Order, efficiency, and cleanliness are probably not the first things most creatives look for in their ideal place to live. So when Singapore advertising and design agency Kinetic dreamt up a guide to introduce their country to the world, they went a little crazy.
Ultimately, they came up with Zinegapore, a zany alternative take on how Singapore’s corporate-like efficiency overshadows a burgeoning creative industry that has emerged over the last decade or so.
Eschewing conventional travel guides that simply list attractions, Kinetic’s free iPad-only guide offers a highly irreverent, yet refreshingly honest guide to everyday life in Singapore. Images of banks in this international finance capital are presented (literally) as “Places of Interest.” Singaporeans’ love for acronyms are expressed in a word search puzzle, and the city’s reputation for cleanliness is turned into a game of spotting the sheer number of trash bins on its streets.<
Zinegapore is the 16-year-old agency’s contribution to an on-going exhibition to showcase the country’s contemporary creative talents to the world. After visiting Beijing and London earlier this year, the government-commissioned “Singapore: Inside Out” will travel to New York’s Madison Square Park from September 23 to 27 with the works of 20 invited artists, designers, chefs, and musicians, including Kinetic. The highly acclaimed agency—winner of multiple international industry awards from the likes of Cannes, D&AD, Clio, Young Guns, and The One Show—created the “Bank of Kinetic” featuring objects by 50 other Singapore artists and creative studios. Kinetic also funded the guide themselves in honor of the nation’s 50th anniversary this year.
“With Zingapore, we want to showcase the little, everyday things and funny quirks that truly make us Singapore, warts and all,” explains Kinetic’s creative director Pann Lim. “It’s a Singapore that’s far from perfect, but we love our country just the way it is, and we want to share it in a cheeky manner that’s not afraid to poke fun at ourselves.”
Over eight months, Lim and his team of Singaporeans and expats labored on the guide after studio hours, weaving quirky narratives around eight themes they felt were unique about Singapore. To explain Singlish, a pidgin English spoken by the country’s multiracial community, Kinetic’s staff acted out hilarious short skits dressed as a duck and chicken, bringing to life a Chinese idiom about the difficulty two people from different backgrounds have communicating with one another. Riffing on Singaporeans’ transport woes, the section “Hail or Fail” simulates the challenge of flagging down a cab in the city (I eventually gave up) while “The Costliest Paper in the World” compares what one could buy around the world instead of shelling out big bucks in Singapore for a certificate to own an automobile, part of a government scheme to control the city’s traffic. According to Kinetic’s calculations, the certificate valued at S$72,000 (around US$51,000) in March could get you 128 llamas in Peru instead!
The guide’s different sections come together via the hand-drawn works of illustrator Carmen Chen. Her unpolished aesthetic, particularly evident in the “Phenomnomnomenal Hawkers” section, which reimagines the city’s food hawkers as superheroes, help this digital guide convey the city’s “human aspects,” says Lim.
The art director of “Singapore: Inside Out,” Clara Yee, is a fan, calling Zinegapore a publication that’s “bold, fun, and completely in line with the Kinetic brand of humor.” Plus, she adds, “as a digital zine, it doesn’t lose the personable narrative and visual texture of a traditional printed zine. In fact, its sexy use of animation to impart life to each illustration is the kind of stuff print folks drool over.”