“There are no failed experiments; only unexpected outcomes,” curator Pan Yi Cheng repeated as we toured Singaplural 2018 at Singapore’s National Design Center last 9 March. Pan and his team at PRODUCE selected the process of ‘play’ as this year’s big idea. This is the seventh run of this exhibit and an anchor event of Sinagpore Design Week.
Eleven collaborations between brands and designers, expressed through interactive displays, celebrate the exploration stage that comes before the design process. Instead of keeping them in the archives, Singaplural 2018 spotlights the experiments and accidents in researching materials and processes.
The theme of “A State in Play” looks to shift the concept of play from something that is frivolous to a process quintessential for design. Innovation happens most in this liberated atmosphere for trial-and-error. Singaplural 2018 recalls what Albert Einstein once said about play—it is the highest form of research. How many of us understood more physics and anatomy in the playground than in the classroom?
PRODUCE framed the experiments three ways: goal-oriented, leading to a product; open-ended, leading to a series of iterations; and participatory, inviting visitors to co-create. This was interpreted by the following teams: Antalis x META Studio, Benel x 11H, Cellini x Djalin x etc lab, Ewins x Gabriel Tan Studio, Formica x PRODUCE, IDF Singapore x arttd’inox x Trigger Design, Infuud Asia x Spatial Anatomy, JVCKenwood x AK+, Kvadrat x Publicworks, Pinch Design, and STUDIO DAM.
Singaplural was established by the Singapore Furniture Industries Council in 2012 to bridge designers with manufacturers. And out of these collaborations come long-lasting relationships. As we spoke to the different exhibitors after the tour, almost all our interviewees admitted that it was the beginning of a marriage between the brand and the partner designer. Upcoming projects were already on the horizon.
Another benefit would be the knowledge-transfer and skills development. For example, in this edition of the exhibit, Trigger Design worked with IDF Singapore and stainless steel specialist arttd’inox to produce rockers inspired by endangered species. This prompted the company, whose usual products are modular kitchens, to utilize hand-made techniques supervised by designer Wai Lim to produce the toys.
“When people see Singaplural, they see a showcase. But I think the real power is in the IP creation that is driving the showcase. It’s an opportunity for designers to meet manufacturers in order to develop something new and help them take products to the next level—find new uses for the products. And that has been the DNA of Singaplural over all these years,” said DesignSingapore Council executive director Agnes Kwek.