Typographer of the Week: Massimo Vignelli

“Design is not art. Design is utilitarian. Art is useful, but not utilitarian.”

This is a famous quote from Massimo Vignelli. And I agree with it to a large extent. In this case, what is utilitarian. I believe utilitarian design puts the practicality over the aesthetics. Function over form. Which I agree. The design is a tool of communication. The Designer acts as a bridge to convey the clients’ message to the public. The design may be beautiful. However, if it fails to convey the intended message, the design has failed. This attitude can be seen very clearly in Massimo Vignelli body of work, His beautiful use of leading, margins, the creation of rhythm within the order, results in a clean and simple finish. His work prioritises the legibility, readability and the timelessness of the piece. This allows the viewer to absorb the message of the poster clear in seconds.

However that being said, I still wish he did explode out of his comfort zone. The fact that Helvetica is his favourite font make me want to chuck a font directory at him. While he emphasizes the simplicity and the order of the text, it makes it rather boring. His body of work all have similar vibes of black and red letters with perfectly align leading. I disagree with the fact that design is purely utilitarian. Many times chaos does a perfectly good job at communicating the ideas.

Take a look at this music poster. This was done for a music festival. The distortion of the text embodies the quality of the music. It is almost as if you can feel yourself sway to the music to the text. This fluidity, conveys the funkiness, the excitement of the festival. I am very certain that if an orderly text placement was used, it would look rather stiff as if the music had no soul.

All in all, I really love his simple and timeless layout. I agree wholeheartedly with his motto, function over form. After all the client paid you to get their voice heard. If the clients’ message is not relayed to the public, how have you done your part as a designer? That being said, I do not believe that designers all have to follow strictly to the rules. Yes, rules are important, but hey they are meant to be broken. Intentionally of course. Designers still should have their own creative flair and not just layout everything perfectly into the grid systems. Have fun explore, but the legibility still should be at the forefront.    

Typographer of the Week: Jan Tschichold

I need to say, that I had no formal training, in typography before enrolling in this class. I have never heard of either of Jan Tschichold nor his Page cannons, before today. But the funny thing is, I am very sure that I have subconsciously applied his theory and believes into my design.

Brief Background of Jan Tschichold:

Jan Tschichold is a notable german, illustrator cum artist, who has revolutionised the progression of typography. He placed san serif fonts at the forefront and most importantly, created a layout guide: the page canons.

“A method to produce the perfect book.”

Page canons were created as a standard format for the penguin publishing press. This canon was sworn to by bookmakers as the perfect book. Using math, grids and ratio, Jan Tschichold found harmony between the page and the text. It amazes me how this simple guide still used today.


All in all, I love how Jan Tschichold created harmony between the text and the page. His elegant use of space and text in an experimental way was revolutionising back then. His page canon gave order and structure to books. Books began to function as a utility but as an artwork.

Symbol of Hope: Adding colour to the graphics

Designing the koi fishes

By this time, I was really lost and decided to go back to the basics with black and white: 

So I came up with these 4 designs, where I tried to incorporate the waves and ripples into the fish. I also tried to suggest the dynamic movements and form of the fish through the motif. Then I begin adding colour:

Design 1:

Design 2:

Among these two designs, I felt that they were rather plain, and wanted to play with patterns.

Design 3

I tried to mimic the spots found on koi fishes and incorporating ripples for the last one. my favourite from this series is the first one where I tried to incorporate everything in a subtle way. I had a lot of fun creating the second fish. The patterns are made of mini koi fishes. It’s like a koi fish inception.

Design 4

I decided to push the design further, by trying to incorporate more ripples and the patterns. I really love the designs especially number 2. I love how the patterns aren’t constrained and looked a lot more fluid as compared to the previous designs.

Design 5

I really love how the layering and ordering of the circles create the form of waves while establishing foreground and background. However, by this point, I was seriously off brief. It was still to illustrative. I had to simplify. Less is more. I was advised to limit my colour palette and choose between patterns or ripples.

Design 6

This time I tried to limit my colour palette to 2 colours. I also forced myself to choose between the ripple and the patterns as the main element. After much exploration, I decided to go with the fifth koi. the circular bubbles not only represent the air bubbles that the fish boobles out, but it also suggests the dorsal fin of the koi too. The pattern that can be found isn’t too overbearing. That was what made me choose this design, I was finally able to marry both my concepts! (both patterns and ripples)

Colour scheme

I decided to go with a warm analogous colour scheme. I felt that warm colours would be suitable for the image of hope. warm colour rises and cool colour sinks. I wanted the colours to have an uplifting effect on the patients. In addition, I used a lighter colour scheme to add to this lifting effect. In addition, I thought the colours should be soothing, to aid the patients’ recovery instead of a bright bombastic yellow.

Designing the girl:

Design 1

I wanted the girl to be sitting and feeding the fishes bread. However, her movements are too static and the whole illustration lacks energy. Then I went back to drawing and referring to images online to get the pose right.


among both drawings, I decided to go with the second one. The pose was more relaxed, more natural and more energetic. I also decided to use stronger and more saturated colours for the girl.

Symbol of Hope: Translating into Graphics

Graphic Design 1 & 2 


For the first two designs, I tried going for the minimal style, trying to use basic shapes to suggest the form of the fish. Honestly, I didn’t like any of my digital attempts. I felt that it looked a lot better on paper. I think this is due to the geomatrical way i illustarted it with the pen tool. It looks rather stiff, as if its dead.

Graphic Design 3 

For my third design, I was inspired by Koinoburi: koi flag motif that is commonly found in Japan.

I really love the patterns that can be found on the body of the fish. This acted as the main inspiration for my design. I tried to incorporate as many Japanese motifs I can find, to see which would work better.

In the end, this design looked too messy and needs to be simplified by only applying one type of motif.

Graphic Design 4 & 5 

For design 4 and 5 I went down the illustrative route. The designs were inspired by koi tattoos. I love how the line work and subtle shadings suggested the form of the fish.

In general, this attempt was too illustrative and I had to simplify the all of the elements.

Design 6:

For the last design, I think I may have lost it when I was doing it. I went full abstract. needless to say, it is too abstract I need more elements to bring out the form of the koi.

scroll down for the “deciphered” fish

Yeah, I’ve lost it…


Simplify all of the illustrations, stray away from an illustrative approach, make use of shapes instead of line works.






VSICOM: Symbol of hope initial ideation and sketches

Idea 1

I love the image of the little matchstick girl, striking a match wishing for the simple pleasure in life. Sometimes the simplest things in life are what you miss the most after they have been robbed from you. The simplicity of her wishes struck me and I wanted to express that in my designs. The light and the heat provided by the fire that is used to sustain life in the cold winter reminded me of hope. The comforting warmth that envelops your whole body reminds me of a huge family warming up by the fireplace, cheerful laughter filling up the whole space.

Initial sketches:


The fate of the matchstick is a little cruel. Her happiness was short-lived after the fire burned out. To worsen things she eventually died and joined her grandmother in heaven. The hospital should be filled with things with positive vibes and hence this idea was eventually dropped.  


Idea 2

The moment that I heard about the brief being set in the hospital, I immediately decided that I needed to incorporate “Zeness” in my designs. After all, hospitals are a place for healing. I then decided upon koi fishes. After a bit of researching, I realise that Koi is a perfect icon for this.


Symbol of hope:

There is a legend surrounding the Koi as a symbol of strength. The ancient tale tells the story of a school of koi swimming up the yellow river. Nearing the end they reached a waterfall. Upon reaching the foot of the mountain, many of the koi gave up except for one. He tried and tried swimming up the mountain, but he always failed. Many mocked his attempts, but he never gave up. After hundreds of years, the koi finally succeeded The gods recognized the koi for its perseverance and determination and turned it into a golden dragon, the image of power and strength. Strength is a congruent part of hope. Strength is needed to overcome the bad days when the pain gets too much to function. To continue smiling, to push on with the medication, to see the next day requires strength. And to me that embodies hope.   


Icon of Zen

There is something about koi, that gives off the feeling of calmness. The serene yet powerful movements of the koi, combined with the peaceful ripples create a tranquil atmosphere. Where one can almost connect with their inner self, resting, and healing themselves. This became one of the main drivers for my graphic designs.


The action of feeding:

I wanted to draw on some childhood memories in my design. I remember my favourite thing to do when I’m at Botanical Garden was to feed the fishes. I would beg my parents to buy a bag of bread to feed the fishes. Furthermore, the action of feeding also incorporates the action of nurturing. The constant care and attention are given to raise the koi, reminds me of mother’s love. Which is why I was adamant on incorporating the action of feeding into my designs.

Initial Sketches

Proposed idea:

I wanted to create a dynamic upwards swirling movement of the fishes going upwards towards a girl feeding them. The upward movements of the fish symbolise the uplifting of emotions and I hope I can put a smile to the patient’s faces when they see them.



Explore more on the dynamic movements of the fish while incorporating ripples into the designs.

Team 1 – Design Thinking: Ideate

So we first began ideating alone and later we met up to consolidate all of our ideas.

The followings are our raw form of ideation:

Lin Han

  • Table with an ordering system
  • Conveyor belt along tables to deliver food and to collect trays
  • Segmenting areas for individual stalls
  • Table reservation systems
  • Availability alert system for tables
  • Autonomous tray collection robots
  • Receipt assigning tables to go to
  • Central Food collection point
  • Order food online


  • Pre-purchased food coupons to be redeemed at the stalls
  • Excursions or preparatory lessons about food
  • Cooking CCA
  • Pop Up travel food fair with food vendors that educate visitors
  • Blind tasting module? Maybe sensory deprivation module while eating
  • Pot Luck day (People come together and talk about their food)
  • Sushi train but instead it is like mini tasting dishes from around the world
  • Ever-changing menus at a stall that allowed for proper pre-packed meals (Like those food counters at a catered event)
  • Sharing of food experiences in a google folder where people can share their experiences (good and bad). Anyone can go in to read the content
  • Thematic restaurants that allowed for new cultures and cuisines to be enjoyed with friends


  • Mood restaurant. (course are named after moods and the foods selected are like curated to the mood)
  • Surprise company restaurant (have a divider where the person eats alone and then the divider opens to reveal another person)
  • Movie screening space (turn NS into an open canteen space and have popular movie screening, encourage bonding over similar interest)
  • ADM rooftop dining area, aka picnic in the stars
  • Put your god darn handphone away restaurant (somehow make them surrender their handphone for a discount to encourage face to face interaction
  • Campus bus dining ( dine while you get from NS to SS)
  • Build your own food (let the students make their own food restaurant, imagine pizza, that would be simple)
  • Mix the school slang into the restaurant menu (aka if ADM had a cafe:  include art history names or puns into the menu items, Instagram worthy stuff,  maybe like  “GOD DARN IT’S SUBMISSION WEEK I NEED MORE COFFEE” coffee
  • Let’s have a live band for fun too 🙂

When we met up we transcribe all of our ideas onto Post-it notes. The yellow Post-its in the purple marker are done by Rei and they contain the feeling part of our ideation. The Pink Post-its are done by Ranveer and they also contain the feeling part of our ideation. Lastly, the Yellow Post-its in black marker are done by Lin Han and they contain the convenience part of our ideation.

We begin combining and redefining our ideas together. We decided to group multiple ideas of the same concept together to strengthen our ideas.

Idea 1: Cooking Class

we wanted to have a cooking class, this would encourage bonding between friends and increase the student’s appreciation for food.

Feedback: 0 votes

Our classmates didn’t like this idea and pointed out they didn’t have the time nor the energy to participate in these activities. Some also pointed out that this is currently carried out in Tanjong halls. The limited space available only allowed a small number of students to sign up at one time. This would be rather exclusive.

Idea 2: Encouraging Face to Face interactions

This was inspired by the toilets availability system in Taiwan and China. we wanted to have a tv screen displaying what seats are available and this would work through a sensor on the table. if the sensor is uncovered the tv would display the table as empty and vice versa. The students will have to place their phones over the sensors to indicate that the table is taken. There would be an additional app that would register the sensor and clock how long the phone is covering the sensor. through the time accumulated, the students can exchange them for discount vouchers on campus. We also wanted Automated tray collection machines in NTU, to help facilitate tray collection while improving the cleanliness of the canteens.

Through this, we hope to be able to encourage face to face interaction, during meal times.

Feedback: 0 votes

Idea 3:  Resturant that allows for tasting and learning about food from different cultures:

This idea was inspired by the Japanese conveyer belt system. we wanted to serve food signature to different parts in mini portions on conveyor belts. through these, the students can experience and better understand different culture and heritage through food. By having a conveyer belt system, we are able to reduce manpower. The store owners will then be able to put more time into food preparation thus reducing the wait time.

Feedback: 2 votes

Idea 4:  Pop up event space

we wanted to have a fun night out idea. we originally aimed to transform the open space outside prime into a movie restaurant. Since there already is a screen, we wanted to project movies and transform the place into an open seating area where students can dine while relaxing. We also wanted to involve the students in the cooking process and hence included the potluck elements. it would be a buffet style, similar to BYOB~.

Feedback: 0 votes

Idea 5:  Campus ridder dinning 

This idea centred around convenience itself. Since students spend so much time travelling and even do have enough time to eat, why not bring food to them on the go. This bus would have the same route as Campus Blue and Campus Red, but with a dining twist.  All food preparation will be done outside the bus and only the food distribution will be done on the bus. The kitchen on board works as a central distribution point. They only serve one dish a day, with the menu rotating every day. By doing so its more efficient and minimise confusion. upon entering the bus there would be a counter where the student will pay 5 dollars to obtain a lunch box. they would then be able to take this lunch box to their next destination and eat it there.

Feedback: 6 votes

Many of our classmates loved the idea of combining food on the go, but it still lacked the portion of the feeling and the experience.


Idea 6:  Mood Resturant 

For this idea, I was inspired after watching a drama. The female lead held an ice cream pity party with her girlfriends after her breakup. The concept of food being able to alter one’s feelings struck me. we wanted to create a mood restaurant, where the food was served base on one’s mood. An example of connecting food to experience and feelings is dark chocolate may embodying the bittersweet feeling of one’s first love.

Feedback: 3 votes

Many students are keen on this idea and would love for us to develop it further.



We decided to go with the mood restaurant as a concept and try to apply this idea to both a physical restaurant and a vending machine that can be found at all campus rider bus stops.

Team 1 – Design thinking: Empathy I


Our interview transcriptions are as followed:

First Interview: ( done by Ranveer and Leonie)

  • Female Local Students
  • Always has meals at the canteen next to her block/hall before coming to school
  • Just goes for convenience and does not really yearn for food
  • Suggested to have a late night supper service as taking a cab out of campus is costly( The friend excitedly was mentioning and suggesting this to her)
  • Had groceries/snacks and also purchased bubble tea
  • Friends do not influence the food choices


Second Interview: ( done by Ranveer and Leonie)

  • Male Exchange Student
  • Prefers convenience over others
  • Macdonalds is his favourite food
  • Food courts are good and cheap
  • Not too difficult to communicate with stall vendors
  • Found a little difficulty at first to get the orders across but soon realised that some owners prefered the dish be called by the number and some are okay with pointing at the dish
  • Friends do not influence the food choices


Third Interview: ( done by Ranveer and Leonie)

  • Female Exchange Student
  • Extreme User: Does not like the food here at all
  • Only likes the Chicken with the rice from Malay Stall
  • Stall vendor was not able to understand her and still has minor issues not being able to understand her
  • Cost is more of the issue
  • Decided to have self-prepared breakfast(Prefers foods that she is used to)
  • Prefers more western options?
  • Friends do not influence the food choices


Fourth Interview: ( done by Ranveer and Leonie)

  • Male Exchange Student
  • Not a picky eater ( Based food choices on foods that he could relate with and decipher what they were by seeing the dishes)
  • Chooses meals based on activities that were preceding the meal
  • Prefers cost-effective choices
  • Goes to canteens/food courts more
  • Finds the food generally good
  • Would love to have more potatoes but understands that it’s more to the type of cuisine that doesn’t have potatoes
  • Friends do not influence the food choices
  • Had potato chips with him
  • Seemed understanding of the food culture here


Fifth Interview: ( done by Lin Han, Rei and Hanna)

  • Ivan Lee
  • not an NTU Student, he is from SIT engineering
  • Comes to NTU once per week
  • Eats with friends at the fast food outlets or the canteens
  • Likes Canteen 1 mala with friends (influences food choices, cos he is here for his friends)
  • Doesn’t like peak hours, but he happens to meet the peak hours he would just wait
  • Describes NTU food experience as 1. Choice 2, Convenience
  •  Recommends food at North Spine


Sixth Interview: ( done by Lin Han)

  • Adrien
  • An exchange student from France
  • Most recent meal: salted fish fried rice at North Spine Wok
  • He is getting used to chopsticks
  • Eats desserts regularly but cannot find them here
  • Finds food here really spicy (1st meal – Malay bbq in brown sauce was way too spicy)
  • Prepares breakfast every day because he could not get used to bf here (cereal and tea)


Seventh interview: ( done by Rei)

  • Female England exchange student living on campus (North Hill School of civil engineering
  • Finds that there is a large variety of food available in campus, especially since most of her classes are in NS. She hasn’t had much difficulty adjusting to the food here, but that may just because NS is full of fast food chains.
  • No dietary restrictions
  • Do not know where the supermarkets are and feel like it would be very expensive
  • If NTU had a communal fridge can you see yourself cooking more? ANS: definitely
  • Would love to cook more in NTU but the lack of refrigerator and the lack of cooking utensils are preventing her from doing so
  • The crowd isn’t that much of an issue to her, but she is unable to get food since her lectures are back to back, with no break. She doesn’t take away food and just bears through the hunger
  • Finds 茶叶蛋 tea leaf egg very weird, but she has no problem with getting used to the breakfast served in NTU


Eighth interview: ( done by Hanna)

  • Jack
  • ExAn exchange student from Vietnam
  • Study communication
  • No dietary restrictions
  • Eats with friends at the canteens, most of the time canteen 2 or NS.
  • Choose meal after price and prefer eating out instead of cooking even if that is more expensiv
  • Think is hard to find new places to eat because he dont know where the canteens are and what they serve.
  • Like the large variety of food here.