Curatorial contribute


National Design Centre, Singapore


270 sqm


Permanent collection


06/2014 – 03/2015


Pico Art International pte. ltd.
Gallagher & Associates Asia pte. ltd.

Fifty Years of Singapore Design chronicles the development of the Singapore design scene from its early years in the 1960s, through maturity, into the vibrant industry that we see today

As the nation commemorates a momentous five decades of independence, 50 years of Singapore Design looks back to celebrate the history of design in Singapore. Showcasing the works and visions of fifty designers and design studios, this exhibition sought to capture the spirit of Singapore design through the decades.

Deyan Sudjic puts it in The Language of Things, ‘Design is the language that a society uses to create objects that reflect its purposes and values’. Over fifty years, we see a remarkable development of this language in Singapore- we witness a fast-maturing design industry with increasing plurality, growth in quality of thought, execution and appreciation.

Retracing the history & development of design in Singapore is to trace the historical imprints of the country. For the past fifty years, the design industry has developed in tandem with progress of the nation state. In the 1960s and most of 70s, design was fuelling the needs of a rapidly industrialising nation in infancy; in the 1980s, with social and community development, design was no longer the ‘back of house technical support’ but began to be recognised as a profession. The 1990s saw globalisation and the dawn of the digital age which empowered individuals and opened up a myriad of possibilities for the designer; and it was globalisation and Western dominance of the design scene that gradually led to an introspective search for a local or Asian identity. With the turn of the millennium, we see a radical paradigm shift in the design industry. Boundaries are blurred as cross-disciplinary and trans-boundary collaborations became the norm. Today, collaborations and collectives abound, designers as design authors continue their pursuit of good craft and design. As Theseus Chan from WORK says, ‘Good design that is relevant is not restricted in nationality, language, or culture. It cuts across all these and touches people.’

The National Design Centre, home to the DesignSingapore council plays an important role as a confluence of the design scene in Singapore. Suitably located in the arts and cultural district of Singapore, it serves as an excellent venue to invite the public to learn about the chronicles of Singapore design through this interactive exhibition. Perhaps in the process of exploring, one will discover the ‘collective consciousness’ that informs who we are as a nation, and how we are shaping the future through design. As we document the past, we gain perspective to discover new directions in the future.
50 years of Singapore Design provides a platform to showcase good designs in Singapore, opening up doors for business opportunities and future collaborations. Through support of existing and emerging designers, it aims to inspire and to encourage a continued development of the design and cultural scene.

A key curatorial concern is in creating a multi-layered narrative for the visitor. We approach it through defining our collection chronologically, and then developing a “main story” and “side story” framework that branches out into “design collection”, “collection stories”, “timeline of milestones” and “milestones stories”.

Furthermore, in a manner that is highly interactive and accessible, this exhibition aims at the bigger agenda of public engagement. It hopes to ignite in the public, an interest in design by inviting them on an inspiring journey through the history of design in Singapore. We hope the exploration will take the public on greater strides towards the appreciation of quality design and to cultivate an intrinsic understanding of how design can enhance our everyday lives.



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