Singapore Design Festival


Well its the end of the the inaugural Singapore Design Festival, that ran from from 9 to 23 November 2005. I must say a great back slapping “well done” and a round of applause for the team at Design Singapore who manage to pull it all together.
Like most of the design festivals I have visited, the satellite exhibitions were the best. Some of our favourites were at the Ann Siang Hill area, they included Asylum and Style: Nordic. However one of the main exhibition features at Ann Siang Hill are the really nice and well preserved Peranakan Shop Houses. I have a strong feeling that that area is going to become one of the creative centers of singapore. My dream is one day have a design studio in one of those wonderful shop houses.
The 20:20 exhibition showcasing the latest design talents at the spanking new National Library of Singapore, as well as the new Red-Dot Concept Award at the Red-Dot Museum were all great exhibitions housed in really interesting Architecture.
However what was disappointing were the two main events. The International Design Forum 2005 and Design Edge.

The IDF 2005 focused on driving business growth by design. But what it degenerated into was a platform for design consultancies to show off their portfolios in the hope that local clients would bite. Annoying particularly because you paid SDG$ 800 per person (early bird group discount) of cold hard cash to attend this forum, when you could easily invite said consultancies to visit you and do their marketing pitch for free. Of cause there were some gems like: Ravi Sawhney’s “Design – What every business needs” Link to slides, and one of my favs Dick Powell from Seymour Powell on : “Better by Design”.
But in general the design consultancies were pretty boring, with nothing new to show. Even IDEO was just a tired showcase of products you could have easily seen on their website, the worst was by far the design consultancy from india.
Essentially if you took a helicopter view most of the design consultancies on show that day all took similar approaches in design methodology, they just called it in different names, and all focused on creating and communicating that “Big Idea or Concept”.
I think most Singaporean businesses or design related organisations at that conference are mature enough or already know the value and the need for design in a business context. (Thanks to in no small part to the efforts of the DSG!) They just dont need it being told to them over and over again. What we needed more that day were presentations from companies that have used strategic design sucessfully and how they want about doing it. What we needed were more of the kick ass presentations done by Nike and Virgin.
What we had were vague keywords, implacating the said design consultancies, and hinting that to know more we should have a chat. I left that day feeling like i just ate a bad hokkien mee. Full, slightly sick, but generally unsatisfied.

On now to the next big event. Organised by the famed IdN magazine, this expo was ment as a show case of designs and designers taking their art to the edge and back.
For $35 bucks what we got was a half empty hall, occupied by mainly seats, and small pavallions showing graphic works from many invited artists. Nothing again you could not find on the internet, or seen before. There was no free tote bag, nor booklet, sticker or toy for that $35 entry fee, mind you its for a single day pass! I find this cost pretty prohibitive to only the dedicated and interested.

In typical IdN style we had mainly toys, and more toys, street ware and graphic works. Not to mentioned the strategically placed (at the exit) IdN shopping booth.
I left the show feeling a little jaded. The IdN booth which was bustling and made me feel this was more of a sales event to flog IdN products, and the high entry fee was to cover the rental of the suntech location.
At least I manage to pick up a cool stikfas toy thanks to my buddy banyJ!
So what do you guys think of the festival?

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