a company or institution taking a function once performed by employees and outsourcing it to an undefined (and generally large) network of people in the form of an open call. This can take the form of peer-production (when the job is performed collaboratively), but is also often undertaken by sole individuals. The crucial prerequisite is the use of the open call format and the large network of potential laborers.”

Naturally, having attributes of dividing creative work (especially for large-scale projects that require concentrated commitment and responsibility), eliminating client interaction and the requisite of following through with the next project’s action point, the concept of crowdsourcing is quite enjoying a love-hate relationship in the creative community.


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The value of personal side projects

Posted on April 23, 2013

In the early summer of 2005, a man walked the streets of New York City, wearing a grey wig, a beard, a pair of ski goggles, and carrying around a stack of stickers. The stickers, each shaped like a speech bubble, would be carefully peeled and pasted on advertising billboards inside train stations and bus stops. He did this ever so subtly and carefully, so as not to alert anyone—especially the cops—of his illegal activities.

Source: Flickr, The Bubble Project

Source: Flickr, The Bubble Project

Curious onlookers would question the man on what he intended to write on those speech bubble stickers. “Nothing,” he nonchalantly replied and quickly moved on.

Over the next few days, these stickers would be filled with handwritten messages; some were witty, others were suggestive, but all commonly written by public civilians. The stickers quickly gathered media attention and interest from around the world.

The man behind the stickers (and the wig-beard disguise) was Ji Lee, a creative strategist and director at Facebook. At the time, he was working as an art director for a major advertising agency, Saatchi and Saatchi. The project wasn’t part of a commissioned campaign but rather a passion project that sprouted from Lee’s frustration of corporate monologues in advertising and churning mundane work for some of these clients on a daily basis with very minimal creative freedom.

A disguised Ji Lee with one of his many Bubble Project subjects on the streets of New York April 9, 2008.

A disguised Ji Lee with one of his many Bubble Project subjects on the streets of New York April 9, 2008.

As Ji Lee stood on stage recounting his past experience in a CreativeMornings talk in 2011, he remarked that the project lead to a few fines for vandalism, several lawyer’s letters and a job at Droga5, one of the world’s most respected advertising agency known for advertising campaigns that are disruptive and viral in nature.


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Konstfack exhibition Photo: Flickr, eifp

Echoing the Swedish design experience

Posted on March 29, 2013

Previously we had a top-level overview of the Swedish design industry and how it’s been affected by globalization in “Globalization and the Swedish Design Economy”, while “Ties that bind the Swedish design ecosystem” offered insights on the vibrant design ecosystem in Sweden. Both articles left lingering questions on educational systems and various lessons applicable to countries, in the hope of creating a more mature creative industry. We shall attempt to answer them in this article.

While interviewing a few Swedes during the course of penning the articles, equality was a common theme among the answers given. More than just equality in governance, Swedes also expect equality in the workplace and at home.

“There is a social norm to treat all people with equal respect and deference, and generally say what you really think while expecting others to do the same. To say no is not a bad thing but quite the opposite!” says Maria Eriksson, currently the Partnership Director for Hyper Island (a Swedish tertiary institution specializing in digital media).

The disparity in power distance within the workplace in many parts of Asia, including Singapore, is apparent. A survey conducted by cultural pyshologist Gert Hofstede on global IBM employees in Singapore indicates employees scoring high on the Power Distance Index (PDI). The sample size was taken at a time when majority of its employees were ethnic Chinese. Other Asian countries that are within the same range would be Indonesia and China, while Malaysia and Philippines have even wider power distances.

Countries with the higest Power Distance Index. Source:

Countries with the higest Power Distance Index. Source:

Quoting the summary report, “Power is centralized and managers rely on their bosses and on rules. Employees expect to be told what to do. Control is expected and attitude towards managers is formal. Communication is indirect and the information flow is selective.”

Oz Dean, Creative Director of Digital Arts Network, a division of TBWA Tequila\Singapore, mentioned during a joint workshop session, “I try to make our meetings as collaborative as possible but sometimes, it’s hard to get the junior creatives to speak up even when I encourage them to.”


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Ties that bind the Swedish design ecosystem

Posted on March 22, 2013

Previously, we had a top level overview of the Swedish design industry and how it has been affected by globalization. In the following article, we shall explore the various stakeholders of the vibrant design ecosystem in Sweden. You may read the first article titled, “Globalization and the Swedish Design Economy”.

Folkhem (the people’s home). Sometimes referred to as “the Swedish Middle Way”, where capitalism and socialism reaches a compromise. Folkhem is a political concept that played a pivotal role in the history of the Swedish Democratic Party and the Swedish welfare state since the post-war period after World War I. Its ideals are founded on the belief that the entire society ought to be like a small family, where everybody contributes.

In 1919, Gregor Paulsson, general director of Svenska Slöjdföreningen (The Swedish Society of Crafts & Design) published his seminal text Vackrare Vardagsvara (More Beautiful Everyday Things). The text firmly advocated that, “Design should be part of everyone, every day and every detail. Every Swede should be able to enjoy well designed products.”

Paradise Restaurant in 1930 Photo: Wikipedia

Paradise Restaurant in 1930 Photo: Wikipedia

Paulsson’s beliefs were immortalized in the Stockholm exhibition he led in 1930 as Director General. Over the summer, the event reportedly registered over 4 million visitors, some travelling from as far as the USA. For many Swedes it was their first contact with Modernism. The works on exhibit were a collaboration between art and industry, a first during that era. The alliance resulted in a collection of affordable and well-designed Swedish home goods made for day-to-day living.

Ellen Key, a prominent Swedish writer, previously wrote in her book Skönheit för Alla (Beauty for All) published in 1899,

“Design is a designer’s oath to society. A designer bears the responsibility to create beautiful and functional home furnishing for every home. Their prime target audience should be every Swede, so that they [the Swedish people] may enjoy the fruits of labor found in good design.”

Though Paulsson and Key have never met, their ideas represented the Swedish culture of its time where home, family and society comes before self. Where everyone is taken care of in a welfare state and has access to free healthcare and free education.

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