A graphic designer breaks out of the two-dimensional world with objects that challenge the Singapore conundrum: staying local for a global audience.
Larry Peh is not a serious product designer. The founder of graphic design studio & Larry creates products for pleasure. But as his idols, industrial designers Charles and Ray Eames, said: “Take your pleasure seriously.” That’s the motto Peh has adopted to drive his foray into designing products over the last five years.
In 2005, Peh set up his own studio after having established himself as a graphic designer for some seven years in Singapore. He also began creating a series of objects to “break out of his two-dimensional graphic world” and to make more lasting work. “After years of working on retail and graphic design, which I feel come and go, but I wanted to create things that I can show my grandchildren with pride 50 years on,” he says.
He is determined to capture “what is Singapore” through his designs, embarking on the search for a local design identity in this globalised city-state. Other Singaporean designers have found that same quest futile. “Everything Singapore tends to be associated with cheesy stuff like Phua Chu Kang (a Singaporean sitcom), and everything polished would be trying to imitate the West. So what kind of look do we have?” he asks. For this self-taught product designer, good work does not include kitsch imitations or homages; he wants to create original objects with a Singaporean vernacular that stand up against the world’s best.
Indeed, his objects begin from observations of everyday life here. They question and comment on Singapore society, and turn out to be simply beautiful. His Anything but Red Lamp answers the challenge that red tape in this city restricts creativity – his tower of stacked rolls of adhesive tape in all colours except red makes nonsense of any such imagined restriction. Then there’s his Paper Cut Letter Opener shaped like an envelope fold, a literal interpretation of a minister’s exhortion to ‘push the boundaries of his envelope’.
More recently Peh has been invited to design pieces for international furniture-makers Steelcase and Saporiti Italia. Although he has not found time to create any new products in the last year, he promises a fresh line-up in 2011. And he’s serious about it. andlarry.com