Triggered by a lack of meaningful and representative local souvenirs, Singapore Souvenirs is a project to explore, design and produce objects that fill this gap. A Singapore souvenir should serve as a meaningful memento for foreigners, but also act as a reflective vehicle for Singaporeans to recognise and embrace their identity. Hence, this project raises design awareness for Singaporeans while creating greater exposure for local designers on a local and international platform.
We spoke to one of the designers, Winston Chai, to find out more about the project.
Uniquely Immigration Stamp
How did the project start?
It started about two years back when a foreign friend who visited me asked me what can she buy back for her family and friends that could represent Singapore. All I could suggest was some local snacks. That was when I realised that Singapore does not have much to offer for our visitors, at least in my opinion.
Then, I decided to gather all my good friends from school (my classmates) to do this project together. But I had to wait for about a year until everybody came back to Singapore (some were either studying or working overseas during that time).
Singapore Souvenirs project officially started at the start of 2009, over some beers, with the intention of doing an exhibition.
Can you introduce the key items in the lineup of products that were on display?
There is no specific key items in the line up.
The project is organised in a way that individual participants have the liberty to design whatever they deem as a meaning Singapore Souvenir. Of course during our numerous beer sessions, ideas are thrown around and build on. However, there was a clear intent to explore the concept of‘non-goods’ souvenirs. ‘Non-goods’ are souvenirs which are acquired unknowingly by tourists during their stay in Singapore. These ‘non-goods’ souvenirs will serve as truly meaningful and serendipitous memorabilia as they reflect on their time spent in Singapore. However, these ideas may involve various local agencies. Hence, we hope to take this project onto a broader level by engaging collaborations between local agencies, local companies and other stakeholders in the creation of a collective identity and marketing strategy to leave a lasting impression of Singapore through souvenirs in the broader sense.
What were the underlying design questions that were asked in the process?
What makes a meaningful souvenir?
How should Singapore be represented?
What is a souvenir and its purpose?
Journal 6 years
What was the process like in identifying unique narratives and interpretations for these Singapore Souvenirs?
This is difficult to answer as the participating designers work individually most of the time. However, we do meet occasionally to 'brainstorm' on ideas.
Some of the items on display were already for sale while others are conceptual works. What's the path forward for this products?
We are currently working various manufacturers and distributors in commercialising the products. As for the 'non-goods' souvenirs, we are working with various tourism industry stakeholders and government agancies to realise this concepts.
We are also planning to do another Singapore Souvenirs Exhibition next year, with the inclusion of more designers and on a bigger scale.
Text: Adib Jalal