Massimo Vignelli considers himself an “information architect”, one whose designs are positioned in the centre between progressiveness and conservatism.
“What we do is really structural in presenting information in a way that’s more understandable than any other form. Graphic designers today are changing because of the computer. They all work with a digital technology so they are really switching more and more towards information architecture. If you still want to call it graphic design, that is fine with me.”
I agree that graphic design today has really changed because of the computer and technology. Because graphic design software is so readily available, good graphic designers today seem to be the one who can fulfil the briefs with clarity and beauty. It’s something I aim to do in the future and that I feel can only be cultivated with experience. As I become more accustomed to softwares, I can only imagine my process will get faster; with the fulfilling of more briefs, I hope to achieve the clarity of thought and identity Vignelli so obviously possesses.
The Rise of Corporate Identity
The second article discusses the rising importance of corporate identity. Good design lasts, as shown by how recognisable the brands are in the article.
Undeniably, corporate identity can make or break a brand – having worked in a startup previously, I realised that new companies are often concerned with having an eye-catching logo and slogan. Indeed, in today’s climate where almost every company has that sleek, modern, unified brand identity, it becomes very easy to identify older brands that have not gone through revamps. Even NTU had its own logo revamped, with a more modern sans serif font replacing the older serif font. I think websites such as https://www.designcrowd.com.sg reinforce this idea, with the sheer number of open jobs, and the sheer number of responses that come in for each job.
In this sense, I feel rather stressed about about my future as a graphic designer, because I’d really have to come up with great ideas for brands to adopt them as their identity with the seemingly saturated market today. Nevertheless, I am hopeful!
For our final creative response, we were tasked with creating a piece inspired by the Bauhaus, exploring the relationship between shapes and colours. Wassily Kadinsky believed that circles should be blue, squares should be red and that triangles should be yellow. From the survey in class, many of my classmates agreed with this; I did not at first instinctively (I thought triangles would be red), but after the discussion and explanation of Kadinsky’s thoughts, I agreed with his logic.
In between the week from when we were given the task and the week it was due, I was in Vietnam for the Asian British Parliamentary Debating Championships. Being in another country enabled me to get a new perspective on Singaporean culture.
One feature that struck me was how little people used their phones in Vietnam. In fact, I barely looked at my phone for the whole of the trip, only using my laptop during the small pockets of time I got at night to do my assignments. More than that, I felt like I didn’t miss using this technology – in Singapore, I would take frequent phone breaks – on the walk between classes, to classes, from classes back to my room in student housing. I felt that it was a Singaporean thing to use our gadgets so much on our commutes and look like you’re texting someone, or watching something, or listening to something, because I had the comparative of hardly ever seeing people using their phones on commutes/out in public in Vietnam.
It might be because of Singapore’s nature as a first world country and the constant need to be be contactable and be on top of work assignments and group assignments, but I really felt that the Vietnamese did not function that way in developing Vietnam. I saw way more non-smartphones (phones with actual buttons to press for numbers, not touchscreens) in Vietnam than I thought I would, and realised how rarely we see that in Singapore – it’s the norm to have a smartphone, and to use it all day long. In this way, I feel that Singaporeans are really tied to their electronic devices.
I made a mindmap to have some elements to focus on (above). I eventually decided to focus on circuitry and circuit boards as they were immediately representative of electronics and technology.
This piece explores the concept of Singaporeans being very tied to their technology. I used this circuit board as inspiration, making “lines” out of smaller squares. I felt that they give the piece a tribal feel, which I enjoy for its oxymoronic quality as technology is such a new invention. I feel that the work is kept contemporary with its minimalistic outlook, though – much of the green background (to mimic the circuit board background) can be seen, and the geometric elements do not overpower it.
Prompt B: Create an A3 poster comprised of typography and image using a collage technique; consider using an element of chance. Consider how this could be related to Singaporean culture.
“Lobang”: a Singlish term originating from Malay, meaning a good deal/discount/opportunity/promotion. Singaporeans love many things: the most important (arguably) of which are 1) lobangs, 2) queuing, and 3) queuing for lobangs.
We have a treasure trove of lobangs in all the Facebook groups, threads, and telegram chats that I’m not ashamed to say I’ve joined. Lobangs, galore!
We even have an NTU Free Food lobang group! In this house, we love free food lobangs the most.
Having witnessed and partaken in this lobang culture all my life here in Singapore, it was natural for me to center my piece around this theme.
I started by gathering lobangs (in coupon form) from the newspapers, magazines, and brochures I found around the house over the course of a few days.
I then proceeded to cut individual bits up: sometimes tearing by hand, but mostly using a pair of scissors. Apart from the obviously lobang coupons, I also cut up some phrases like “sale”, “discount”, “20% off” as they alluded to lobangs as well.
The mess left behind!
I then gathered my pieces into a giant bowl, to pick randomly out of later.
Next, I had to arrange them onto the A3 paper. To do this, I threw a string onto the paper and traced where the string had landed, to arrange the pieces along the traced line.
Then, I mixed up the bowl and picked pieces from it with my eyes closed, to arrange along the traced line.
The result after “tracing over” the line with my randomly picked pieces!:
It looked too bare to me, so I dumped out all the pieces on the floor and filled in the background with lobang pieces I thought would fit, trying to fit them in to the best of my ability.
These were some of my favourite lobang coupons, but I didn’t manage to fit them in due to the lack of space, sadly. They’re still so pretty, though!
The finished product!
The lobang culture is strong in this one. In Singapore, we love good deals, discounts, promotions and free things, all of which fall under the category, “Lobangs”. My Dada poster is an ode to lobangs, with coupons and phrases relating to Lobangs that I’ve collected for myself and my family. The elements of chance came into play in two instances in my process:
When I threw a piece of string down onto the paper to trace and use as a guide to arrange my initial pieces over
The picking of lobangs from my giant bowl with my eyes closed, randomly
I was inspired by Dada collage artists such as John Heartfield:
Dadafox, 1919 collage by John Heartfield and George Grosz
I feel that the chaotic arrangement echoes all the lobangs around me on a daily basis – I get notifications from Facebook, Telegram, and I always scour the newspaper for them, too (I’ve gotten numerous samples from beauty counters this way). I’m pretty happy with the variety of fonts and types of lobangs (food, electronics, clothes etc) reflected here. It was a fun piece to think about and do!
I made a few rebuses. The above’s my favourite one because it integrates both pictograms used into a unified landscape, but I like the ones below too (I tried naming some of them, haha) Please expand this post in a new tab!
To chop off your hair
How to deflate a ball
Congratulations, you’ve given birth
Barn by lastspark from the Noun Project. (2018). The Noun Project. [online] Available at: https://thenounproject.com/search/?q=barn&i=1105541 [Accessed 24 Aug. 2018].
Barn by lastspark from the Noun Project. (2018). The Noun Project. [online] Available at: https://thenounproject.com/term/barn/1153269/ [Accessed 24 Aug. 2018].
For my zine, I decided to focus on an aspect of my site I mentioned in my presentation – the bizarre juxtapositions that I could find upon closer inspection of the organization in Mustafa. Although there is an overarching organization to the items, some items don’t “go” together, making for an organized mess. My response to this, was then to create my own categories for these organized messes.
I started by looking at some of the weird juxtapositions.
Lighters next to whiteboard markers
Hair accessories next to passport covers
Olive oil next to walking canes
Cereals above fresh fruit
Umbrellas below guitars
Diapers next to Thermoskins
From these, I tried to brainstorm how they could go together. Initially I went with a family theme (Mustafa for the Family) for my spread:
Young kids: Nutritious breakfast (Watermelon + Cereal)
Teenagers: Make your own guitars with umbrellas! (Umbrellas below guitars)
Mom: Support your back as you change the diapers (Diapers next to Thermoskins)
Dad: Escape away from the stress of home with a fashionable passport! (To dress up your passport… Hair accessories next to passport covers)
Grandpa: Make walking fun (Olive oil next to walking canes)
I was initially thinking of having each A5 page be a representation of each of the family members above. After consulting with Joy, I realized that this was too ambitious and just too much visually, and Joy advised me to try going for three A4 spreads instead. This was actually a really pivotal moment because it allowed me to narrow in on the concepts I liked best and could explore deeply.
I zeroed in on the cereals above 1) fresh fruit (honey stars over watermelon, specifically), 2) lighters next to whiteboard markers, and 3) olive oil next to walking canes. My categories for them were 1) Dessert or Breakfast? A fun meal with minimal cutlery needed 2) Study on your birthday and 3) Make walking fun.
I went back to Mustafa and collected more reference images to manipulate.
The journey of each spread:
Spread 1: A nutritious breakfast
I referenced the Honey Stars packaging for the cereal and splashes of milk, as well as the below photograph of a watermelon’s inside. I used my own photographs for the watermelon itself, as well as the background (Mustafa’s floor at that section).
Feedback from consultation:
Could make milk red-tinged
Sense of gravity needs to be stronger, perspective needs to be clear
Make a watermelon bowl?
Process: I decided to not quite literally put honey stars in a watermelon, but imply it with a bowl that looks like a watermelon. I felt like this would go with the whole Surrealistic feel of the zine, because then it wouldn’t be so immediately obvious what I was doing. Also, it would solve the issues I had with perspective.
For the background, I decided to use the barcode on the watermelon instead of the floor because it might not be clear to viewers’ that I was using Mustafa’s floor – it just looked like any other floor in the previous composition.
I also overlaid the bowl with the watermelon textures from the photographs I took.
Feedback from consultation:
Looks a lot better than the previous spread
Shadow on the background needs to be obvious
Barcode could be incorporated in other ways, like on the cereal itself
I agreed that the barcode could be incorporated in other ways, because the bowl looked like it was floating in mid air. Joy raised the question of what was so special about the barcode sticker, and I mentioned that the sticker had the Mustafa logo on it. She then suggested using the Mustafa logo for my candle spread, and I really liked that idea of using the Mustafa logo. Therefore, I considered the background more carefully for my final spread and used the logo as part of the tablecloth.
I took a closer look at the Mustafa logo and tessellated it. I then manipulated a lace tablecloth to look like the tessellated Mustafa logo.
Furthermore, as I wanted the barcodes to be a unifying factor throughout my zine, I incorporated it into my honey stars as well. I felt like this added an additional layer of meaning because with the Mustafa barcode, they would now be uniquely Mustafa honey stars, instead of cereal bought at any other store, giving the work more context.
I also made sure to add the shadows I missed out for the previous versions of the spread.
Spread 2: Study hard on your birthday!
Process: I used the below stock image from Pexels for the base cake, and used the Mustafa markers as candles as well. The flames on the candle were from another Mustafa product (also below) – I used that because I thought that if markers burned, they would probably burn with a weird colored flame because of all the chemicals inside.
I thought about how it could be like if the candles burned, and came up with my own version of the smoke, consisting of the Japanese letters from the back of the lighter packaging because Japanese letters have a very abstract quality.
The background was a blowup of the barcode on the markers, with the opacity lowered.
Balance the left with more candles because it is off-balance
Not obvious that it is cake – use a better cake image
I completely agreed with the feedback on the use of the cake image. Therefore, I went back to Mustafa and took photographs of the cakes at Mustafa’s bakery, that I used for my final spread.
Moreover, the feedback on balance got me to come up with the idea of having the zine be progressively messier with more and more off-balanced spreads. This would tie in to my own experience – Mustafa seemed to get more chaotic the longer I stayed there, not only because I was noticing the messiness in the order, but also because of the external stimuli (the feeling of overwhelmingness). This is why my final zine, from the front cover to the back cover, get messier by the spread.
Finally, I made the cake topper with Mustafa’s logo, using the below stock photo as reference for the stick.
I initially faced some difficulty using the image as a brush on Illustrator, but I eventually figured it out! 🙂
Spread 3: Make walking fun
Two variations of my first spread:
I noticed that the highlights on the photographs I took of the olive oil bottles looked really organic. I decided to manipulate them into the oil stains on the floor (hence “taking” from the site more, because the reflections would be those cast upon the bottle by Mustafa’s lighting).
I masked around the highlights, and clone stamped over them with an olive oil section cropped from another photo. The floor the olive oil is photoshopped onto is Mustafa’s floor at that section!
Feedback from consultation:
Integrate the stains with the floor more; could spill into cracks
Cane could interact with floor
Lighting needs to be fixed, cane can’t really be seen
Make splats look more realistic
Process: Because I got markedly better results by staging my own set-up with my watermelon spread, I decided to do the same for this one. I splashed olive oil over a white tile and overlaid it over a composition that showed the cane more clearly and had better lighting than the previous version.
I was inspired by Jackson Pollock by this piece, and tried to have my oil splatters resemble his drip paintings as much as possible by using quick, vigorous strokes.
Feedback from critique: This was the weakest spread – more could have been done to bring out the quirkiness. In all honesty, I agree, I would’ve liked to spend more time on this spread and formed images with the splatters as well. I think I spent too much time trying to make the splats look realistic instead of doing something more with them.
Spread 3: Front and Back cover
I used actual Mustafa receipts for the front and back cover.
The back cover is more glitched up than the back cover to go with how my spreads get messier and messier, ultimately ending in the messiest back cover.
Mustafa Visits: In the search for the Unique Selling Point
Before visiting the site, I conducted some secondary research on Mustafa:
24 hour shopping mall
22 years old; opened in April 1995
Located in Syed Alwi Road, Little India
37,000 m2 retail floor area
Over 300,000 items sold
On the 2nd of March, I walked to Mustafa from Farrer Park MRT, entering via Entrance 3. One thing I immediately noticed was how crowded the streets and mall were. This was probably because it was Friday evening, one of the peak timings, as I would later come to find out.
The mall is surrounded by Indian restaurants, which makes sense because the mall is located in Little India.
At the entrance, there was a small monitor showing the occupancy to warn shoppers when it’s unsafe to enter. At that time, the occupancy (probably an average, for a certain amount of space) was 259, with the maximum load being 431.
Upon entering, I saw the pharmacy section. Upon seeing all the overwhelmingly numerous different types of medicines sold, I decided to note down the broader categories of products sold instead of being more specific, like noting down pharmacy instead of cough medicine, ointments etc.
Unusual products? In my quest to note down the different products sold, I noticed some rather unusual products being sold, most of them being of the food variety.
Interviews I conducted interviews with two employees. First, I interviewed Jasbee Kaur from the sunglasses section.
As I did not have a unique selling point yet, I just asked some general questions.
Q: How long have you been working here? A: From 2000 till now.
Q: How familiar are you with the place? A: I know all the places, so I’d say pretty familiar.
Q: How’s it like working at Mustafa? A: I like it! The boss is nice. There is no target I need to fulfill, no nothing. For every 100 customers, 95% are okay. Most of them are tourists from India and Bangladesh.
Q: What are some pros and cons, or pet peeves? A: A pro is that all items can be found. But there are no seating places and baby fitting places. Some new staff might point customers the wrong way.
Q: When are the busiest times? A: Friday, Saturday and Sunday, from about 11.30 am to 7 or 8 pm. On public holidays it goes up to about 10 pm.
Here’s my second interview!
Continuing on, I realized that I started to get more and more overwhelmed. Mustafa is very visually tiring on the eyes after a while, with really tall shelves and bright, saturated colors. My eyes started getting really fatigued from the repeated patterns in the shelving. Even though it was organized in a way, there was a lot of cramming into spaces that didn’t really seem big enough.
I also started getting very, very lost. Thankfully, the signs pointed me to different sections.
Inside the mall, there was also a bakery. Here, I sampled the spinach pizza. It was pretty salty and I didn’t particularly enjoy it (probably because it was cold and slightly hard), but it was definitely not terrible. I could see someone really craving pizza coming here for pizza at 2 or 3 am.
Visuals Architecture Very geometric shapes, with both strong straight lines (for example, rows of items) and curved lines (from circular “hole” in the middle surrounding which floors are arranged – see below).
Really bright and saturated! They are also repeated in recurring patterns.
Leaving the mall, I tracked the number of people passing through different entrances per minute, as well as the racial profile, as I noticed that there seemed to be more Indians in the mall than other races.
Walking along the other side of Mustafa, I also noticed how there was in-house restaurant. Here, I sampled the tater tots. Again, it was pretty salty. However, it was still an improvement over the pizza from earlier because it was hot.
After the visit, I found some unique qualities about Mustafa.
1) It sells some really weird and unique items, that you wouldn’t think would be sold under one roof, or could even be found in Singapore. Most of them are of the food variety. I considered analyzing the weirdest food items I’ve seen there and maybe do a review of them as well.
2) How it is a one-stop place for literally anything you could need at any random time of the day. I thought that this could be translated into an infographic with a clock, and showing what you might need at different times of the day can be found where specifically at Mustafa.
3) It sells a huge variety (brand-wise) of certain items, like rice and spices (see below for rice varieties).
4) It’s method of organization seems to make sense, but also can be really bizarre. The items are arranged in a sort of nonsensical way, like for example there’ll be cereals over fresh fruit.
After the discussion with Joy, I narrowed down my Unique Selling Point to Mustafa being an organized mess. My task would then be to find out how people react to this mess, shoppers and staff alike.
Visit Two: Unique Selling Point identified. On to further research! How do people react to the organized mess?
Going into Mustafa this time, I had a much clearer idea of what I was looking for. I came up with a set of questions beforehand.
Questions for staff: 1. How did you make sense of the place? 2. How long did it take you to make sense of the place? 3. How organized/messy do you find Mustafa on a scale of 1-10? 4. What are the most busy times? When are the least busy times?
Questions for seasoned shoppers: 1. Profile: Age, gender, how long have you been shopping at Mustafa? 2. What do you come to Mustafa to buy? 3. How do you navigate? (Stairs, escalators, lifts?) (Start from bottom floors upward? Which sections do you visit first?) 4. How long does it take you to navigate? Do you spend more time navigating or shopping? 5. How did you make sense of the place? How long did it take you? 6. How long do you spend here? How much do you spend usually? 7. How organized/messy do you find Mustafa on a scale of 1-10? 8. What would be the best strategy for a new shopper?
Questions for newbie shoppers: 1. Profile: Age, gender, how long have you been shopping at Mustafa? 2. What do you come to Mustafa to buy? 3. How do you navigate? (Stairs, escalators, lifts?) (Start from bottom floors upward? Which sections do you visit first?) 4. How long does it take you to navigate? Do you spend more time navigating or shopping? 5. How long have you been here? 6. How organized/messy do you find Mustafa on a scale of 1-10?
Below is an interview I managed to record with the help of a friend.
I also did field ethnography in that I shadowed my mom as she shopped. I wanted to play this video during my presentation but technical difficulties arose, sadly! I initially tried shadowing a random shopper on one of my earlier trips, but they noticed me and told me to stop following them so I decided to just accompany my mom on one of her shopping trips. She is a seasoned shopper. I’d previously accompanied her for short trips, but never had really analyzed how she navigated through Mustafa. This below video does that.
Staff behavior to mess
I also walked around trying to observe the staff’s behavior towards mess and captured this video of a staff conscientiously picking misplaced items out of a pile during the peak hours.
The above videos illustrate some research I didn’t manage to cover during my presentation. My presentation can be found below (it also covers some other research methods I did not talk about in this post, cause it’s already on the slides)! I organized my slides according to the unique selling point, the organized mess, hence splitting the presentation into two parts: the “organized” and the “messy” aspects. I also summarized the results of my interviews with 10 employees, 10 newbie shoppers and 10 seasoned shoppers, and explored other sensory and physical impacts.
I wanted to show both the good and bad sides of a job – even though jobs may look fun on the surface, they often come with their own difficulties. When I was brainstorming for my four jobs at first, I looked at jobs I actually want to do after graduation. So in a sense, this project was my own weighing of the jobs against each other for myself.
I do this through a layered experience – with each of my four jobs, separate sections reveal the additional layer of meaning. This mirrors the whole surface level/deeper level concept I’ve got going on.
I had a lot of trouble coordinating the colors across all four compositions, so I decided to adopt the color scheme of Oliver Jeffers. in particular, this work.
I extracted the colors and textures out from that piece, and made my color moodboard.
I really enjoy the contrasting textures – I think it makes the work interesting to look at and was something I wanted to emulate. I used a variety of mediums, with watercolor, acrylic, color pencil and even printing out textures (for the flight attendant piece).
Here are some previous color schemes I did digitally, before I thought of using a unifying color scheme.
Job 1: SIA Flight attendant
For this work, the good side of being a flight attendant is that you get to travel. I tried to show that in the first composition with the airplane jetting off. However, with this jetting off, you come to miss family occasions as well. I decided to depict this drawback after reading accounts by former SIA hostesses: https://mothership.sg/2015/05/27-hard-truths-about-the-life-of-an-air-stewardess-according-to-a-former-spore-girl/ (Number 6 talks about missing important occasions because you are overseas.) The two compositions are unified by the use of the kebaya pattern on SIA stewardesses’ uniforms, as well as the airplane.
Use of letterforms:
I used the rounded letterform of the lowercase b to my advantage to manipulate the sister (in orange) into a b shape.
An uppercase A is implied with the mom and dad. The empty chair contains letters L and A.
Hence, in this composition, I treated the uppercase A as both a curvy shape for the parents, as well as a sharp, angular form for the chair.
The tinsel (to indicate an occasion, possibly Christmas) spell out bala in cursive. Here, I treat the lowercase letters as round forms.
I matched the land in the earth shape to shape with the underneath letterforms with tracing paper. The layers, hence, reflect each other.
Initially, I did not think of using the tinsel to form letters, but Joy alerted me to this possibility. Also, I did not think of manipulating the girl to form a lowercase b, but that possibility also came up during consultations. Here are my sketches!
I also did a digital mockup:
Improvements after critique:
More could have been done with the airplane and the smoke!
The smoke could have formed a more obvious lowercase L. Right now, it forms a cursive lowercase L upside down, but it is not very clear.
Job 2: Sushi chef
For this work, I wanted to show how although being a sushi chef might be glamorous with very aesthetically pleasing sushis (I tried to make the sushi as “good-looking” as I could), being a chef is actually very hard because you have to power through your fatigue, which could result in cuts and accidents. I got this con from https://www.apnaahangout.com/pros-cons-chef/, specifically con number three. It’s also reflected in Masterchef episodes where the chefs do injure themselves quite often. I thought that this could happen with sushi chefs because sushi knives are so big and sharp.
Use of letterforms:
A lot of this work plays with the transition from uppercase to lowercase, and vice versa. For this, I looked closely at the letterforms as shapes.
In the “good” composition, there is an A in the sushi plate on the top right. This sushi then becomes a lowercase ‘a’ with the blood in the second composition.
In the same platter, a lowercase ‘b’ becomes an uppercase ‘B’ with the addition of blood, again. Here, we see a transition from lowercase to uppercase, compared to previously where there was a transition from uppercase to lowercase.
In the sushi platter to the right, the lowercase to uppercase pattern is repeated with the smallercase ‘a’ becoming an uppercase ‘A’ with the addition of blood.
I capitalized on the angular nature of the ‘A’ and ‘L’ letterforms by manipulating them into cuts onto the chef’s wrists.
I capitalized on the rounded nature of the ‘B’ letterform with the cross-section of a salmon fish.
An uppercase ‘L’ is formed in the sushi plate to the left.
I used the edge of a sushi knife to make an angular uppercase ‘L’ with blood in the ‘con’ composition.
A lot of my sketches dealt with the placement of the sushis, how to manipulate the sushis, and getting the perspective correct.
I did a digital mockup for this as well:
Job 3: Homemaker
For this piece, I wanted to show how being a homemaker might seem like a cushioney job, just taking care of the kids and cleaning the house. However, when my mom was a homemaker, she had to handle a lot of stuff; cleaning isn’t as easy as it looks!
Use of letterforms
Lowercase ‘a’ in washing machine handle
I looked at ‘A’ as being very imposing and grounded with the wider base, and used it as the central mom figure to give a strong centre of focus to the piece.
I manipulated the arms of the mom to cradle the babies with a lowercase ‘b’ and an uppercase ‘L’.
An angular uppercase ‘L’ is formed with the right angles of the stove.
An uppercase ‘A’ is formed with the ironing board stand, capitalizing on its angular nature.
An important insight I gained from consult was that I could manipulate the arms to form the lowercase ‘b’ and uppercase ‘L’, whilst previously I hadn’t in my earlier sketches. I used a lot of tracing paper for this work because I had to make sure the appliances in the background for the ‘con’ composition fit exactly with the existing composition underneath.
Job 4: Singer
For this piece, I thought about how the privacy of singers is constantly invaded. Paparrazzi invade their private spaces and experiences and scrutinize them for the world to see. Personally, I wouldn’t be able to handle all of that, and wanted to bring light to this issue.
The interactive element works like this: The CD (containing B and A in the soundwave alphabet) would be slotted out of the album cover (containing L and A), forming BALA when extended. The CD can then be detached, and the flap behind turned over, to form a magnifying glass which then would be passed over the back of the same A4 piece of paper.
First, I looked at the word associations from earlier, and decided to incorporate the sound alphabet in my work. However, the soundwave alphabets I found were too complicated and unclear, so I simplified it and made my own, referencing the ones I found online.
I then traced the outline of this silhouette, to fit the items of a household around.
Letterforms can be seen within these household items themselves. I was having a lot of trouble fitting them around the silhouette, but Joy gave me the idea to use clothes and other little messes to round the forms out, because that essentially mirrors what the media does to singers – pick at all their flaws, even how clean they keep their houses.
Word associations for brainstorming, and other initial ideas
Have two groups of an interviewer and a model each: Yueling (model) and Bala (interviewer), and Farzana (model) and Felicia (interviewer)
The interviewers would go out on the streets and have members of the public curate outfits from the five categories: tops, bottoms, dresses, shoes, and accessories for the model, whom the member of the public gets to see via Facebook Live so that they can pick the outfits out for them specifically.
They curate these outfits based off vague keywords, like black, cat, and PJs, that the interviewer shows them on a piece of paper. The model notes down this combination.
As an interviewer, we agreed on interviewing at least two people from two different districts. I ended up interviewing 6 people – three from Sim Lim Square, and three from Bugis street. The locations were deliberately chosen for their different demographics. Somehow, they all ended up being in the central location, making it a battle of the locations in Central Singapore. To extend on this project, we could have gone to locations in the east, west, north and south of Singapore – that could have been a fun battle as well. Apart from mirroring the unpredictable nature of online shopping, our project also reveals differences in culture and identity. We interviewed people from different locations, as well as age, ethnicity, and gender. There were older, ‘geekier’ people at Sim Lim Square where I interviewed, and Felicia interviewed younger, more ‘trendy’ people at LASALLE and SMU. All of this variety made our end results totally unexpected.
Initially, we wanted to have the model put on the outfit at the other end so that the stranger would be able to see the mystery outfit they had created and rate it (like how an online shopper might leave a review). However, Yueling and I decided this wasn’t going to work out, because there was really long awkward silence with the first man I interviewed when she was changing at the back, and decided to scrap this idea. This was an example of an unexpected element that arose during the on-site performance.
Another unexpected element that arose was that people were really taking it seriously to put together a stylish outfit. We thought that with the vague keywords that we gave them (akin to online shopping, where clothes are often described with vague keywords and end up not really looking like how we expect them to be in the photos), that they would just take it as a fun experiment and put together very wacky combinations, but they actually kept asking for so many more details! I explained to them that the descriptors were supposed to be vague, but they still tried to curate a more put-together outfit instead of the whackier outcome we expected.
Apart from paralleling online shopping, this project was also influenced by Blast Theory’s principles of integrating the virtual and the real world together, through specifically using Facebook Live and Instagram. Perhaps Felicia and I were the interviewers as we had done precisely this, interviewing people on the street, for our previous Tele-Stroll project. On top of engaging a physical audience, we engaged the virtual audience through our Instagram polls on our instagram page where they voted for their favorite outfits, ultimately resulting in Farz being the winner. In doing so, we empowered the people on the street to be designers, and gave power to the virtual audience in deciding the ultimate, most fashionable outfit as well. Both audiences were a sizeable number, perhaps the virtual audience more so (at over a hundred followers!) because they could vote at their convenience, as opposed to the people on the street who could have been in a rush and might not have been as willing to participate.
We also drew inspiration from collaborative works such as Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece, where the audience is given full control of the outcome. Therefore, our project was innately social in that we could not have gotten the outcome without the participation of the people on the street. In fact, we were more of the bystanders in this project – every aspect was decided by the audience, except for small details such as the locations the models shot their outfits in (to be posted on Instagram) in, and the aesthetic of the Instagram curated by Felicia.
To conclude, our outcome revealed interesting differences between demographics (the older demographic preferred brighter colors, whilst our younger demographic preferred monochrome, more “chic” colors). We designed an interactive experience through the use of Facebook Live where our audience and model could see each other, along with a mediator in the interviewer. Lastly, we involved our audience both in real life (interviewing them on the street) as well as online, with the voting.