Despite being trained in architecture, designer Kelley Cheng refrains from calling herself one, simply because over the last two decades of her illustrious career, she has done far more than just design spaces. Her breadth of work spans the roles of editor, writer, curator, spatial designer, graphic designer, video director, interactive designer, and educator, among others, and to this day, continues to put out work as founder and Creative Director of publishing and design consultancy The Press Room.
Celebrated across the local design scene, Cheng traces her journey with the brand new exhibition Proportion & Emotion at the National Design Centre. Co-presented by DesignSingapore Council as part of the SG Designer Milestone Series, the exhibition, which runs from now till 5th January 2020, collects 20 of Cheng’s most significant projects over the last 20 years, each one powerful and integral to charting the evolution of the local graphic design scene.
“Design, unlike art, is still a service at the end of the day and there will always be needs and requirements that we have to fulfil for the client, and it has to serve the intended purpose,” says Cheng. “As a designer, we are always trying to balance art and design, and how much of art we can bring into design depends on how receptive our client is. 20 years of practising has taught me that there are no dream jobs, there are only dream clients.”
Known also for starting Singapore’s first independent design magazine, ish, the multi-talented polymath seems like she could design for just about anything if she put her mind to it, as evidenced across the works presented. ish was significant for helping propel Singapore design and designers into the international spotlight, and ran for 10 years until 2009, when Cheng moved from publication design to other forms of design with the founding of The Press Room.
Over the course of the exhibition, visitors will get a chance to travel through time and view the breadth and sheer creativity of Cheng’s mind, with clients ranging from the National Gallery Singapore to the inaugural Youth Olympics’ exhibition design in 2012. Other clients Cheng has served over the years include exhibition design for President’s Design Award 2013 and 2016; branding and graphic design for arts and cultural festivals such as the SPHNAC Golden Point Award 2011, Singapore Writers’ Festival 2014, Art Stage Singapore 2015-2016, and more.
Always, it is design that calls to mind a bridge between client and user – elegant, emotional, and effective. Besides documentation of the 20 projects (in non-chronological order), visitors can also check out objects such as shoes, custom-made name cards (we’d love some of them ourselves), books such as a double-volume book for SG50, commissioned by the Prime Minister’s Office; and more that will give a better idea of how her aesthetic is applied across all mediums.
The exhibition will feature 20 design projects from among those Kelley has worked on alongside a presentation of past ish magazine covers. Proportion & Emotion, as much as it is a celebration of Cheng’s work, never misses out on her peers and collaborators as well, and will feature a showcase of 20 new works. These have been produced in close
collaboration with Kelley’s friends from the global design industry, including Theseus Chan (Work), Chris Lee (Asylum), Yu Yah Leng (Foreign Policy), and Jackson Tan (PHUNK) from Singapore; Freeman Lau (KL&K Design) and Stanley Wong (anothermountainman) from Hong Kong; He Jian Ping (Hesign) and Holgur Wingfuhr (Frankfurter Allgemeine) from Germany; Yiannis Charalambopoulos (Beetroot Design) from Greece, Hjalti Karlsson (Karlssonwilker) from New York. A series of 20 posters that offer a playful chronicle of Kelley’s 20 years of adventure and imagination in design resulting from these exchanges will be launched exclusively at the exhibition.
Says Mark Wee, Executive Director, DesignSingapore Council: ” “It is with great pleasure that we co-present Proportion & Emotion at the National Design Centre as part of our ongoing SG Designer Milestone Series. The wide-ranging nature of Proportion & Emotion will give visitors unprecedented access to Kelley’s 20-year journey in design. The series marks milestone anniversaries of design studios, and local designers like Kelley through
retrospective showcases and the launch of new collections and collaborations that celebrate their history, and also chart their future trajectories. We hope that these showcases provide a point of aspiration as visitors navigate the journeys of our trailblazers.”
Photo Credit: Caleb Ming/Surround
Proportion & Emotion runs from 2nd December 2019 to 5th January 2020 at the National Design Centre. Admission is free, for more information, visit The Press Room or enjoy a digital version of the exhibition on Kelley Cheng’s website (but we do recommend going down to check out the actual display!)