In my last contribution, I spoke of the lengths that the Singapore has gone to promote design in Singapore with the President’s Design Awards and the financial support for the training and upgrading of people in the creative industries. Last month I opened an email from another Government agency. The Urban Redevelopment Authority announced a competition to design a logo for the Singapore River. This was to be used in promotions and advertising. The first prize was a package of sponsored goodies such as a 2 night stay in a hotel, F&B vouchers and free rides on amusements which totalled up to a perceived value of $2,000. In the entry details you are informed there is no fee for entering!

Someone in the URA woke up one day and said, “Hey, here’s a good idea. We can run a logo competition and get thousands of entries without having to pay professional designer any fee and we can get the prizes sponsored so actually we have to pay nothing.”

Recently I wrote to a watch company who did very much the same thing asking the public to submit designs for its products.

This kind of thing was quite common in Singapore a decade or two back, but I had hoped industry and the government had become more sophisticated and more aware of the nature of design and its importance to the success of a brand. I am more saddened by the URA going down this path again because of the heavy investment the Singapore Government is currently making in encouraging and supporting professional design. The URA completion sends the wrong message to the business community: we don’t need to use a trained designer who has studied design and probably been in practice for several years, and we don’t need to pay professional fees to create a good logo or any other piece of design or communications. Anyone can do it!

Sitting there the other night at the Istana for the President’s Design Award presentations, surrounded by smartly dressed and articulate guests, one was lulled in a sense that all was well with the design industry in Singapore. Guys, the fight for recognition of professional design in this small Asian energetic island is not yet over.

Postscript: The URA were polite enough to reply to my protestation. They said they organised this “in the spirit of encouraging designers including those who may not have a strong track record or vast experience”. What do you, our readers, think?

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