These local designers have thoughtfully reimagined new rituals of living for a future in which global virus outbreaks are common
From 10 December 2020 to 7 January 2021, Singaporeans were treated to a hybrid exhibition showcasing projects by eight young designers that can help the human race thrive in a world where social distancing and self-isolation have become a part of everyday life. With its focus on improving health and well-being, the Visions of the Future showcase served as a reminder that a global crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic could be turned into a catalyst to engender an attitude of resilience when we are facing an uncertain future.
Pneumatics’ Touch by Sheryl Teng
An alumnus of the National University of Singapore, industrial designer Sheryl Teng aims to make everyday household items more user-friendly and accessible through pneumatics (a branch of engineering that makes use of pressurised air). When in contact with air, pneumatic textiles produce high levels of thermal insulation to provide the utmost comfort and protection for the wearer.
Here, Teng uses a battery-operated handheld heat sealer and pleated fabric to produce an inflatable, stretchy and resilient material comprising compact air pockets that can be used for various purposes. This material has been made into a series of clothes, objects and protective cases that serves to reimagine the application of pneumatic objects by tapping on their thermal insulating properties.
Canvas by Ng Luowei and Mervyn Chan
Singaporean households generated an additional 1,334 tonnes of plastic waste during the circuit breaker period. This alarming statistic highlights the urgency of more sustainable consumption habits, spurring product designers Ng Luowei and Mervyn Chan to create Canvas, a project that revives the Make Do and Mend scheme that was popularised in wartime Britain to discourage hyperconsumerism. Ng and Chan came up with an experimental, liquid rubber paint that can be used for various purposes, such as breathing new life into worn-out shoes.
Soap Tattoos by Kevin Chiam
We’ve been educated on the importance of sanitising our hands regularly, but our conditioned reflexes and unconscious behaviours, such as our tendency to touch our face mask, are harmful habits. To combat this daily challenge, UX researcher Kevin Chiam has collaborated with designer Nacho Vilanova to present the adorable Soap Tattoos. The tattoos are coated with a film of soap on the surface and reveal animal prints after being washed off.
On the other hand, Echo is a fire-alarm system that uses a bursting balloon to motivate occupant evacuation. “The designs are thoughtful probes that challenge our perception of everyday archetypes and motivate behavioural changes. I was deeply inspired by the human psyche and how we react to seemingly familiar stimulus or triggers,” Chiam says about his design pieces.
Rewind by Poh Yun Ru
It’s said that technology has forgotten the older generation; many of them do not possess the digital habits to connect to the outside world while they’re separated from their families. This isolation leaves them vulnerable to a rapid deterioration of their cognitive faculties, especially for those diagnosed with dementia. Rewind, a project developed by Poh Yun Ru and THK Nursing [email protected], works as a motion-tracking tool that allows users to associate memories with visual and audio feedback. As time goes on, users will engage in meaningful recollections through familiar gestures, such as cooking and ironing clothes.
Chun Collection by Jasmine Quek
Drinking tea is widely recognised as a ritual of mindfulness, so there’s little wonder that a designer is tapping the healing powers of tea to help people cope with quarantine fatigue. Chun Collection by Jasmine Quek – part of her wider Phenomenal Wood project – is a modern reinterpretation of traditional teaware that is used in the Chinese gongfu tea ceremony. The Grained Tea Boat is crafted from hemlock wood that was sandblasted, forming gaps between the harder latewood that remains undisturbed. This creates naturally sculpted slats that allow the tea to seep through during the ritual of rinsing the leaves and warming the pot.
Mass Production of Happiness by Yingxuan Teo
Envisioning a future that doesn’t rely on plastic packaging can now seem plausible, thanks to multidisciplinary designer Yingxuan Teo’s project, an intricate glass apparatus titled Mass Production of Happiness. Demand for liquid soaps has risen due to the coronavirus, naturally leading to the surge of plastic pollution. To counter this problem, Teo’s soap-making device uses natural ingredients, for example the aloe vera plant, to avoid the problem of harsh chemicals that are often used in everyday soap products. The device simultaneously serves as an antidote to burgeoning plastic waste brought about by the pandemic.
Ji Jian Wu by Lin Qiuxia
On the other end of the spectrum, Lin Qiuxia is tapping on cultural legacy to help people generate hope amid a worldwide pandemic. The industrial designer has created a series of contemporary artefacts that takes inspiration from the ancient divination rituals of Chinese geomancy; these objects can be carried as amulets to carry one’s wishes and ward off ill health. Every piece of the collection is designed to embody the feng shui meaning that is related to its traditional counterpart.
This story first appeared in the March 2021 issue, which you may purchase as a hard or digital copy. Celebrate Robb Report Singapore’s 100th issue with us here