Creating a gem of a logo to capture Singapore's values

When designer Justin Tan (photo) and his team won the pitch to capture Singapore's new designation as a Unesco Creative City of Design in a logo, his first thought was to go beyond the little red dot.

Last year, the ubiquitous symbol of the nation's SG50 celebrations appeared on everything from posters and pens to packets of snacks.

"While it is recognisable, we wanted to make a statement about Singapore's design scene and the values that drive us as Singaporeans," said the 27-year-old RMIT communicative design graduate and DesignSingapore scholar.

Mr Tan, the creative director and owner of Apt 811 Design & Innovation Agency, and his team of three went back to the history books for inspiration.

Several ripped sketches later, they found a fitting analogy - like carbon, Singapore in its early days was "not pretty" but had great potential. Subjected to intense pressure during its short history, it finally emerged as a diamond.

A cut and polished diamond thus became the core of the logo, with its lines joined to create the five stars in Singapore's flag, representing democracy, peace, progress, justice and equality.

"It captures both the values and the multifaceted nature of Singapore, which is a mix of various cultures that fit together harmoniously," said Mr Tan.

"It's a new way of looking at how Singapore is represented and a new icon that we can be proud of."

The logo will feature widely in all collaterals relating to local design, including the guide book for the Singapore Design Week.

To Mr Tan, Singapore's Unesco designation is significant on another level: It opens up opportunities for him to interact and collaborate with other design profesionals within the network.

"It exposes us to other cultures and provides a platform for the exchange of ideas. A designer in Japan, for instance, might approach design problems in very different ways. We can learn so much."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 23, 2016, with the headline 'Creating a gem of a logo to capture Singapore's values'. Print Edition | Subscribe