Singapore’s Red Dot Design Museum

Darkened room with illuminated sign saying "red dot design awards"From the moment I entered this small museum I enjoyed the experience. Singapore’s Red Dot Design Museum is one of three museums in the world which features the winners of the Red Dot Design awards.

This museum has an eclectic mix of modern products that feature innovative design. In the entrance we saw two mountain bikes and a carbon-fibre commuter bicycle, together with a large umbrella with innovative lighting mechanism, a table-soccer game made from recycled materials and all sorts of watches.

A commuter bicycle folded up so that the two wheels are placed next to each other.

This commuter bicycle weighs only 7.9kg and features a special folding system that enables it to be opened and closed easily.

This small museum highlights developments in designs of products as diverse as cars, baths, refrigerators, socks, books and pushers (strollers, buggies, push-chairs… or whatever you call them). Any visitor would see items that they may have a deeper knowledge of due to their line of work or style of living, but all visitors will be stimulated to think of products they don’t normally give much thought to. This is the strength of this museum.

At the entrance we were told that it would take about forty-five minutes for us to view the exhibition. We spent considerably longer there. Exhibitions like this spark the imagination and share innovation. I was surprised at the number of books on display. The books about Chinese calligraphy looked interesting. One of the features of this exhibition was that visitors were able to touch many of the exhibits. There were stools so if you had the time you could sit and browse the books properly. Some books made me wonder why they had won a design award, but the difficulty with international design awards is that they reward an aesthetic as well as function. Both are significantly influenced by culture, whether this culture derives from an ethnic, professional or wealth background.

Museum room with a table holding books in the foreground.

There were a lot of books displayed at the museum. The visitor on the left is leafing through Das Bild Buch which gives the newspaper’s view of sixty years of German and world politics. The museums says, “[t]he 718 pages compile the weird headlines, bizarre news stories and spectacular photographs that captured important events between June 1952… and March 2012.”

Labels and visitor guides for museums were displayed such as the Wufeng Lin’s Family Site Map from Taiwan. The Red Dot Design Museum explained:

This updated guidebook introduces the “Wufeng Lin Family Mansion and Garden”, the residence of a Taiwanese family clan… The design combines two- and three-dimensional elements and does not used simple orientation maps. Instead, sophisticatedly folded maps encourage the user to get actively involved in the exploration of the residence.”

Cover of the Wufeng Lin Family Site Map

The Wufeng Lin Family Site Map

Unfolding one of the Lufeng Lin Family Site Maps

Each page unfolds like this. It has been cleverly designed so that the back of the map forms another map on a different ‘page’.

One of the Lufeng Lin Family Site Maps unfolded

Voila – the map revealed.









It was notable that there no ebooks or interactive museum guides were featured. I particularly think of the innovative design of Hobart’s Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), both in terms of the exhibition spaces as well as the hand-held electronic device through which a visitor can learn more about exhibits and record their visit and access after they have left the museum. As a new medium ebooks are undergoing a massive phase of innovation in terms of design. I wonder why these new, innovative mediums are not featured alongside the more traditional forms.

Aside from recognisable brands such as Mercedes, BMW and Tupperware, there were other less well-known brands. I noticed quite a few German and Taiwanese products and wondered if that was partly due to the awards having a higher profile in these countries. Some products reminded me of the design of products that I have used over the years such as the baby change bag and some of the back packs. I wonder if some designers are missing out on international recognition because they have not entered these awards?

The Red Dot Design Museum does not use innovative means to display items. I suspect that this is a good thing because if the Museum itself tried to be innovative in design this could run the risk of detracting from the innovation displayed in the exhibits. However, I was rather surprised that the lettering of some of the labels had faded or the letters had slipped causing a higgledy effect.

These socks were made for walking... This collection of socks features salt and chlorinated water resistance, non-blister texture, 'Archilles tendon protector'...

These socks were made for walking…
This collection of socks featured salt and chlorinated water resistance, non-blister texture, ‘Achilles tendon protector’…

Design is everywhere you look. We were delighted that the museum gives visitors a map of the local area called ‘the design journey’. It gives two routes – a full day or half day route. The clear maps mark various places in the locality which demonstrate interesting design elements. The Red Dot Design Museum is near Chinatown and Duxton Hill, both areas feature interesting buildings. I thought that the map would provide good commentary on the architecture and urban design of the area. It didn’t do that but it did draw attention to the Singapore City Gallery, hawkers centres, a tea house, bookshop, shopping centre, restaurant, a Temple, an Ancestral Worship Shop etc. There are some interesting places that I will visit but overall the cynic in me wondered how much these places paid to be featured on this map.

A street scene in Singapore's Duxton Hill area.

Some of the diversity of design in the vicinity of the Red Dot Design Museum: on the right is a Hindu Temple, the street shows the rows of shophouses that are a feature of the Duxton Hill area. At the left in the rear are the towering buildings of The Pinnacle @ Duxton, an innovative public housing development featuring sky bridges and gardens open to the public at the fiftieth floor and another one for residents only on the twenty-sixth floor.

Krakatau: The Tale of Lampung Submerged by Muhammad Saleh. translated by John H. McGlynn, (NUS Press, 2014)

We finished our day by visiting the bookshop mentioned on the map – ‘Littered with Books’. It had a nice ambience – an essential element in any good bookshop. It seemed to mainly stock the kind of English language books that you would find in independent Australian bookshops. There were very few Asian history books, mostly they were western histories. However, I asked about histories of the region and found a great book called, Krakatau: The Tale of Lampung Submerged, by Muhammad Saleh. He wrote an eyewitness account of the eruption of Krakatoa in 1883. His book was originally published in the Malay Jawi script and published in the same year the volcano exploded. He wrote his account in the form of a syair, a traditional form of Malay poetry. The book features the original Jawi text, a transliteration into the romanised form of today’s Malay and an English translation. It also has a good introduction.

I sat down and started reading while Hubble was checking out the fantasy books. From the first stanza I was absorbed. Naturally I bought the book and am looking forward to reading it when I have finished my current bedside book.

A very satisfactory day.

Further Details

Singapore’s Red Dot Design Museum is open from 11am until 6pm on weekdays and until 8pm on weekends. It is located at 28 Maxwell Road, Singapore. Entry is SG$8. One Friday a month the Market of Artists And Designers (MAAD) is held at the Museum.

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