To Experiment

Commissioned by the Singapore Polytechnic Design School to design and fabricate a thematic piece of work for the opening of its new building in October 2014, “To Experiment” straddled visual communication, environmental graphics and electronic art in response to a design brief aimed at communicating the essence of the new school’s central ethos of embracing experimentation.

Permanently installed outside the main office of the SP Design School, a chain of flip dot display modules form a text based a display panel, displaying 500 definitions of the word “experiment” in a randomized sequence that refreshes to a new definition sentence every 15 seconds. The tactile wash animation of the mechanical flipping triggered every fifteen seconds renders dynamism to the site, as the ever-changing definitions function as a perpetual cue that reminds the onlooker that the true essence of experimentation is one that looks outside the known boundaries of (a dictionary) definitions.

Through workshops conducted with four design diploma courses housed in the new building, students and lecturers coined the new “experiment” definitions. The workshop participants learned about divergent thinking and creative collaboration, using a creative exercise as an ideation technique to generate the alternative definitions to that found in the dictionary. Eventually 500 definitions of “experiment” were shortlisted from about 3000.

“To Experiment” in itself is also a re-definition of the manner in which some schools communicate their mottos or tenets by representing them as large environmental graphics and type on facades. Instead, it exemplifies experimentation not as a symbolic or idealistic message, but attempts to bring out the fundamental essence of experimentation as an imaginative process. In fact, to define the idea of experimentation is to go against the very spirit of it. The resulting work not only captured the ethos of the school and the spirit of creativity, it also reflected a collaborative approach towards design with the stakeholders of the school contributing to the work.