Policy of design works for couple

From furniture to architecture, these seasoned and fresh designers are making waves on the scene

Foreign Policy Design Group's husband-and-wife team Arthur Chin and Yu Yah-Leng
Foreign Policy Design Group's husband-and-wife team Arthur Chin and Yu Yah-Leng PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
The collaterals for wanderlust hotel.
The collaterals for wanderlust hotel. PHOTO: FOREIGN POLICY DESIGN GROUP

A name like Foreign Policy Design Group starts to make a lot of sense when one thinks about the overseas reach of the Singapore-based branding studio.

Five years ago, the Sifang Art Museum in China tried to get in touch with the design group. Liking the studio's work very much, the museum's management wanted to work with them.

Brand director Arthur Chin, 45, says: "They sent us two e-mails in Chinese. I deleted them both. Finally, they called and said they were serious about hiring us and wanted us in Nanjing that weekend."

Foreign Policy ended up creating a clean, simple brand identity for the museum, including collaterals and wayfinding signs. These were praised by design commentators and featured in the likes of design magazine Minimalissimo.

Run by Mr Chin and his wife, creative director Yu Yah-Leng, 43, Foreign Policy was formed in 2007.

The pair met in New York, where Ms Yu was running DoubleYolks, a digital agency which handled clients such as American Express and fashion label Oscar de la Renta.

Mr Chin, who did his MBA in Melbourne, Australia, came on board as a creative strategic planner, after leaving his job at a multinational corporation.

Having worked so long in America, coming home was a challenge, says Ms Yu, who lived and studied there for 141/2 years - she went to school at The Art Institute of Boston - and had never worked in Singapore before. "It was a reverse culture shock for me. I had to get used to everything again and the way Singapore works."

They did not know anyone, but people from the local design community such as Asylum's Chris Lee and Kinetic's Pann Lim reached out to them. Mr Chin says: "They were sincere and nice. It was never competitive and we shared things about how each of us ran our studio."

The couple, who have no children, got married in 2009.

Foreign Policy was given a boost when hotelier Loh Lik Peng hired it to brand his Shanghai property, The Waterhouse At South Bund, and design collaterals for it in 2009. In six years, they have done more than 10 projects with Mr Loh, including his restaurants Esquina and Sorrel, and hotel Wanderlust.

Other projects such as Japanese- inspired steakhouse Fat Cow and Mexican restaurant cafe Super Loco helped cement their status as one of the go-to agencies here.

Upcoming is a project with the National Gallery Singapore, where they are conceptualising a food and retail project - the couple's biggest one to date.

Ms Yu says: "It's a very exciting time to be a designer in Singapore. More people respect design and are looking to try something new."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 04, 2015, with the headline Policy of design works for couple. Subscribe