PRESENTING LAST YEAR’S EXHIBITION OF THE SAME NAME HELD AT THE NATIONAL DESIGN CENTRE BY THE DESIGNSINGAPORE COUNCIL IN BOOK FORMAT, ‘FIFTY YEARS OF SINGAPORE DESIGN’ BREAKS THE NATION’S DESIGN HISTORY DOWN INTO A TIMELINE OF IMAGERY AND TEXT, TRACING THE STORY OF HOW ONE NATION-STATE HAS GROWN INTO A GLOBAL CREATIVE CITY.
‘Fifty Years of Singapore Design’ breaks the nation’s design history down into a timeline of five eras spanning some three hundred pages and, from ‘Building a Nation,’ ‘Economic Boom,’ and ‘New Technologies’ to ‘Going Global’ and lastly ‘Looking Back, Looking Forward,’ the contents follow the ways in which creativity turned artifacts developed by individuals have come together and encouraged a collective sense of innovation that spans both disciplines and decades.
As mentioned in the text, 50 years is not really all that long, and it is without doubt that Singapore design has in many ways, become a form of a brand in and of itself that has gained wide-ranging global recognition. With the stories included here reflecting how one thing led to another, from the Industrial Research Unit established in the nation-state’s first years aimed at “assisting the manufacture of quality products which are indigenous, attractive, and well-designed” to the government’s shift of focus by the end of its first decade to an economy driven by quantity rather than quality, a proliferation of options in terms of design education, and Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s stated goal to define ‘made in Singapore’ as designating a product of good design, it seems unsurprising that this story has played out as it has. The text and exhibition therefore offers not only a cataloging of noteworthy works of design, but also the ways in which the discipline can play not only an important role in the bettering of our everyday lives, but also the branding of a nation and the development of a culture and a way of life in Singapore, as described here, “a creative city of the world.”