Let a thousand designs bloom
The creative class of Singapore
The choice to open our Asian office in Singapore is backed up by the infrastructure and the social environment that encourages and strengthens a productive ground for the creative industries. It would be hard not to notice how the city-state is shaping fast into the creative hub of the East. This article is a first thank you note for our second home, overseas.
When the 700 square kilometers island-state gained its independence from Britain in 1965, it started building a manufacturing-based economy from scratch. It succeeded beyond expectations, but in the process it somehow neglected the liberal arts and the soft skills potential. However, over the past decade Singapore has been recovering the gap with full steam ahead and with no modest goals.
To make sure this creativity shift has the chance to thrive, the government has given a 250% tax reduction on the money companies spend on design-related products.
Also, the National Arts Council, the DesignSingapore Council and the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts are involved in the process of transforming Singapore into a knowledge-based creative community.
Chia-Richmond, creative director of Singapore's 2011 National Day Parade, is talking about the S$143.4m (€82.9m) the government is spending on the arts. In such weary times, they are planning their future with a clear mind. In the coming years, two new universities (NUS-Yale Liberal Arts College and the University of Technology and Design) will open their doors to a fresh generation of creative students, just to add to the existing dozen of secondary and university level art and design schools.
Recognition for design excellence is going up to the highest level of the government: the President's Design Awards are bestowed every year to the best Singaporean designs and designers.
The enthusiasm for design is catching on all levels. Building a Museum of Modern Design is part of the next plans of establishing Singapore as a leading design metropolis, while the famous red dot design museum is already open for visitors in a renovated 1920's colonial building.
This year, the Singapore Biennale attracted almost 1 million visitors and hosted the works of 63 artists from 30 countries. Singapore Art Museum and the Old School, a center supporting local and independent films, are now the main centers of the artistic frenzy going on. Visual arts are also in the loop of foreign companies. Cartoon Network, in cooperation with the Media Development Authority, will launch Snaptoons—a project to solicit animation pitches from local artists interested in creating original series. Lucasfilm is also building a Star Wars-themed building, called Sandcrawler, that will be inaugurated at the beginning of 2013.
The Design Society is one of the most active associations that are supporting various artistic expressions, with the vision to make Singapore a design-literate society and the cultural capital of Asia. We are happy to have already met some of the young, unassuming but hugely talented and multi-awarded Singaporean designers: Chris Lee from Asylum, Justin Lang from Hjgher and Jackson Tan from Phunk—by coincidence all of them founders of The Design Society and past recipients of the President Design Awards. They are not only friendly to the stranger—we have noticed this as a common trait of Singapore so far—but also open to new experiences and ready to inspire.
The Singaporean authorities are promoting their design community by the book, or better said, by the mag. In collaboration with the aptly named government agency FutureReady Singapore, the design-minded magazines Wallpaper and Monocle have dedicated editions to the “infectious enthusiasm for design” that is now powering the nation. A must read for anyone in the trade of art and design, wherever in the world.
We are looking up to this small giant that is teaching the world how to master both rigor and creativity. More so as Brandient is living now the Eastern fusion. That is, being Eastern European and Eastern Asian.