Hanson Ho – Assignment 1: Creative Industry Report

(Photo Credit: Caleb Ming / Surround)

Hanson Ho is the Creative Director of H55 studio based in Singapore. He is also a two-time recipient of the President’s Design Award which is Singapore’s most prestigious award for designers across all disciplines. What attracted me to his design works is his ability to express complex content and processes in basic, and meaningful forms.

(H55 Retrospective Exhibition: Shapes (1-15) )

I got to know about him after his retrospective exhibition in 2015. Most designers choose to display their proudest works in their retrospective exhibition but Hanson Ho chose to display simple shapes that represented the fundamentals of his practice. This bold move was an indication of the thought process behind the curation of the exhibition. He mentioned during an interview with Design Society that the reason for doing so is because he did not want to do a mere show-and-tell but to present his works in a brand new perspective.

Hanson Ho’s design philosophy is designing something that is relevant to his intentions of a project. His design style is simple and minimal. In the early years, when design was not well established in Singapore, his works were not well received due to his modern approach. However, he preserved and stand by his design philosophy. Today, many clients come up to him asking for designs with as little elements as possible.

(Design Works by Hanson Ho)

At first glance, his works do not stand out visually but they are able to captivate the audience with the significance and meaning behind his works. This really stood out to me and got me reflecting on my own design process and works. Sometimes, as designers, we complicate our works with texture and details because we want to showcase the skillsets that we possess.

Hanson’s work shows us that design can be as simple as lines or dots, but as long as we give it meaning, it can be a purposeful design. His designs amplify the meaning of the phrase “Less is more”.


Zhuang, J. (2015, December 09). One Graphic Designer Challenges Viewers By Not Showing Any Work at His Retrospective. Retrieved October 08, 2020, from https://eyeondesign.aiga.org/one-graphic-designer-challenges-viewers-by-not-showing-any-work-at-his-retrospective/

Ho, H. (n.d.). All Projects. Retrieved October 08, 2020, from http://www.h55studio.com/work/all-projects/

Reflection – “Word By Word We Build Overselves” by Hanson Ho

Parameters, System, Efficiency

I agree with Hanson’s view on building a system that consists of parameters to bring about efficiency to a large extent. “Efficiency is achieved through good project management that identifies as many project parameters.” In order to identify the constraints of a project, one has to fully understand and do in-depth research before embarking on the project itself. This helps the designer to set clear outlines and distinctive goals. Sometimes, designers (myself included) just jump right into ideation and try to experiment with crazy and out of the world ideas. However, often, due to practical reasons, there are always constraints that exist like limited budget, lack of technological expertise, and manpower shortage. If these constraints were identified and clearly communicated at the start of the project, we will not have to go around in circles and restart from the ideation stage when we realize we are not able to proceed with our design.

Constraints are rules and regulations that must be maintained throughout the project which will help us to grow ultimately. Hanson mentioned that “True creativity is not about heaving mere artistic free down, but about producing good work in spite of limitations and challenges.” When we face constraints and limitations in our work, we are forced out of our comfort zone and think out of the box. We will face mental blocks, and we will face unreasonable clients, but at the end of the day, when we overcome these challenges, we know we have grown as a designer.

If we are looking from a user’s point of view, constraints may create a more positive user experience too. When users are “constrained”, their options become limited and they are compelled to do things in a certain manner. When users are restricted, they may be able to make a decision and reach their end goal more efficiently. E.g. – If I want to buy sweets from a shop and assuming that I do not have any existing knowledge of the variety of brands available, I will end up comparing the prices and other factors to decide which is the most value for money option. As opposed to a shop that only offers 2 brands, I will be able to make my decision more effectively and efficiently. However, some may argue that we need to cater to a wide range of consumers by offering many options to bring in sales. Ultimately, it’s about finding the right balance between constraints and freedom. As Dieter Rams would say, “Less but better”.

POV Statement – Group 2

Group Members: Alicia, Fatin, Jun Hao, Gladys

Independent adults that are born without their sense of sight need a way to obtain exact measurements of volume as it helps them with their daily house chores and prevents them from scalding their hands when measuring hot liquids.

Reflection – “The Infra-ordinary” by Georges Perec

In this article, Georges Perec brought up three types of “ordinary” The extra-ordinary, the ordinary, and the infra-ordinary.

For some reason, humans beings are captivated by the extra-ordinary, the fascinating events in life. The clickbait headlines capture our attention easily. We are curious about scandals of celebrities that we do know personally, we are curious about the tragic accident that happened across the world, and most of the time, these events don’t even concern us. I must say that Perec’s take on the newspaper is one of a kind, as he finds the newspaper to be useless. Whereas most people find it important to read the news as it makes us well informed and aware of what is happening around us.

On the other hand, we tend to neglect the ordinary things around us and take it for granted. “We live, true, we breathe, true; we walk, we open doors, we go down staircases, we sit at a table in order to eat, we lie down on a bed in order to sleep. How? Why? Where? When? Why?” Perec wants us to dig deeper and give meaning to the infra-ordinary things in life. This is like peeling the layers of the onions and each time you peel off a new layer, you unravel something new. When we are curious about the infra-ordinary things, we ask people about their opinions and their perspectives. Curiosity helps us uncover new possibilities and help us develop empathy but I must admit that it is not easy. It takes time and conscious effort to be able “to question the habitual”.

I agree that being observant and asking questions is important in our design process, but it is not just about asking questions but asking the right question. During user research, we want to ask the users the right questions to be able to identify the underlying cause of the problem. For example – Describe what you like about this product VS Describe what you dislike about this product can elicit very different responses. The latter question may provide you with better insights.

Reflection – “Disneyland with the Death Penalty” by William Gibson

Gibson starts off the article by comparing Singapore to VR. “VR would never look real until they learned how to put some dirt in it”. It’s hard to relate VR to actual reality as the illusion created is simply too perfect, just like how people paint the picture of Singapore. It’s too good to be true (aka Disneyland). But at the same time, we are being governed so strictly that any mistake could ruin our lives, hence, Singapore is Disneyland with the death penalty.

He went on to summarise the success of the People Action Party and how the late Lee Kuan Yew managed to evolve Singapore from a colonial trading port to a bustling metropolitan city today. Over the decades, the government has been trying to curate the “perfect experience” for all Singaporeans. A harmonious multiracial society that enjoys great prosperity, wonderful facilities, and a bright future.

However, the government failed to identify and work on the “pain points” of this experience. We have failed and neglected the minorities of the country which is why Gibson finds Singapore a cold and heartless place. He quotes “The word infrastructure takes on a new and claustrophobic resonance here; somehow it’s all infrastructure.” Singapore places too much emphasis on economical growth, forgoing societal and cultural growth.

Gibson feels that it’s indeed a perfect living experience – a reliable transportation system, an abundance of recreational and health facilities, low crime rates, and so on. What more can you ask for? However, this experience is defined by the government and not the citizens. Just like any consumer, Gibson had a bad experience and went off finding his next perfect experience. This reminds us not to be influenced by our own biases when designing and to always consider the perspectives of all stakeholders.

Reflection – “The Beautiful And The Nice” by Vilém Flusser

In “The Beautiful And The Nice”, Vilem Flusser talks about how concrete experiences cannot be communicated clearly and how we are all artists trying to create an experience through patterns to make “reality richer”.

Everybody goes through the same experiences but we see and interpret it differently. Flusser mentions the this is due to how we are being conditioned “naturally” and “culturally”. Natural conditions consist of physical, chemical, and physiological factors that we are born with while Cultural conditions are affected by the way we are brought up and taught to do things. He gave the example of the experience of “love between a man and a woman”. It is natural for one person to experience love for another but the way we express our love is not universal and is affected by our own culture.

Flusser also mentioned how individuals have unique experiences because of the way we are programmed – our genetic and aesthetic program, which affects our preferences for a group, thing, or feeling when compared to another. This “aesthetic program” is art. Artists use their past experiences and propose structures, forms, and patterns to form a future experience. I resonate with what he said – films, musicals, exhibitions recreate the pleasant feelings and ideas through artistic forms that are based on the artist’s past experiences. Hence, making reality richer. Beautiful art enhances the past experiences. As pleasant memories of past experiences start to fade, art like paintings and photographs are able to evoke the emotions that we felt at that moment.

There isn’t a definite way to explain or replicate experiences but we try to model them based on our definition of beauty. However, in our pursuit of creating a beautiful experience, we must not let it affect our perception of the real world and tweak these experiences to create a “perfect” experience. Flusser ended off the article mentioned that “The artist’s problem is to walk the narrow path between banality and redundancy”.

As designers, this is extremely applicable as we constantly have to weigh our options and decide which is a better way to communicate information and experience effectively. The main challenge is to create the perfect “model of concrete experience”. As mentioned, everyone experiences the same event differently, hence, how can we ensure that the model we came out with is the most relevant and relatable model? In many instances, there isn’t a one size fits all solution. It is impossible to design a product that would fit in all instances, that works for everybody. Our cultural differences have shaped our experiences to a large extent, a simple example would be walking and how people of different cultures keep to different sides of the road. Hence, there are many factors that we have to weigh when designing and the only way to find out these factors get out there and observe and make genuine conversations.

When designing, “experience” is not something that is discussed very commonly as compared to “functionality”. There is a heavier emphasis placed on how well the product can work compared to how the user feels when using the product. This is exactly the “Mozart” and “Dante” situation raised by Flusser. I hope to be able to define and create better “experiences” at the end of this course.

Germany Design – Post Presentation Essay

Germany design has successfully established itself in the world throughout the years. When a product is labelled “Made in Germany”, it is proclaiming that it is of excellent quality and high practicality and aesthetical value. German design principles are largely influenced by the Deutscher Werkbund and the Bauhaus movement.

Arts & Crafts/Art Nouveau movement – focused heavily on decorative and ornamental elements
Deutscher Werkbund – striking a balance between aesthetic and functional value
Bauhaus – purely functional and lacks decorative elements

The Deutscher Werkbund (DWB) and Bauhaus movement can be considered as an expansion and response towards the Arts & Craft movement.

The Arts & Craft movement (1850-1915) emerged as reformers wanted to break away from “boring” and industrial designs. They came up with extremely intricate and decorative designs which meant that it would be challenging and expensive to mass produce them. In 1907, Deutscher Werkbund, an association of architects, designers and manufacturers was founded in Munich, Germany. DWB’s goals and designs were heavily influenced by Hermann Mathieus. Hermann Mathieus proposed to reform design by integrating traditional and decorative crafts (he wanted to revive Arts & Craft movement) with modern industrial production techniques.  Initially, DWB’s functionalism and industrialism beliefs were met with criticisms by designers who feel that individual artistic creativity and aesthetic would be lost through standardized designs

However, they managed to debunk the mindset that industrial mass produced designs were ugly and monotonous. DWB came out with works that were highly functional and aesthetically pleasing at the same time. Some key works include :

Electric Kettle, 1909 by Peter Behrens

Unlike normal kettles which have a dome shape, this electric kettle by Peter Behrens has a octagonal shape which makes it look appealing. He was the first designer to immerse the heating element in the kettle itself which allowed electricity to be distributed throughout the kettle more effectively and reduced the possibility of fire hazards. The octagonal form was well-appreciated and inspired design like :

Moka Pot, 1933 by Alfonso Bialetti


Electric Fan, 1908 by Peter Behrens

This fan may look like an ornamental object at first glance but it actually designed to embody utility and functionality. Behrens designed the sturdy base and brass blades in a way that they could be mass-produced easily.


Weissenhof chair, 1927 by Ludwig Mies (DWB)

S33 Chair, 1927 by Mart Stam (Mart Stam was an artist from Bauhaus who was amazed by how thin metals could form up the shape of a bicycle and retain its strength and applied the same concept into designing his chair)

These type of chairs without four legs are known as cantilever chairs. The unique form of these chairs was made possible with technology and exploration of the material. Mart Stam was the first designer to come out with the design but Ludwig Mies made it look aesthetically pleasing but replacing the edges of the chair with curves. The curves also allowed the chair to take on more weight. It is pretty amazing how the form of the chair can be formed with just one continuous metal pole.

The Deutscher Werkbund was able to intertwine art and industrialism successfully. Art was made functional and practical.

In the year 1919, one of DWB’s member, Walter Gropius went on start up a new institution called Bauhaus which translates to a “building house”. During that period of time, Germany was recovering from the devastating WWI and Walter Gropius had the vision to create designs that were affordable to the mass public.

Walter Gropius always placed function before form. He believes that everything used to create an object should have a meaning to it and not for decorative purposes. One of his famous work was the Fagus Factory :

Fagus Factory, 1910 by Walter Gropius

Unlike typical factories which are made up of bricks and concrete, Fagus factory was mainly made up of glass and still stood firm and stable on the ground. The edges of the factory were also not supported by any columns. Groupius wanted to create a feeling of “openness” through his design to increase productivity. The large panels of windows allowed for increased daylight and fresh air which he believed would lead to greater efficiency and productivity.

His design philosophy influenced the Bauhaus School greatly. Bauhaus was also inspired by the Modernism and De Stijl design movements. Designers worked around geometrical shapes and linear lines and avoided curvilinear shapes and patterns. Bauhaus’ principle was Form follows Function, where the function and utility of the object was the primary focus and any form of decorations was secondary.

I feel that Bauhaus refined the design principles of the Deutscher Werkbund. Both design institutions emphasized strongly on the functionality of the products but Bauhaus took it to another level by restricting the form and rejecting decorative elements such that the form must follow function. Some key works include :

Wassily Chair, 1925 by Marcel Breuer

The form of this chair is taken from a club chair. Marcel Breuer successfully reduced a bulky club hair to just metal tubes and leather bands. Despite the minimal usage of materials, the comfort of the chair was not compromised.  The leather bands allowed for flexibility.


Table Lamp, 1924 by Wilhelm Wagenfeld

This table lamp is also known as the Bauhaus Lamp as many consider this as an iconic Bauhaus work. It fulfilled as requirements of the Bauhaus movement, in terms of function, form and material. Every part of the lamp served a purpose and none was put together for ornamental purposes. The designer wanted to design a lamp that could be produced at low cost and efficiently.

In 1933, both the Deutscher Werkbund and Bauhaus institutions were forced to close down by the Nazis. The socialist ideas of providing utilitarian and good objects for the people were not aligned with how the Nazis governed the people. Even though these intuitions are not in function anymore, their design principle of “less is more” still lived on today.


Martinique, E. (2016, May 23). Timeless Examples of Bauhaus Design Still Relevant and Popular. Retrieved from https://www.widewalls.ch/bauhaus-design/.

Pascucci, D. (2018, October 24). AD Classics: Fagus Factory/Walter Gropius + Adolf Meyer. Retrieved from https://www.archdaily.com/612249/ad-classics-fagus-factory-walter-gropius-adolf-meyer

Knoll. (2018). MR Chair. Retrieved from https://www.knoll.com/product/mr-chair?section=design.

The Museum of Modern Art. (2018). Peter Behrens Fan. Retrieved from https://www.moma.org/collection/works/1603.

The Museum of Modern Art. (2018). Peter Behrens Electric Kettle. Retrieved from https://www.moma.org/collection/works/2190/

Deutscher Werkbund. (2018). Basic Information. Retrieved from http://www.deutscher-werkbund.de/wir-im-dwb/basic-information-in-english/

Principles of New Media – The Tree

“The Tree” is an interactive installation that moves and reacts to its surrounding. The branches of the tree are attached to a rack and pinion mechanism which turns with the help of a servo motor. “The tree” is activated by various devices like PIR sensor/ultrasound sensor and photoresistors.

In this essay, I will be analyzing “the tree” and link it to the 5 principles of new media.

1- Numerical Representation refers to the digital code of the new media installation Just like how a mathematical equation equates to a solution. The numerical representation is processed by an algorithm which will translate it into an output or specific action. “The tree” consists of several numerical representations like

-The distance detected by the ultrasonic sensor will be classified under different range in our code (0-0.5m,0.5m-1.5 etc). The system will send out different signals to the servo motor when different distance are relayed by the ultrasound sensor. A closer range will result in a smaller movement by the motor while a further distance will result in a larger movement.
-The degree rotation of the servo motor. A servo motor can turn from 0-180 degree. However, we need to keep the maximum rotation of the servo motor at 160degrees to prevent the branches from overextending. The angle can also be decreased to create a less exaggerated movement of the branches. The value needs to be very precise just like how signs & decimal places will change the entire mathematical equation.
-The amount of light recorded by the photoresistor

2- Modularity refers to the independent elements that can be put together to form an installation. They are basically the hardware and software of the structure.

-Each set of branches can be considered as a module as they are connected to different servo motors which can be programmed to move differently without affecting other sets of branches.

-The photoresistors scattered radially from the tree. Each photoresistor functions independently as they are programmed to trigger different sound effect.

3- Automation occurs when the installation can move and interact with participants without the help of a physical person. Our tree is able to move and create sound effects by itself thanks to software like Processing and Arduino. These softwares are able to process codes which will relay information continuously to the tree resulting in automation. However, in order for the system to generate movement and sounds, its sensors need to be activated by a participant.

4- Variability refers to the different possibilities and different forms that the new media can exist in. Unlike old media where information presented is fixed, new media is able to react and present itself differently when the participant reacts differently to it. New media is able to receive varying input which leads to a unique output.

-Different participants will choose to stand at a different distance from the tree. Depending on the location that they are standing, they will trigger different photoresistors. The different outputs of “the tree” are the different sound effects and the direction and speed that the branches move in. The tree has low variability as the branches are programmed to move in only two manners – fast/slow.
Hence, if you stand from the tree at a far distance as an observer instead of the participant, you may think that the tree has no/low variability as it seems like the tree is just moving along with the sound effect/wind.

5- Transcoding occurs when “a computer layer” translate “a cultural layer”. It provides the audience with a new perspective. In our everyday lives, trees are just still objects that we pass by when we are travelling from places to places. We do not take notice of the slight movements of the branches and shade generated by the tree canopy which will be exaggerated by our tree installation.

Interactive Installations with similar concepts

Reach by Scott Garner. It is an interactive mural art that plays a different tone when participants touch the different stars and sun. The stars are connected to very strong resistors which can be affected by human touch and different resistance detected by the arduino will produce varying tone. The concept is similar but in our installation, the stars would be placed on the floor. We will replace the resistor system with a simpler circuit using switch and sponges. A piece of wire is placed on top on the sponge, hence it is an open circuit. When someone steps on the sponge, the circuit is closed and generate a sound output.