LIFE POWER LIST 2015

Jackson Tan: The man behind the little read dot

7) MR JACKSON TAN, 41, creative director behind the SG50 logo

Printed on banners, plastered on sales promotions and sprayed onto the sides of buses, the SG50 logo was ubiquitous this year.

Whatever your feelings towards it, you could not escape this red circle with letters SG and the number 50 in a bold white Gotham Typeface font, since it was tagged onto every kind of publicity material imaginable to celebrate Singapore's Golden Jubilee.

If the success of a logo can be measured by the memes it spawns, then this one has definitely outperformed its official function.

Some folk celebrating their 50th birthdays this year removed SG and replaced it with their own initials.

Then, witty netizens, led by home-grown poet Alvin Pang, used it to spoof the erotic film, Fifty Shades Of Grey, when it was released in February. They wrote short, suggestive local versions of the kinky story appended with the hashtag #sg50shadesofgrey.

The man behind this logo is Jackson Tan, 41, creative director of Black, a multidisciplinary agency whose portfolio includes branding, curating and design.

The company won a call for a design proposal by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth to create a special graphic for the nation's 50th anniversary.

Inspired by the Republic's "little red dot" status, Tan used a red circle. He also suggested shortening the official catchphrase from "Singapore50" to "SG50".

And thus an icon was born. For the logo's simplicity and its ability to define and capture the mood of a historic year of national celebration, Tan debuts on the Life Power List this year.

When the logo was unveiled last year, there were potshots at how it was too simple for such a big event. Some said a child could have done something fancier.

Responding to critics, Tan says: "Actually, that was our objective and challenge: to design a symbol that is memorable, meaningful, customisable, yet simple enough that even a young kid can understand its meaning, and also draw it to celebrate SG50."

He is married to a Taiwanese former air stewardess and the couple have no children.

It is not the first time that he has put out an unforgettable logo. Before he started his awardwinning agency in 2003, he had made his name as part of Phunk, a contemporary art and design collective.

The foursome were behind well-known logos such as the Pop Art logo of a block of melting butter for now-defunct nightspot The Butter Factory.

The SG50 logo is a career high, he says, as he has designed "something that was shared by all Singaporeans".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 20, 2015, with the headline 'The man behind the little red dot'. Print Edition | Subscribe