Why the design scene in Singapore will get worse before getting betterBY STEFANO VIRGILLI
Singapore has always been on the radar for many business setups, be it financial services, shipping, education; name it and it is there. Being the most well connected port in the world, a relatively stable economy, pro-entrepreneur regulations and a rich diaspora, Singapore has managed to to excel in its ventures.
The last decade has seen Singapore trying to make a mark on the design scene. The Ministry of Informations, Communications and the Arts set up the DesignSingapore Council in 2003 as an initiative to promote design in various business and education sectors.
The council’s International Advisory Panel features prominent figures from BMW (Germany), IDK Studio (Japan) and SeymourPowell (U.K.). Also, with the Germany based Red Dot Design Award setting up a creative wing in Singapore, it goes to show the direction that the country is heading into.
Today, even though the design industry receives such support from the government, there seems to be a sense of stagnation, decline even.
A large portion of this can be the decisions corporations make between cost and quality; which tilt towards the former most of the times. A great design is a product of time, research and creativity, both of which cannot be rushed.
However, a lot of corporations these days bypass the two and eventually end up with substandard design. The corporate view on design is marred by what the client, not designer, perceives as design.
So, if such a project was taken up by a freelancer, not only would his creativity be suppressed but also, he merely becomes a puppet to instructions. In the end, neither does the piece have any artistic value or expression nor does it bring much to the table for the client. Even more creative industries, like ad agencies, are not immune to this cost-cutting logic resulting in outsourcing projects to freelancers or design SMEs.
Visual design plays an important role in how a brand is perceived well before the user has direct interaction with the product or service. Look at some of the logos, posters and websites of top notch companies in the world. They are in sync with the rest of the elements of brand making them memorable regardless of their simplicity. These companies understand the effect that non-verbal communication can bring about and have invested both time and money into it.
They understand the importance of retaining long-term vendors, who can deliver different messages using the same branding style, as opposed to switching to cheaper ones that can mess up years of branding strategy.
In these times, non-verbal communication in speech plays a bigger role than the actual words used.
Unfortunately, this concept is often forsaken when dealing with visual communication. Often the emphasis is on text and content rather than outlook and appearance of the marketing material and advertising.
Since the economic recession hit Singapore, the organisational mindset has digressed away from quality work. A good management is being recognised by the profits they make, which is mostly due to the cut in costs and not necessarily by revenue generation.
Most of these cuts in costs are made by hiring an entity that can do the job in a more cost efficient manner. Performance is a key indicator in any marketing team and this is gauged by how less they have spent as opposed to what they have achieved in communication. So, the lower the marketing budget they quote, the more “efficient” they are.
Singaporean corporations need to understand that reaching a plateau during such times is inevitable and they should not lose sight of the bigger picture. Yes, tough times call for tough measures but compromising over quality can cause a serious backlash in the long run.
As how one will never see a speaker discussing wealth to an audience of business people wearing colourful bermudas and slippers, the same way the visual communication of Singapore should be portrayed with pictures, colours and fonts just like the vibrant scene of Singapore.