With the early morning starts beginning to take their toll, CA was pleased to begin Friday morning with a visit to Nanyang Technological University - The largest engineering college in the world. This may seem like a strange port of call but at the heart of NTU lies the thriving ‘School of Art, Design and Media’ offering courses in areas including visual communication, digital animation and interactive media. Intrigued to find out more about the cultural heritage that these young Singaporeans draw on for inspiration, CA quizzed the college lecturers only to be confronted by the old ‘melting-pot’ cliché. A cliché it may be, but with Singapore being such a young country consisting of a wholly migrant population it’s not surprising that the students cultural touch points lie outside of the islands confines.
The School of Art, Design and Media at NTU
To counter the students over-reliance on external points of reference, the schools teaching is focussed around ‘cultural heritage preservation’ with the students being educated in historical regional art forms such as Chinese Puppet theatre and local dance forms. This is all in an effort to draw their attentions away from solely western or Japanese/anime influences and focus on cultural touch points closer to home, an initiative CA whole heartedly agrees with.
Examples of work by students on the Visual Communication and Digital animation courses
With CA’s trip nearing its inevitable end there was just enough time to take in some home-grown Singaporean animation talent in the form of Scrawl Studios. Upon arrival at Scrawl CA was confronted by two universal truths; smaller independent studios the world over will always favour the warehouse district of town to set up shop and will always have a “funky” bookshelf.
Some interior shots at Scrawl Studios
Scrawl has come on leaps and bounds in the eight years since it was founded, moving from working primarily in servicing the advertising industry to now producing its own original content. Scrawl’s collective of animators and artists have strong sensibilities when it comes to design and visual development. Their vice president for development Ervin Ann informed CA that local Singaporeans will often favour working at Scrawl over large multi-nationals like Lucasfilm for the creative freedom that they are granted, even if it means taking home slightly less in their pay packet at the end of the month.
Animators hard at work at Scrawl
After an intense five days touring countless studios, CA made its weary way back to the airport with a suitcase and head overflowing with information. In a country where design and interactive media are deemed priority areas for investment and development CA has high hopes for Singapore and its creative industries. Although they are by no means a world leader in terms of content generation and original ideas just yet, in a country with a can do attitude where things happen very quickly CA anticipates it wont be long before all that changes.
Computer Arts, signing off from Singapore.
Computer Arts began day three in Singapore with a visit to the visual effects powerhouse Double Negative who have been out in Singapore for a year and a half now during which time they have experienced rapid expansion. DN worked closely with the Singapore government on a training program that involved ten Singaporeans being trained up in London, after which time DN decided that the talent base was sufficient enough to warrant the opening of a Singapore studio. Since then the company has enjoyed rapid expansion sharing the VFX workload with London on major features like Kick-ass and Iron Man 2. CA had a good snoop around the impressive studio and would love to let you know what exciting projects are being worked on but for obvious reasons are unable to disclose any information, hence the lack of images.
Fusionopolis, the impressive R&D complex where Double Negative are based
Having adjusted slightly to the change in climate and time zone, Computer Arts began day two with a tour of the Singapore branch of DigiPen, one of the world’s leading institutes for the design and development of computer games. DigiPen focusses on the art and science of video game creation, with a strong focus on character development and storytelling as well as programming.
President of the institute, Claude Comair, described the college as being “like” a cult, referring to the students’ level of passion and dedication for the courses run at the college. After listening to Comair talk for a while, we certainly get the cult reference – it seems that at DigiPen it’s Claude’s way or the highway.
Next stop was Sunwoo Entertainment, a Korean animation house which produces animated TV series such as Kung Fu Dino Posse for Asia Pacific and international TV networks. Sunwoo produces both 2D and 3D work, but it was the 2D animators furiously beavering away with tablets and Photoshop that really interested Computer Arts. With the initial creative taking place in Korea, the team in Singapore painstakingly fill in the blanks creating lush, vivid environments where the characters are able to come to life.
After refuelling at one of Singapore’s many Hawker centres, Computer Arts moved onto the Lasalle College of Arts in the afternoon. Housed in a breathtaking glass and steel structure designed by architect Hugh Dutton, Computer Arts had some serious uni envy upon arrival at Lasalle. We toured the animation studios at Lasalle and were pleased to hear that course leader Chris Shaw was encouraging his students to create their own short films upon graduation, retaining the IP in Singapore and promoting grass-roots start-ups. Whilst at Lasalle Computer Arts tried to poke its nose into the graphic design departments, but unfortunately was denied access due to final assessments taking place.
The impressive Lasalle building
Models and sketches created by students on the animation course at Lasalle
Breaking from the IDM-focussed program slightly, Computer Arts ventured into the night to meet up with Lucas Burrows, creative director of Singapore and Asia Pacific operations for UK-based design consultancy Bunch. Over a few happy hour martinis Burrows told CA of the twenty hour days he’s been working, creating branding and motion graphics for international clients such as HP and DKNY. As the sole member of Bunch in Singapore, Burrows has his work cut out for him acting as designer and account manager whilst also actively sourcing new business in the region. Lucas painted a picture of Singapore as a place full of opportunities for graphic designers as well as the VFX artists, just so long as they’re willing to put the hours in and be proactive in finding new work.
After another long day and night, Computer Arts grabbed a chilli dog and headed off into the night…
Computer Arts tours Singapore to check out the city’s flourishing interactive and digital media industry
Singapore sling: Computer Arts heads to Asia
After a 15-hour flight with no sleep, Computer Arts arrives in Singapore to witness first hand how the city is managing to draw some of the main players in the interactive, design and VFX industries. First port of call this morning was the Singapore branch of the mighty Lucasfilm, where we were greeted by the friendly and recognisable faces below.
Lucasfilm Singapore works very closely with the HQ back in San Francisco generating content for film, animation and games. Although a lot of the concept work and decisions are still made back in SF, the team on the ground here play a major role in bringing to life animated series such as Clone Wars and major Hollywood blockbusters like Iron Man 2. A little concerned that this outpost of Lucasfilm was simply an off-shore production house, CA was pleased to hear from Josh Robinson (lead asset artist on Clone Wars) that new and original content is in fact generated in Singapore and that Lucas Arts’ latest game release, ‘The Force Unleashed II’, was created from the ground up in Asia.
Homegrown Singaporean T-design talent
Moving on to the broadcast industry, CA visited Sony Pictures Entertainment and was planning on zoning out a little before being informed that SPE have been working with some homegrown Singaporean illustrators to create such striking T-shirts as the one above. There are several T-shirts in the series, all a visual response to animations created at SPE. CA is working on finding out who these talented young Singaporeans are and will report back ASAP.
After a long day and a belly full of chilli crab, CA signs off for the day\night.
Computer Arts has touched down back in the UK, still reeling from an awesome OFFF Paris closing day (and party… ouch.) Here are the highlights of day 3:
Art + Com’s kinetic sculpture for BMW Museum, Munich
Prof. Joachim Sauter of Art + Com takes the audience’s breath away with stills and film of the studio’s astounding moving phisical sculpture of hanging silver balls for the BMW Museum, a “floating surface telling the story of car design”. The work of Sauter’s students at the University of Arts was also a hit, particularly Julius Von Bismark’s’Image Fulgurator’. With a name like that, he had to do something brilliant…
The work of the ‘Image Fulgurator’ – http://www.juliusvonbismarck.com/fulgurator
Grady and Metcalf followed, speaking about the future classics of indie publishing, ‘Gum’ and ‘Lemon’ magazine. “We’ve never been so practical that we let reality get in the way. Life is not there to support doing crazy, nutty things” such as producing a print magazine of preposterously high production values, said the pair, so creatives shouldn’t expect doing those things to be easy. But they can expect them to be life-changing:
"It has allowed us to be much happier people, and much more productive for our clients."
Suck it and see: www.worldoflemon.com
Kjell Ekhorn of Non-Format’s hour on stage was a slap in the face for the woozy heat-stroked thousands packed into the steam room that was the midday Grande Halle, as he grabbed Commercial Design Career around the throat and throttled every last dirty truth out of it.
Ekhorn presents the ‘Wheel of Style’ concept – AKA the torture of cool – as envisaged by Lorraine Wild
Computer Arts 163 has its big-screen debut
And, *ahem*, Computer Arts issue 163 and its die-cut cover gets a mention as an example of an enjoyable recent Non-Format project. Which started a bit of a trend, because it wasn’t long before another Computer Arts and Computer Arts Projects cover artist, Julien Vallée, was taking the audience through the making of his cover for Computer Arts Projects:
Vallée’s presentation praised the process of using unfamiliar tools and materials to push your work in unknown directions. “One thing that keeps me going with experimentation,” he said, “is the vertigo of not knowing what the final result’s going to be.” He also drew OFFF’s attention to the brilliant Challenge Your World 20/20 short competition, which will have anyone with access to a video camera and a creative brain hyperventilating with excitement (www.challengeyourworld.com/2020). Or maybe that was just the effect of sitting in OFFF’s steam room for 8 hours straight…
Michael Paul Young creates lives visuals to accompany Lullatone
Last act of the conference was Lullatone, who peeled the OFFF crowd’s backsides from their seats with whimsical Japanese pop, balloons and homemade musical instruments. Michael Paul Young brought the design cool to the party with a collection of astounding visuals.
The amazing work of Michael Paul Young
Joshua Davis takes to the stage, with OFFF director Hector
Add to that a guest appearance by Joshua Davis, who was at OFFF to run an all-day workshop, and 2010’s conference went out with a bang. Damn balloons.
From Computer Arts’ OFFF correspondents, merci et bonsoir.
Forget the speakers - the main attraction at OFFF Paris is Fancyrence, a large interactive screen enabling users to pull everything from moustaches to showers onto the heads of the unsuspecting OFFF audience.
The second day of OFFF Paris 2010. Computer Arts’ quotes of the day:
Hoss Gifford kicks of day 2 with a barrage of words of wisdom
Hoss Gifford: “It’s so easy to get analysis paralysis.”
Hoss Gifford: “In a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.”
Another Hoss Gifford gem
Illustrator Tara McPherson
Tara McPherson: “And then the fan came back the next day with my name tattooed on his arm. That was kinda… crazy.”
Tara McPherson’s commission for ‘Lost’
Knife Party’s Simon Robson
Simon Robson: “If you want to make a proactive film about climate change, don’t look into human psychology first.”
Knife Party: Asking the big questions at OFFF
Mike Geiger and Will McGinness – Goodby, Silverstone and Partners: Winner of Computer Arts’ accolade of Most Hilarious Quote of the Day…
Will McGinness: “There’s nothing more personal than your computer.”
Goodby, Silverstone and Partners: Winner of Computer Arts’ accolade of Most Hilarious Image of the Day (Sense of irony seemingly absent)
Simon Dixon and Aporva Baxi of DixonBaxi at OFFF
The overarching message from the first day off OFFF Paris, the 10th year of the design conference, was boiled down to the above quote by Simon Dixon of DixonBaxi. He was talking to Paris Grande Halle’s audience of thousands about the benefits of sacking clients – namely that it enables a designer to move onto another creative level, to again be inspired by well selected projects and to build relationships with continuing and new clients based on mutual respect for each other’s potential. Free pitches, needless to say, are out.
Neville Brody interviews Bazooka’s Christian Chapiron and Jean-Louis Dupre
Bazooka: Heroes of a pre-digital print design revolution
The position of The Client alongside The Designer is being overhauled. DixonBaxi’s hour long presentation was part of a line-up that kicked off with Simon Heller’s argument that American society requires an enemy against which to justify itself – a potential reading of the creative tussles of the client/designer? – and the day began winding up at about the time Christian Chapiron of the legendary Bazooka collective made the controversial but tongue-in-cheek remark to interviewer Neville Brody “I will kill Apple. I will kill you!”
"I tried to work in an ad world," Chapiron of the revolutionary subversive French design collective continued, "but after 30 years I concluded that it is not possible to get creative ideas out of an ad agency." To Chapiron and his compatriots, who began publishing Bazooka as teenagers, the rampant commercialism of the 1980s was their enemy, and in fearlessly tackling society’s ills and taboos in their work, they created something that changed the design landscape. It’s no surprise that we’ll be seeing more of them at Brody’s Anti-Design Festival in September.
Simon Dixon and Aporva Baxi approach is different but no less refreshing – as repeated outbursts of applause from their audience proved. Forever chasing the thrill of the new, the duo showed idents they’ve produced for the likes of MTV2, Five and 13th Street Universal that not only transformed the way viewers thought of those channels, but how the channels thought of themselves. The Client is ripe for being artistically directed, if you have the drive and ideas to do it. And they announced that DixonBaxi itself is undergoing changes, with sister company DixonBaxi Film in the pipeline.
The OFFF Paris crowd awaits Craig Ward. No wonder he was nervous…
Craig Ward’s explanation of his working processes – be it firing billiard balls through £800 glass plates or making typefaces from microscopic Chinese hamster ovaries – had the OFFF crowd mesmerized. He admitted that his early purchase of an antique letterpress and dozens of individual block letters might not have been considered the most sensible expense (“I think I single-handedly put the seller’s kids through school”), but the inspiration he gleaned from it characterised his work between 2003 and 2007 – “The Letterpress Years”.
Taking the audience through the development of his experimental and client pieces – from his early “If You Could…” piece and letterpress work to more recent efforts to push legibility to its limits (check out the ‘You Blow Me Away’ series, produced with photographer Jason Tozer) – Ward summed up for OFFF how important it is that designers indulge their passions and chase new challenges.
David Hillman Curtis: “Find the story in an image”
This was echoed by David Hillman Curtis, who closed day one of OFFF Paris by describing how his “two-year nightmare” of redesigning the Yahoo homepage led him back to to doing what he really enjoyed: making films. Drawing on influential portraiture painting and photography, Curtis has beaten his own path to a form of moving image portraiture that has captured characters such as Stefan Sagmeister and Milton Glaser, and, in the DixonBaxi vein, has inspired clients such as IBM to be ambitious about their own creative potential. It seems like the spirit of design is safe.