Becoming 'a beacon by way of your work'

Theseus Chan (above)
Theseus Chan (above)

When he received the President's Design Award, the nation's highest honour for design, graphic designer Theseus Chan felt elation - and an overwhelming sense of responsibility.

"Awards mean that you have the responsibility to be a beacon and inspiration by way of your work and life," said the 55-year-old founder of creative consultancy Work.

And that is what he has done. Building on the prolific repertoire that won him the 2006 award, he has garnered many more accolades. These include several D&AD Yellow Pencils as well as awards from the New York Art Directors Club and Tokyo Type Directors Club.

Last month, Mr Chan launched a magazine called STEIDL-WERK No. 23 with renowned German publisher Gerhard Steidl.

His self-published magazine, WERK, is also featured in Rei Kawakubo's fashion label Comme des Garcons' direct mailer campaigns this year.

In October, Mr Chan became the first Singaporean elected to the Alliance Graphique Internationale, an exclusive club of the world's leading graphic artists and designers. Among its 450 or so members is Milton Glaser, who created the iconic "I love New York" logo in 1977.

Mr Chan and other winners of the President's Design Award will be featured in President's Design Award 2006-2015: A Decade of Design Excellence, a multimedia exhibition at the National Design Centre from today to April 8. The exhibition is part of the Singapore Design Week. Over the last 10 years, more than 30 designers and close to 90 designs have received the award.

Visual content and a series of filmed conversations with the designers will capture the impact the winners have gone on to have on the community and Singapore's quality of life.

"We hope to inspire and engender pride in the design community, and cultivate in the general public an appreciation of quality design and its impact on everyday life," said DesignSingapore Council executive director Jeffrey Ho. He noted the 10-year milestone coincided with Singapore's designation as a Unesco Creative City of Design.

For designers, the President's Design Award demonstrates that Singapore has begun to take design seriously.

"The award…raises the standing and awareness of design at national level," said product designer and National University of Singapore industrial design instructor Hans Tan.

Mr Tan's piece Spotted Nyonya, an industrial re-interpretation of Nyonya porcelain vessels, won Design of the Year in 2012, as well as the award for Les Decouvertes (best innovative product) at the fall edition of Maison et Objet 2012 in Paris.

Arti Mulchand

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 08, 2016, with the headline 'Becoming 'a beacon by way of your work''. Print Edition | Subscribe