Singapore designer Theseus Chan is best known globally for his self-published magazine Werk, a tour-de-force of graphic technique that often uses hands-on intervention to personalise each copy. At home he is regarded as the godfather of Singapore graphic design, his influence on a new generation of designers hugely important to his country’s new creative ambitions.
What is currently working in our industry? What changes do we need to make?
Technology and science has opened up more knowledge about the universe around us, together with the dawning of a new age of artificial intelligence. It has led to better medical and bio-technology, better interconnectivity and technology that enhances the ability to work productively and efficiently.
That said, no one yet has figured out a way to peace, love and harmony. Or to end wars and suffering.
We need to change the foolish pursuit of greed and gratification in our industry. We need to make our creative world one of goodness that is beneficial for humanity.
What are the key issues affecting the industry, and your discipline specifically? On a grander scale, how can we be better, as people and as an industry?
We need to inspire the next generation. We need to help by showing them that ideas are everywhere – even in the ordinary – and that the ability to recognise them can be learned.
The pursuit of exceptional ideas is a lonely pursuit, and grit is the way to greatness.
What drives you to do great work?
The joy of thinking. Creating something exceptional and having it executed (exceedingly well) with whatever resource I am given; being dissatisfied with ‘just good enough’; having a frame of mind, a responsibility to always strive towards being greater and better.
Accomplishing something for a greater, collective good.
All of these, done often enough, allow me to achieve a sense of momentum and motivation, which sustains me in times of low ebb. Where are the great ideas/craft coming from?
All ideas and inspirations comes from above...
A good idea comes from the ability to alter the course of any process so that it evolves for the better.
A great idea come from seeing what others can’t.
An exceptional idea comes from the ability to unify that which is opposing or in conflict, and make them possible.
What work has stood the test of time? What is ground-breaking currently or makes you think "I wish I'd done that”?
Yet to be accomplished – world peace and to end suffering for all life.
What technologies are affecting the work being created in your field and how?
I think we are using and relying on far too much technology in our work. As such we have lost the opportunity of discovery. Processes that are done manually contain within them far more ideas, inspirations and ingenuity than what can be keyed out on screens and keyboards.
Is automation having any impact? What does this mean for creative practitioners?
Automation is an enemy of the artisanal, but there’s definitely a place for both in my mind.
What is the value of creative awards?
They serve as a benchmark, because they symbolises the recognition and endorsement of industry peers.
Are they still relevant?
It depends on whose recognition and endorsement... but yes, they are still relevant and we still need them, at least for a while more.
What’s the importance of celebrating creative excellence for you? What is the value of winning a D&AD Pencil?
If winning a Pencil is like that drop in the ocean, that needle in the haystack, then yes, it is an important achievement.
If you think you have a campaign that deserves a Pencil, enter your work into the D&AD Awards and see if our judges agree. When it comes to awards, nothing matters more.
For more creative inspiration and the opportunity to get up close and personal with the world’s best design and advertising, join us at D&AD Festival.