Plastikophobia is a new immersive art installation in Singapore made from 18,000 single-use plastic cups collected from local food markets to raise public awareness of plastic pollution. Although beautiful to look at, this art piece is in no way an endorsement to use more plastic.
The art project started when Canadian photographer Benjamin Von Wong and Joshua Goh at the National University of Singapore teamed up with social impact strategist Laura Francois to create an exhibition for the Sustainable Singapore Gallery. Knowing that Singapore recycled less than 6% of its plastic waste, the team set out to draw attention to plastic pollution by making an art installation from discarded plastic cups. In a short time, they managed to collect thousands of single-use cups from local merchants and recruited hundreds of volunteers to bring the project to life. The end result is surreal and lovely, and hopefully disturbing.
In Singapore, plastic waste is reaching crisis proportions. According to the Singapore Straits Time, plastic waste has increased sevenfold since the 1970s. The average Singaporean uses and discards about 13 plastic bags a day. The statistics are equally daunting in other parts of the world. Studies show that 91% of plastic worldwide does not get recycled. The toxic chemicals that leach out of plastic have had an alarming impact on the environment and all of its inhabitants.
Like Singapore, other parts of the world are awakening to the harmful effect of plastic. Just last week the EU Parliament banned single-use plastics by 2021. It’s not just the proliferation of unsightly litter; it’s the toxins that are slowly killing us. A solution must start with product and packaging designers who have made plastic their favorite “go to” material.
The Plastikophobia exhibit is showing at the Sustainable Singapore Gallery until April 18th.
Designers, in my humble opinion, are a self-congratulatory lot. They constantly hold juried competitions and give themselves awards, produce publications to pat each other on the back, and freely call elder designers “icons” and “legends.” Copywriters, on the other hand, (of whom I count myself among them) never refer to anyone in the profession as a “copywriting legend” or “copywriting icon”. We don’t put out magazines reprinting the best corporate brochure text, direct marketing paragraph, or pithy headline. As a group, copywriters are usually unsung and ignored. That said, there is one designer who genuinely deserves to be called a “legend”: Milton Glaser. He is to be admired for his originality, talent, contributions to art and design, and because he comes across as a sweetie. That makes us happy to present this short video interview of Milton Glaser, put together by the New York Times.
As we celebrate Independence Day in the U.S., it seems fitting to give credit where credit is due to Francis Hopkinson, who substantial evidence shows designed the first American flag in 1777. Hopkinson, a New Jersey lawyer and signer of the Declaration of Independence, had a natural love of heraldry and art, and dabbled at graphic design (a profession that didn’t exist back then). During the American Revolution, Hopkinson was serving as chairman of the Navy Board’s Middle Department, when it got an urgent request to come up with an official banner of some sort that soldiers could carry into battle. At the time, the rebelling colonies were flying a flag that featured a variation of the British Union Jack in the canton surrounded on three sides with horizontal red and white stripes. (It looked like a knock-off of the British East India Company flag.)
Of all the sections in a supermarket that have design display potential, the produce section is number one. Unlike branded packaged products such as cereal, ice cream and canned goods, fresh fruits and vegetables are set out loose without wrappers. They come in bright colors, different shapes, textures and sizes, and change frequently with the season. Speaking personally, I tend to judge the quality of a supermarket by the freshness and diversity of its produce. Nothing is a greater turnoff than limp leafy greens and overripe brown bananas. Artfully arranged displays emphasize the natural beauty of the fruits and vegetables, help shoppers instantly see the difference between each item to quickly pick out the red leaf lettuce from the Bibb, the onions from the radish, the bitter melon from the cucumber, etc. The marvels of nature’s bounty are a joy to explore. With a little effort at design, the produce section can become the star attraction of any food market. Shown here are a display of chard and bell peppers (photo by tretorn) from ICA in Tyresö, Sweden, and a display (photo by cool hand lucas) from Zupan’s in Portland, Oregon.
The exhibition poster features the ancient Chinese character for kome.
A fascinating exhibit is currently on display at 21_21 Design Sight in Midtown Tokyo. Created by renowned Japanese designer Taku Satoh and anthropologist Shinichi Takemura, “Kome: The Art of Rice” presents 35 design pieces by leading Japanese artists and experts in rice cultivation. What makes this show so intriguing is that a food staple as humble as a grain of rice (or “kome” as the Japanese call it) could be shown with such aesthetic sensitivity and with such a thoughtful exploration of the role that rice played in the historical, cultural and spiritual traditions of Japan.