National Gallery Visit Reflections

The two exhibitions showcased a wide variety of works, in many different forms, sculptural, digital and audio-based etc. In general I felt that the works themselves are answering directly or indirectly to the themes surrounding these trying times. Yet, I feel also that the broader themes of pressing social issues and the ever-increasing pace of city life with its associating impacts are also central to most of what the works speak of.

The pandemic has necessitated reflection, both at the individual and the societal levels. The lockdown has given society an excuse to pause and re-evaluate life, and the government has also identified the few areas of over-reliance on external forces as the small island state navigates through these trying times. Although most of the works on display centered around similar issues like the demise of over-digitisation, hostile architecture, consumerism, capitalism, I do feel that more suggestions of the direction forward would have been welcomed instead. These do not need to be explicitly defined, but metaphorically or methodologically.


Ashley Yeo’s Drop of Light(Pyramid)

Which brings me to the piece that I was quite enamored with. It is Ashley Yeo’s Drop of Light, where she has painstakingly hand-cut a piece of paper into the piece on display. It works perfectly both visually and metaphorically; the act of taking the time, patience and care to create something. As a piece, for me, it is very tangible, there is no ambiguity in how time-consuming the process is, and the end result speaks for itself; there is nothing to hide, the piece is fully ‘naked’ to the spectator, and there is no need to explain much. This is in stark contrast to the many technologies and conveniences of the modern world; fast-food, slimming pills, one-click wonder softwares, ponzi schemes and an ever-growing list.

I find it intriguing that I am always coming back to honoring craftsmanship for ‘solving’ almost any modern day problem(mentally). Fast-paced lifestyle? Work on a craft of your choosing, spend time to study it well. Too impatient for your own good? Pick an arduous process and work through it. Feeling tired from all the ‘noise’? Disconnect, shut yourself out and work on your craft for hours on end.

To put Ashley’s piece in context, there isn’t anything terribly technical or groundbreaking inherent in the piece. But the extraordinariness of it all lies in the patience and care that went into its creation. And that is what we are here to celebrate; the passing of time, in the time-honored fashion way of doing something well and right, no shortcuts.

A little research on Ashley’s background; she is no stranger to handcrafted work. She has produced many pieces similar to the one above, and won many prizes for them as well. She also works with other materials like ceramics, aluminium and wood. In an article interview she also mentioned that her most time consuming piece took her over half a year to complete; a piece measuring about 45cm.

Looking at her piece made me wonder about everything around us, all the different objects we encounter daily, and how much does each of them take to materialise; the HDB flat unit that I live in for example :p , or the fish fillet burger that I adore.

Thoughts on CH 1 from Kim Goodwin, Designing for the Digital Age

Kim’s writing is highly specific to design targeted at digital products/services, but there are certain aspects which I think I beg to differ.

But before I go into that, I would like to highlight one point that I strongly agree on: Design is a craft because it is neither science nor art, but somewhere in between. Case in point, design can be found everywhere, just that it is called different things in different fields. In Science/engineering it could be called methodology, in language semantics etc. Thus design is both science and art and probably everything else all at once.

That said, my preferred approach to design tend to lean towards exploratory and mastery. Through exploration, new ideas and approaches can be derived, systematically or haphazardly. Mastery, can truly ground a practitioner and rediscover new truths about existing approaches. That is my belief, and is the principle I hope to cultivate towards the kind of design I embark on.

Although the article is targeted at designing for the digital age, I think the proposed systematic approach can be both an aid and a crutch at the same time. Citing an overly simplified and inconsequential example, Facebook was originally created with the goal for young boys to check out girls on campus. Now a multi-billion dollar corporation, it has far exceeded its original humble intentions. My point is that digital or otherwise, some amount of serendipity in design could be desirable.

Having a framework as highlighted in the article is necessary, but hardly the whole equation. In practice, such frameworks are hard to realise due to many factors that are not easily controllable. For instance, towards the end of the chapter, “the engineers are not very skilled, or decision-making is dysfunctional in some way…”, isn’t that pretty much 90% of the companies out there that are trying to compete for a slice of the pie. The framework is presented as an idealised version of what can and should be practiced, but in reality most studios really operate in a much more adaptive manner, just to ensure deadlines are met and clients are satisfied.

I think there is some merit to what is being proposed about personas and the benefits of using this as a tool to design a product. But my counter argument would be this is for perhaps a rather narrow set of problems; what personas can one use for designing a fraud detection system for an online auction site, or design control software for an autonomous robot that can used in offworld applications(to do that comprehensively would perhaps entail knowing all the different things it would be used for, hypothetically).

I do feel that the lean (or equally great Toyota’s kaizen) approach, is probably the more suitable approach for a wider set of problems we are trying to solve, and realistically too. To me, it sounds more logically to prototype fast, test, iterate/pivot. The Kaizen approach of continuous improvement is commendable as well; today’s world of fast-food style consumerism is not healthy for creating services/products with long lasting value.


Useful stuff

Wearable tech class materials

Awesome Kobakant links



Actuators (Moving Stuff)

Other misc stuff




Biaural sound

The concept is simple, I am mainly exploring if doing the following causes discomfort to listening:

  • switching the sound from left to right and vice versa
  • blending in of out-of-place sound bites
  • playback audio in reverse

See if you can spot these !