An hour or two at Singapore airport on a stop over to Indonesia or Oceania is often the closest that people ever get to visiting Singapore. Their loss. 

One of the only pieces of trivia people know about Singapore is that chewing gum is illegal, but that hardly sums up one of the most vibrant and prosperous cities in Asia. The days of strict post-colonial regulations banning such things as rock ‘n ‘roll and video game arcades are long gone. What has emerged in their wake is one of the most culturally diverse places on earth bursting with art, fashion, food, and music.

Named as ‘the world’s easiest place to do business’ by the World Bank for the 9th year running, Singapore has become a diverse community with several professional expats enjoying the opportunities – and weather. And as the host of an F1 Grand Prix and the home of several Michelin Starred restaurants, Singapore is now entertaining on an international scale.

We’ve been locals for 3 years now so we’ve just about got the lay of the island. Here are our recommendations to anyone visiting Singapore:

Food

Din Tai Fung:  An authentic Taiwanese restaurant with a Michelin star, Din Tai Fung is ranked as one of the world’s Top Ten Best Restaurants by The New York Times. Go for the xiao long baos (steamed pork dumplings) and heart-warming steamed chicken soup. 

Maxwell Hawker Centre: The local’s favourite food market. Hundreds of delicacies to try under one roof from fish head soup to the traditional congee with pork and century egg from Zhen Zhen Porridge. 

Labyrinth: The newest face of Singaporean fusion, Labyrinth is the vision of chef LG Han. Be sure to try the signature dish of chili crab ice cream (below). 

Pasarbella: A wonderful farmers’ market with great craft beers, wine, meat, dairy, seafood, fruit, veg, and more. 

Drink

KU DÉ TA: Perched above the observation deck of the SkyPark at Marina Bay Sands, KU DÉ TA Singapore boasts a restaurant, club lounge and a breathtaking view of the skyscape.

Potato Head Folk: Whimsy childhood murals on the walls and sculptures fill the space at Potato Head Folk. It also offers a beautiful roof terrace, delicious burgers and amazing cocktails. 

Ronin: Exceptional coffee and excellent sandwiches in this simply gorgeous cafe.

Architecture

Orchard Road: Walk down Orchard Road by night to see it at its best. 

Southern Ridges Park: Bridges to die for. 

Marina Bay: Stroll around the bay, walk over Helix Bridge and admire the sculptures and incredible architecture before you. 

Joo Chiat: Discover Peranakan culture as you stroll past heritage shophouses, quaint stores and eateries in this charming corner of East Singapore.Chinatown: Heritage in abundance. Experience the original Chinese charm of Singapore. Visit its Wiki Travel page for detailed info. 

Art & Design

Gillman Barracks: Located on a 6.4 hectare site and set amid lush greenery, Gillman Barracks is a contemporary arts cluster in Singapore that is home to 17 international art galleries, three restaurants and the Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA), which are all housed in conserved colonial barracks.


Library@Orchard: 
Having just re-opened after 7 years, the library@orchard is built around the theme “Design is for Everyone.” The next-generation public library includes numerous interactive features and collaborative spaces to inspire and educate. With a collection of comfortable nooks and crannies, the upper level is the perfect place to relax with a design book or magazine.

Red Dot Design Museum: The latest trends in the international design scene with a collection of more than 1,000 exhibits in the field of product design and communication design from over 50 countries.

National Design Centre: Centrally located in the arts, cultural, learning and entertainment district in the Bras Basah-Bugis area, it is well placed to invite the public to learn about design through its exhibitions and programmes. 

Parkroyal on Pickering: Balconies covered in tropical plants provide 15,000 square metres of greenery at this stunning hotel. The award-winning interior is equally as stunning. 

Shopping

Haji Lane: Enjoy the many independent stylish clothing boutiques of Haji Lane.  

ION Orchard: It cost $2 billion to construct this massive futuristic shopping centre. ION Orchard has become the “centre of gravity” in the retail scene, with spectacular frontage and cutting edge designs and concepts. It brings together the world’s best loved brands for within one development with over eight levels of intelligently designed shopping space – four levels above ground and four levels below – totalling 66,000 square metres.

Sungei Road Thieves’ Market: Singapore’s oldest flea market dating back to the 1930s. Great if you’re looking for retro, vintage items.

sungei road thieves market

Little India:  Crammed into 700 by 500 metres of space, Little India is a little hectic but well worth your time. With markets, food stalls and temples aplenty, it’s an experience for all 5 senses and an opportunity to grab some bargains. 

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Ten years ago Uniqlo had just 100 stores, all in Japan. Next year, it will have 840 in Japan and a further 1,170 elsewhere. The two-thousand or so stores are performing phenomenally with the clothing retailer set to amass sales of $14 billion in the financial year of 2014. Uniqlo’s massive growth owes nothing to fortune. It’s a brand driven by an owner-founder who does things differently with a bold vision and a braver outlook in every aspect. His company is already the #2 clothing store in Japan, but his ambition is to make it #1 in every country where it operates.

Uniqlo’s mission statement begins: ‘We consistently provide fashionable, high quality, basic casual clothes that anyone can wear anytime anywhere – and always at the lowest possible market prices.’ And it’s certainly a mission Uniqlo has rigorously stuck to. Anyone who’s browsed one of the brand’s stores or wears its clothing will attest its excellent quality relative to its affordability. Innovation flows throughout the company, from the advanced technicality of its fabrics to the lean, flat, open way the business is organised. Even more impressive perhaps is Uniqlo’s relentless commitment to protecting the planet and securing a sustainable future, not only for itself, but for the whole world.

Commitment to innovation
Uniqlo’s HeatTech clothing range is described on the brand’s website as “cutting-edge fabric which takes body heat and stores it within air pockets deep within the fibres to keep the wearer warm.” The range is a prime example of the innovation behind everything Uniqlo does.

Uniqlo Heatech

Clear vision
While most clothing brand follow trends, Uniqlo sticks to the basics. Its own integrated product planning, design, manufacturing and distribution teams work together to bring Uniqlo customers ‘made for all’ clothing that can be worn whenever and wherever.


Not following the latest fashions means Uniqlo can make massive production orders that its high-street competitors can’t. More items are made, more items are ordered, and as a result, they’re cheaper to purchase.


Uniqlo’s owner-founder Tadashi Yanai ensures that its not just Uniqlo’s clothing that’s high-quality, but its customer service too. His employees are openly encouraged to make suggestions in what is a flat organisation. Every in-store employee is consistently trained in everything from their folding technique to the way hand over things to customers.

Yanai

Uniqlo’s owner-founder Tadashi Yanai.


The exemplary training Yanai provides his employees is only going to get better as his plan to build a Uniqlo university in Tokyo, where 1,500 store-managers will be trained annually, comes to fruition.


Uniqlo locationsAnother of Yanai’s brave decisions is to conduct all of Uniqlo’s business in English. Given that its only presence used to be in Japan, a nation where few people understand English, it was a risk. He foresaw Uniqlo’s potential to become a global brand and this was a key decision in enabling its international growth. English’s status as a worldwide language avoids the tricky silos that many Japanese brands encounter when looking to grow.

Beyond fashion
Uniqlo sustainability
In 2004 Yanai established “the Uniqlo Way” to crystallise Uniqlo’s goal of “Changing clothes. Changing conventional wisdom. Change the world.” And it’s not just hot air either – Yanai means business. For example, Uniqlo’s recycling effort has moved millions of its discarded products to poverty-stricken people all over the world.


Yanai wants to turn Uniqlo into far more than a clothing store. He wants to create an institution. And with the braver way he conducts business and grows his brand, he might just do it.

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He’s a film director whose credits include Erin Brokovich, Traffic, and Contagion but now Steven Soderbergh is trying his hand at launching a new alcohol brand.

Steven Soderbergh

It took the Oscar-winner six years to get the Bolivian brandy that he claims “will f*&@ you up” and “make you introinvisible,” to market. Soderbergh credits his creation of Singani 63 to his ability to distinguish between something that is ordinary and something that’s exceptional. It’s the exact same judgement and decision making process he used throughout his incredibly successful Hollywood directing career. Attached to the neck of each bottle is a recipe booklet. Inside is the message: “Singani 63 is the culmination of a 50-year, privately funded project known as the Steven Soderbergh adventure, the purpose of which is to identify the exceptional in all areas of human endeavour.”

The fact that Soderbergh has translated his creative mantra from film to branding is what makes Singani 63 unique. Most brands are created to target a particular consumer group or fill a niche in the market, but this is different. Soderbergh tried the drink in 2008 while filming in Spain and was immediately obsessed by the buzz it gave him. Singani 63 is a brand completely driven by creativity and an owner who simply wants as many people as possible to experience it.

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Singani 63’s packaging is contemporary featuring an illustration that pays homage to its Bolivian provenance.

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This retro advert featuring Soderbergh and his pipe alongside a rather large sheep and the caption “This Sh*t Will F*ck You Up” is as unconventional as the brand itself.

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The photo above is taken from the Singani 63 website shows the famous director ‘taking his horse for a gallop after enjoying a Singani 63‘ (see left). Where did he get that idea from, we wonder? (see right).

Soderbergh alone controls the voice of the brand, and what a distinctive voice it is. Alongside the obvious advantage of having a famous owner, it propels a product that not many people have tried before. At present, Singani 63’s finance comes only from Soderbergh. If the brand is to succeed and achieve the kind of distribution that’d justify all the director’s time and money, it’ll need some serious financial backing from another party. This person or group won’t just need to have capital. They’ll also need to trust Soderbergh’s creative direction 100% because without that Singani 63 is just another brand.

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From the catwalk to the supermarket, designers have travelled back to the ancient Aztec civilisation for a heavy dose of inspiration. Beautiful, elegant, fun, playful, bright or black & white – the Aztec theme is adaptable and flexible.

Aztec pattern

Though we understand a large amount about ancient Aztec belief systems, they’re still deeply mysterious to us. Featuring Aztec symbols, motifs and imagery on their packaging, a host FMCG companies are enriching their brands and joining the ancient narratives of a historical population.

Frontera Tortilla Chips use transparent Aztec illustrations to show a glimpse of the product within. The brand is confident, bold and proud. The illustrations are cartoon-like yet remain sophisticated.

This packaging from the Cool Chile Company proves that it just takes triangles, circles, some bright colours, and a little imagination to create stunning premium design. Though minimalistic, the serpent graphic tells an important story: The Aztecs considered Quetzlcoatl or the ‘Feathered Serpent’ a god who ruled over the second era of Aztec creation. Quetzlcoatl was believed to be the patron of arts and knowledge as well as the first to bring a number of food products to the Aztec people.


Included in the food products Quezacoatl gifted to the Aztecs is cacao. That’s why this chocolate brand takes its affiliation with the Feathered Serpent God one step further than design, to naming. Its packaging further reinforces the versatility of the Aztec theme as rich, natural, earthy tones work alongside bright bursting colour.

Tesco Finest ground coffee uses Aztec symbolism to elevate itself to a premium position on shelf and provide powerful, exotic flavour appeal. Sleek black and silver colours bring premium appeal as bright Aztec illustrations provide character and personality.

Azetc symbols bring the weight of history and provenance to a brand. Hair Salsa humorously depicts Aztec figures with added luscious locks. According to the designer, the bottles are actual used salsa bottles. Great provenance and an encapsulating story but would you want salsa anywhere near your hair?

More chocolate. Simplistic elements combine and interlink to give the impression of detail.

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It was 6am this morning and bluemarlin London’s Studio Manager Alex was munching his Corn Flakes in front of his TV. This morning, as he often does, he’d chosen to watch re-runs of British police procedural television series The Bill. As the opening credits ended and the first scene began Alex quite literally spat his cereal out in shock. He watched as coppers Phil and Sam investigated a robbery at a location he recognised. In actual fact, it was a location at which he was due to arrive in less than three hours time – bluemarlin London.

The episode in question dates back to 2006, 6 years before bluemarlin moved into its address by the River Thames in Fulham.

Watch the clip below and share our amazement as our studio bathes in its A-list location status. 


About bluemarlin London

Situated on the banks of the Thames, bluemarlin London has been the mainstay of the company since opening its doors in 2002. The largest studio within the group, this multifaceted team has the talent, expertise and resources to take on the most challenging branding and design projects: from the colossal packaging overhauls of global brands to the brand creation of entrepreneurial start-ups.

As diverse in its passions as its industry skills, bluemarlin London is a place where cyclists, art aficionados, foodies and musicians converge to produce world-class design.

bluemarlin London basks in the sunshine of fame back in 2012.

bluemarlin London basks in the sunshine of fame back in 2012.

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Norway’s new series of banknotes belong in a gallery rather than a high-security vault or stuffed into a wallet. Earlier this year Norges Bank invited eight local design studios to produce concepts for the design of a new series of moolah notes. 

The Norwegian central bank’s brief instructed participating agencies to focus their designs on “the sea.” A simple yet fascinating entity that plays a huge part in Scandinavian culture. Ultimately, only two designs were selected. The wonderfully abstract, pixelated blur of Snøhetta for the back of the notes and the more literal drawings of The Metric System for the front.

The reverse of the note by Snøhetta

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From Snøhetta‘s website:

‘Human beings settle nearby rivers, mountain chains, mountain passes, and coasts. We settle near boundaries – near the boundary between one element and the other. 

The beauty of boundaries is about the transition between sea and land, where something meaningful and interesting happens. Over time the sea becomes commonplace, just as land easily becomes so. However, where sea and land meet there is life. There is life in the same way as life on earth exists between sea and air, between land and air. Where water meets earth, soft meets hard, wet meets dry, life is created. 

Our long coast has created our identity, our heritage, and our industries. It has created national and international transport opportunities, as well as the creation of our welfare society. It is a vivid meeting that creates life’. 

The front of the note by The Metric System

norwegian kronerUnder the title ‘Norwegian Living Space’, The Metric System’s entry features detailed illustrations that capture multiple elements of the ocean and Norway’s coast. Norges Bank said The Metric System’s design is “very well suited to the incorporation of necessary security elements”, and combined with Snohetta Design’s entry “will give the notes both a traditional and a modern expression.”

The bad news for any Norwegians or tourists wishing to visit Norway and spend some of these beauties, is that they won’t be available until 2017 at the earliest.

Download this pdf to see all the designs submitted to Norges Bank.

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