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5 Singapore designs you never knew

6 min read

The state flag; Singa the courtesy campaign mascot; and the dragon playground – these are just some examples of iconic Singaporean designs. Since the government supported the development of a professional design industry in the 1960s as part of its industrialisation plan, Singapore design has grown tremendously. Today, Singapore designers are sought after by local and international clients and many Singapore designs are used all around the world. Here are five lesser known designs from each decade that also chart how Singapore design has evolved with the nation over the last fifty years.


Icon of Industrialisation

Jurong Town Hall (1974)
By Architects Team 3

Capturing the spirit of Singapore’s rapid industrialisation during its first decade of independence is this building designed for a then emerging Jurong Industrial Estate. The result of an architectural competition is this five-storey modern marvel that conveys rationality and efficiency with its recurring use of angular and modular motifs. Originally built as the headquarters of Singapore’s industrial developer, the Jurong Town Corporation (today known as JTC Corporation), this building has since been conserved as a symbol of Singapore’s successfully industrialisation programme. It continues to support Singapore’s economic development as it is being repurposed to become the future home for trade associations.



Fast Forward

Singapore Bus Services (SBS) Bus Guides (1977-1981)
By Lok Lai, The Graphic Communication Group

Riding on a successful industrialisation programme a decade before, Singapore shifted gears from quantity to quality in the 1970s. The government sought to raise local design standard so as to make goods more attractive for export and cater better to Singaporeans who were increasingly concerned with their quality of life. This set of four annual bus guides that improved on previous editions was an everyday example of this phenomenon. The more streamlined information design inside was matched by these graphic covers that captured progress and movement in the most direct manner possible: an arrow.



Are you afraid of the dark?
Guinness Stout “Word of Wisdom” Commercials (1989-1994)
By Lim Sau Hoong, Ogilvy & Mather Singapore

Singapore’s economy boomed in the 1990s as part of a fast-growing East Asia, and this boosted the confidence of local architects and designers who sought to create work that spoke beyond our shores. One example was a series of English and Mandarin television commercials created by Lim for alcoholic beverage brand, Guinness. Her words of wisdom as performed by Hong Kong star, George Lam, combined with philosophy, helping Guinness market itself to the younger, white-collared demographic in Singapore and Hong Kong.


Thumbs up design!

Trek ThumbDrive (2000)
By Henn Tan, Trek 2000 International

The emergence of globalisation powered by digital technology broke down barriers in the design industry as designers gained control of the creative process and many invented their own products. One such creation was Trek’s thumb-sized Universal Serial Bus (USB) device that replaced floppy disks. By offering the convenience of transferring large amounts of data, the ThumbDrive became a global hit and helped the five-man team grow into a global enterprise with offices in more than 10 countries.



Keeping the world clean

“Signature” Range for Initial Hygiene (2013)
By Orcadesign Consultants

The increasing relevance of Singapore design in the world market is testament to the success of our local industry. A good grasp of the global design language and forward-looking ideas have made Singapore designers sought after amongst governments, multinational corporations and global organisations. One example was when hygiene service provider Rentokil Initial hired Singapore industrial designers Orcadesign to create this next generation of modern and ergonomic public washroom products. Try them out at the many toilets in Singapore and around the world.


To see more Singapore designs, visit the Fifty Years of Singapore Design exhibition at the National Design Centre. Featuring over 200, iconic, pivotal and popular designs across the variety of disciplines, learn how the growth of Singapore design has propelled the city to become recognised as a UNESCO Creative City of Design in 2015.

This article was first published by the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) on 28 April 2017.


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Singapore’s highest honour for designers and designs across all disciplines
One of Asia’s premier design festivals that champions design thought leadership
National Design Centre