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Nostalgia as a visual form


  • The Face of Nostalgia: Appreciating abandonment through a different lens
  • Study of Nostalgia: Reminiscence through a different lens


My project will study Nostalgia as a visual form. The exploration of my theme will be done through abandoned* and old sites in Singapore.

*abandoned: left unused/uninhabited/not used the way it was before for the past 3 years.


Many a times when you google/pick up information on these places, you either get lengthy paragraphs or formal pictorials. These are useful in understanding the stories of these sites, but may not always bring about the intended deep appreciation.

Eg. Reading a brochure about how Dakota Crescent is very old VS exploring Dakota Crescent itself

The latter brings about a more ‘wow’ factor because visitors see for themselves the rusting of metal poles, worn down blocks, peeling paint, broken windows, unique architecture.

“it is not the function of geographers to merely map the earth, but to change it” – William Bungee

Similarly, as a designer, I believe that we should do more than just snap a photo of the site, place it on a poster and go. Can we transform these spaces into something bigger, and yet at the same time retain its natural characteristics? Is there another perspective or method we can adopt to appreciate these places?

Aims & Objectives

  • To transform how we look at these abandoned spaces through a new visual lens.
  • To document these spaces in a different perspective.


Visual elements as a tool to explore different emotions or state of a place — in which my project will focus on the state of abandonment/feelings of nostalgia.

  • Study and document the different visual elements found at site, and how these elements can be further explored to potentially create a new appreciation for these places.

The visual elements I will use for this project and why:

  • Colour — this is probably the first most obvious element one will notice when visiting these sites. The importance of colour theory, how certain colours can have different psychological effects.
  • Textures and marks — These elements tell an important tale in my project: the passage of time. Having nature or decay marks on infrastructure can show the old state of the site.
  • Infrastructure — One thing special about these sites is that they have been built with unique architecture and layout, which is not commonly seen today. Eg. the unique ‘butterfly’ shaped blocks of Dakota crescent.
  • Typography and symbols — text can provide verbal supplements to a place. Symbols and typography, even the language used, tell a  certain story of a place. Eg. Bukit Timah Railway station, the signs are in malay as their service was owned by Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM), the main railway operator used in Malaysia.

Planned approach:

  1. Document and study elements on site — photograph, video, sketches
  2. Dissect elements
  3. Establish moodboard/colour palette
  4. Explore and piece elements together

Research question(s)

Will [chosen visual elements] provide a better appreciation and understanding for these heritage sites?

Past works

  1. The zine is dedicated to animals who are near extinction.  Jayyan does this by rubbing textures on site, particularly focusing on the differences done by nature vs man-made.


2.  This work tells of the past, through a love story of a rickshaw puller and a nurse. The concept of overlaying old snippers over the current Singapore sites put up an intriguing contrast, yet also highlights similarity towards the end.

3. Overlaying illustrations of the past on current photograph sites in Singapore. Uses contrast in a lighthearted manner to bring awareness of past vs present.


Useful books:

The life and death of buildings: on photography and time TR659S651

Urban exploration photography: a guide to creating and editing images of abandoned places TR659S618

Colour design theory workbook NC1000S881

Design element : using images to create graphic impact NC1000S552

Design Outcome 1: Board Game

The game is called Culture Raid.

1. Each player starts with one Woke Token, one ‘woke’ card, and one ’Nope’ card each.
2. Each player will take turns to draw out a situation card from the deck (Brown side of cards to be faced down).
3. Everyone (including the player who draws the card) must determine the situation with either ‘Woke’ (Acceptable) or ‘Nope’ (Not acceptable).
4. After everyone determines their answer, flip the situation card over to reveal the answer.
5. Only players who get the answer right get to roll the dice and play the board, thus collecting more Woke Tokens along the way.
6. The aim of the game is to collect as many Woke Tokens as possible.



Decision cards:


Culture Appropriation: Interview

Here are the questions I had for my online interview:

Section 1:
This section sieves out participants who can define culture appropriation. Asking them for their age indicates my target group/audience I need to reach out to,

Section 2:
Participants who answer ‘yes’ to “Do you know what Culture Appropriation is?” continue to this section. This section is based on local context in SG, to find out of CA is addressed enough in schools/institutions based on participants’ POV.

Section 3:
If participants answered ‘yes’ to “Can you distinguish the difference between Culture Appropriation and Appreciation?”, they continue to section 3. This last section is to find out how participants draw the line between appreciation and appropriation.

Reflection on Role Playing: Dialogue in the Dark

When I first entered the dark room, I felt very anxious. I was paranoid I would get lost (even though I wasn’t the last person). I didn’t feel like myself and was not comfortable at all but I knew it would just be a 1 hour walk so just tahan a bit la.

Throughout the walk I thought about how difficult it was. We were placed in the shoes of the blind, but  within a safe confined, air-conditioned room. When crossing the ‘road’, there weren’t actual cars. The boat on water wasn’t real too (at least I don’t think it was real). When going into the city area, the noise of traffic was loud and intimidating. But despite the fact that I knew I won’t get knocked down by a speeding car, fall into water, or get hit by a cyclist; I was still paranoid. And I could not even imagine how the blind feel.

I realised when I was inside, I was really dependent on the people in front of me. You could say I was blindly following my classmates and the walls. I had to heavily rely on my sense of hearing and touch, both of which I take for granted.

Having gone through role playing as designers, we can further understand what the disadvantaged in the society needs. As a designer who is aware and less ignorant, our focus can be shifted more towards the disadvantaged in society. Role playing is a great design research technique as it exposes situations to designers first hand.

From this experience and the lessons I take away from Dialogue in the Dark, I can actually tweak my designs into something more socially inclusive. For example, having pop up typography/designs so that the blind can also read and appreciate my work. Something else to consider: How a simple everyday item that we take for granted, such as a poster, does not benefit the blind. Having gone through this experience ourselves, as designers, we can now tweak our designs into something that can be used and appreciated by everyone.


Exploratory Research — Current Issues

Here are just some of the few current issues I am interested in:


The most recent incident being the ‘brownface’ ad from broadcaster Mediacorp, featuring actor Dennis Chew as 4 characters. What sparked controversy is his skin being darkened to depict an Indian man and a Malay woman wearing a headscarf.


Recently the ban on plastic straws have grown into more of a ‘trend’ rather than sustaining the environment. Supermarkets stopped distributing plastic bags(for free, but they are available for 20 cents per piece). And if companies really want to save the environment, why not stop plastic bags altogether? I believe that this is a case of  “green washing“.

Some critique that banning plastic straws is not an empathetic move, especially for the disabled. And I completely agree. There’s nothing wrong with saving the turtles, but we should really look out for our fellow species first.

Feminism & Women’s rights

This has been an ongoing issue and women who have been assaulted are made to think they are to blame. Below are some articles and links to support my view.

“It took me years to realize that only 1 thing could have stopped me from getting raped that night— and it wasn’t my skirt, it wasn’t my smile, it wasn’t my childish trust. The only thing that could have stopped me from being raped that night, is the man who raped me. Had he stopped himself.” -Thordis Elva

Google ‘Rape in India’ and its impossible to miss the overwhelming articles on different cases. This is no surprise, as rape is fourth most common crime against women in India. According to the National Crime Records Bureau 2013 annual report, 24,923 rape cases were reported across India in 2012. -Wikipedia

As particular case which brought international concern was the 2012 gang rape in Delhi. The men took it in turns to rape the Jyoti, victim and then they used an iron bar on her. Leslee Udwin interviewed Mukesh Singh, one of the rapists. One particular line he said struck me deeply: “A decent girl won’t roam around at nine o’clock at night. A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy,”

The idea of women being responsible for men’s savageness is outright disgusting. Both articles boil down that this should not be the case, and that men should be held 100% responsible for their own actions.

The following article suggests victim blaming: where rape victims are held responsible for the tragedy. Phrases such as “don’t dress this way” or “don’t go out till late” do suggest that it is a woman’s responsibility to prevent any potential assault on her.

London police urged not to wear headphones or use mobile phones following a string of sexual assaults. Many times victims or sexual assault are often suffer in silence. Victims are encouraged to report it, and yet ironically in some societies the same victims are seen as “less than” or “impure”. I would like my project to evoke discussion and contribute to change— to shed light on this taboo. To let people know that it is okay to speak up and tell others what they have been through. There is no need for shame for something women cannot control at all, and if more than anything else, the rapists should be the ones hiding their faces. Women should possess the right to wear anything they want, go anywhere they want at any time of the day, and not feel unsafe/intimidated around men.

Cultural Appropriation

(Might actually head for this topic instead) I think this is an interesting topic that is often shoved aside. People will address something ‘racist’ or ‘culturally misappropriate’, and then the hype dies down. Months later, another similar situation happens.

This topic isn’t new, it has been ongoing for years. Going back to the 19th Century, Asian culture was highly adopted by the English. The English adapted the Indian churidars into slim fitting pantaloons, and frequently wore turbans within their own houses. During the tiki culture fad of the 1950s, white women frequently donned the qipao to give the impression that they had visited Hong Kong, although the dresses were frequently made by seamstresses in America using rayon rather than genuine silk.

Going back to more modern times, we see Kim Kardashian releasing a shapewear brand,  initially called ‘Kimono’. Kim received backlash for borrowing the word for a traditional Japanese style of dress for her venture.

What’s Wrong with Cultural Appropriation? These 9 Answers Reveal Its Harm

There are 4 types of culture appropriation:

In the broadest sense cultural appropriation is the adoption or taking of specific elements (such as ideas, symbols, artifacts, images, art, rituals, icons, behavior, music, styles) of one culture by another culture.


The issue constantly happens because people don’t usually know the differences between culture appropriation and culture appreciation. There’s a really fine line between the two, and if I wish to do a project based on this topic, I will decide to create an educational deliverable.

Because the topic of race and culture is heavy and serious, I wish to carry out my project in a light-hearted way. Nothing serious, hopefully playful and warm so that it won’t intimidate.

  1. My Culture is not your Costume

Here are some campaign posters that address culture appropriation. However all they put up are pictures, and they don’t really educate what defines culture appropriation. I would like to take a similar direction to these posters, but in a more light hearted and informational manner.

2. My Heritage is not your Costume

Illustrations feel more light-hearted, so that would probably be the direction I would take.

Final Deliverable: Educational Card Game

Most of us cannot clearly define what culture appropriation is. And what we lack is a basic foundation that schools/institutions fail to instil upon us from young. Because let’s face it, all we learnt in primary school is about bullying, sex education and racism. So what is culture appropriation right??

Thus I will decide to channel information through a card game, targeted at students and young adults. My inspiration would draw from the card game, Organ Attack. The card game requires 4-5 people, and its both educational and fun.



Project 2 Process: Painting with Elephants

First things first, I got onto Pinterest to get inspiration and ideas for my brochure.  What caught my attention was this packaging design, but I modified the number of ‘trunks’ so that it won’t pop out as much. I wanted to have the ‘trunks’ presented as elephant trunks.

Through trial and error, I found out that the more number of ‘trunks’ there are, the more it will stay flat. So instead of having 6 ‘trunks’, I will have this template below and do 8 ‘trunks’.

So I printed it as exact and cut it out. I folded it and managed to do it without much trouble. However once folded, the ‘elephant’ trunks looked too sharp, which wasn’t what I wanted. Also, my elephants were supposed to be rounded and cute.

So I retraced the template on illustrator and made the template more rounded.

And I added in the details of the brochure.


Time to test print! The first test print was a failure because I didn’t make the bleed big enough. So the back and front of the pamphlet didn’t match. The second test print was better.

This is the inside of the pamphlet.

After 2 test prints and final adjustments, I finally went ahead to buy proper paper that was harder. This is my final:


After cutting, my final product:

Manifesto: Let’s get this bread.

‘Let’s Get This Bread’ is a slang expression for earning money, or to hustle. Its a saying that has recently surfaced on a meme level and it basically gets me going everyday.

Woke up on the wrong side of the bed? Let’s get this bread.

Submissions are piling? Let’s get this bread.

House on fire? Let’s get this bread.

The term ‘shut up and design’ was initially my first manifesto plan, but it didn’t feel strong enough for me. And then the saying came about and getting bread is all I have ever wanted since.

Bleed out the borders, hide the margins, throw those text boxes anywhere you feel like. You decide your own movement. Step up, step out. Use Comic Sans!!!!

Your comfort zone is only good for what it is— comfort. Toss it aside just this once. Try it. Ask for advice only when you need it.

The future of design is here. No more restrictions, no more definitions. How do you put a feeling into words? Move, create.

Let’s get this bread.

let's get this bread

A phrase originally used to mean "let's get money" as bread=dough and dough is a common slang term for money. Nowadays, the term"let's get this bread" is more loosely defined as a sort of battlecry in a sense, calling upon the will of the person(s) to succeed, not necessarily in just gaining monetary funds. It may also be taken more literally as well, as the loaf of bread (or any bread in general) can be a very powerful symbol and source of hype for a crowd.

*About to get your paycheck* "Awe yeah, let's get this bread!"

*At a crowded Key Club event at Six Flags, and you pull two loaves of bread out from under your sweatshirt* "AWE YEAH, LET'S GET THIS BREAD!!" *crowds of other Key clubbers notice and start chanting along with you* "BREAD, BREAD, BREAD..."

Synonyms: Let's yeet this wheat, let us attain/obtain the grain, let's feast on this yeast, let's empower this flour, let's go with the dough, let's entrust this crust


by Breadman Chris October 22, 2018
-Urban Dictionary

Here we have my confusing thought process