Embodying aesthetic and intellectual integrity, A Guide to the Flora and Fauna of the World is the result of the successful collaboration between graphic designer Hanson Ho and photographer Robert Zhao Renhui. The publication, presented as an archival box, comprises 55 loose sheets of photographs with supporting documents that examine the widespread effects of human intervention in science and nature. To cope with the stresses and pressures of an altered world, various creatures and life forms have evolved in often unexpected ways.
Hanson recalls that his brief had been quite open-ended, requiring him to design a highly prized and desirable publication, which would accompany Robert’s art installation of the same name at the Singapore Biennale. In particular, Hanson points to a used handbook about bird eggs that became the trigger for initial discussions.
The project kicked off with Hanson first trying to understand and compartmentalise the diverse contents within the publication so he could make it a valued collectible that people would want to own and treasure. He was also motivated by the goal of making the work a milestone for Robert’s artistic career.
An archival box format was used as this is synonymous with the publication’s scientific, research-like contents. The overall design direction appropriates diagrammatic charts, computer programming language and old software interfaces, and juxtaposes these with Robert’s images to suggest the human race’s use of technology and data analyses to control nature.
The current edition of 500 sets retails for S$180 per set, each with a signed certificate of authenticity. The work has received prominent international design awards, including a Gold Pencil from the New York One Show Design Annual Awards and a Silver Cube from the New York Art Directors Club. The collection has been exhibited at numerous international shows.
Hanson thinks his design’s greatest functional value is that it has helped the publication to achieve healthy pre-order, launch and post-launch sales, both online and offline. He feels that the project has created a new fan base and more opportunities for Robert to exhibit internationally.
The designer also believes the publication has fulfilled the vision of the President’s Design Award. It is a testament of the unexpected possibilities of cross-disciplinary collaboration that combines sub-cultural interests in the various themes of truth, media, nature, scientific intervention, visual representation, banal typography and value. His highest hope for the publication is that it will encourage others in the design industry to look beyond their disciplines and explore new grounds to attain new insights about themselves and the world.READ MORE
Named by Singapore’s The Sunday Times as one of the nation’s top graphic designers, Hanson has had his name on the roster of recipients for the President’s Design Award previously. He received its Designer of the Year accolade in 2012, with the Jury describing his body of work as expressive “of simplicity, restraint and intelligence – very much in keeping with his personality”.
The Creative Director of H55, a design studio which he founded in 1999, Hanson is behind numerous visual identities, brand applications and publications that have represented Singapore at an international level. Among these are the visual identity designs for the Singapore Pavilion at various Venice Biennales, and the biennial Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize. Hanson’s work has also garnered recognition and awards from some of the most prestigious design competitions in the world, including the D&AD in London, Type Directors Club in New York and Tokyo, One Show Design, Creative Circle Awards, and the New York Art Directors Club.
Over and above his myriad roles at H55, Hanson makes time to lend his design prowess to meaningful projects for the community and the local design industry. He is the managing editor of The Design Society Journal, a bi-annual journal that puts the spotlight on local artists and designers, and their practices. Hanson is also the curator for the Singapore Mass Rapid Transit “Art in Transit” programme, an initiative that brings art closer to the community through artworks that reflect the heritage of their neighbourhood. Hanson will curate the artwork collection for nine upcoming Downtown Line (DTL) stations.
Born in Singapore, Hanson studied at the School of Design at Temasek Polytechnic. Although known to be an immensely private person who prefers to work independently, Hanson collaborated very closely with 2010 “Young Artist Award” recipient Robert on the project, A Guide to the Flora and Fauna of the World. Describing his approach to the project, Hanson says that he was inspired by Robert’s work and their discussions in his studio. “There won’t be good design without good content in the first place, and I am grateful to (Robert) for that”, he adds.
For Hanson, the significance of the President’s Design Award for Singapore’s design scene lies in it being the first award of its kind to recognise designers on a national level. He feels the award is an encouragement and motivation for creative practitioners, and challenges the conventional Singaporean idea that we need to be “international” before being recognised “nationally”.READ MORE
IN COLLABORATION WITH PHOTOGRAPHER / ARTIST
Institute Of Critical Zoologists
Robert Zhao Renhui
Colophon and content page
(Photo by: Caleb Ming)
Occassional papers of The Tropical Bonsai Study Group
(Photo by: Caleb Ming)
Archival box, back
(Photo by: Caleb Ming)
Plate 52, ICZ research report No.481, Acusis research reports
(Photo by: Caleb Ming)
Archival box, front
(Photo by: Caleb Ming)
Hanson Ho: Presenting the diverse content as a single publication. This was resolved by placing everything in an 'archival box', and implementing several visual systems. I was also mindful that our design should not be overly intrusive and distract the reader from the artwork, while having sufficient design intervention.
1. Be honest with yourself.
2. Be objective, focused, and purposeful.
3. Creativity is about constantly finding and understanding yourself.
4. Know what motivates and inspires you.
5. Understand your relationship with design, work and money, and what they ultimately mean to you.
6. Let go of your mental baggages and old mindsets and be progressive.
7. Take risks, displace yourself from time to time.
8. Do not be sentimental, embrace change.
9. Spend thousands of hours practising design.
10. Be in an environment that allows you to grow.
A highly promising collaboration between 2012 Designer of the Year recipient Hanson Ho of H55 and 2010 Young Artist Award winner Robert Zhao Renhui has resulted in an absolutely engaging, intriguing and, at times, mind-boggling design masterpiece.
The complexity of the artist’s work, a fictitious science journal for the fictitious Institute of Critical Zoologists, is wonderfully presented through an archival box. It comprises loose sheets of photographs with supporting documents, exploring the myriad ways in which human intervention in science and nature have caused creatures and life forms to evolve in often unexpected ways in order to cope with the stresses and pressures of an altered world.
Hanson’s design direction appropriates diagrammatic charts, computer programming language and old software interfaces, and juxtaposes these with Robert’s images to suggest the human race’s use of technology and data analyses to control nature.
A Guide to the Flora and Fauna of the World embodies aesthetic and intellectual originality, as well as achievements in both design and art. It is a testament to the unexpected possibilities of cross-disciplinary collaboration, creating a product that is more than the sum of its collaborative parts.VIEW JURORS
LEE GIM LAY
A Guide to the Flora and Fauna of the World is an award-winning collaboration between President’s Design Award‘s Designer of the Year (2012) recipient Hanson Ho of H55, and Young Artist Award (2010) recipient Robert Zhao Renhui. Accompanying an exhibition of the same title at the Singapore Biennale 2013, the book, which takes the form of an archival box, comprises 55 loose sheets of photographs with supporting documents. It explores ways in which human intervention in nature has created new, evolved creatures.
The design direction appropriates diagrammatic charts, computer programming language and old software interfaces. The design itself complements Zhao’s coolly clinical and compelling images, which flit between fiction and reality, to suggest the use of technology in mankind’s attempt to control nature.
They have been bought by collectors and fans, including the world renowned Magnum photographer-cum-obsessive photography book collector, Martin Parr. The work has also received prominent international design awards, including a Silver Cube from the New York Art Directors Club, and a Gold Pencil from the New York One Show Design Annual Awards. It is also being shortlisted for the Tokyo Type Directors Club and has been invited to be exhibited at the Lodz Fotofestiwal Grand Prix (Poland), Moscow International Biennale, PhotoIreland Festival, Asian Art Archive (Hong Kong), the Tokyo Type Directors Club Exhibition (Ginza Graphic Gallery), and The Traveling One Show (New York).
The work deserves the President’s Design Award for its aesthetic and intellectual originality, as well as its achievements in both the design and art world. It is also a testament to the unexpected possibilities of cross-disciplinary collaboration creating a product that is more than the sum of its collaborative parts.