Fable reflect on the studio’s growth and the uplifting story behind the State of Print exhibition
Located in Singapore, Fable are an award-winning, multi-disciplinary design consultancy. In the years since their launch in 2012, Fable have built an impressive portfolio, with the dynamic team having worked with clients such as Google, Rolex and Deloitte as well as many global and local collaborators. Aiming to spark conversations on the place of printed matter in our digital world, the consultancy worked with a wide collective of creatives to produce The State of Print – a collaborative exhibition showcasing the joy of printed design work. Along with a studio update, creative director Jiahui Tan and designer Ruo Ting reveal the origin of the successful project and the joy of seeing it come to life.
PT Hi Fable team! How are you?
RT I got a puppy! Work-wise, the chance to work on many different projects over the years and gain experience from them. I am constantly finding my feet in the industry/adulting world although it has been years since I’ve joined. Although work can be challenging at times since transitioning from a student to a working adult can be scary, I am just doing my best and grateful for every learning opportunity along the way.
JT Life has been fulfilling. We have lots of interesting projects – from cultural projects, to homegrown cafés, to multinational fundhouses. We were slightly worried when the pandemic hit some time back, but thankfully we were not really affected as we had never put all our eggs in one basket. On a personal note, my wife (who runs the show) just gave birth to our daughter a few weeks ago while we attempt to outwit our two-year-old son daily as he is full of tricks. We are trying to catch up on sleep while balancing everything else in life – kudos to our team for holding the fort.
PT How has Fable evolved since you first started?
RT I feel that I’ve grown a lot alongside the studio. Not in a way that we were different than before, but more of growing up and ageing as a company. It was never about showing what we could do, but to be able to provide what clients need and beautifying it. And that process is what makes us unique. With that mindset, we still continue to take on projects, regardless of the scale. We are always improving and growing, keeping up with the trends and staying timeless.
JT At the heart of things, we are always interested in bringing design to the people. Be it helping a commercial client elevate their brand systems to communicate better or an arts institution with their festival branding, we always hold true to being the antithesis of ‘high-brow’ design. Clients would know our style is always to let the work speak for itself – no fancy business talk, no hidden agendas, and no fake accents. Design approach-wise, we have always been type and motion-centric. Type and motion might be getting very trendy these few years on social media, but if people know our earlier works, we have been incorporating them since the start of the last decade.
We have always been type and motion-centric.
PT If you could only show one project – one to define the studio – what would it be?
JT It would be the PLAY EAT WORK trilogy projects that included space, branding, motion, type, and print design. The project was meant to bring design, history, heritage, and arts to the masses who are slightly more ‘uninitiated’ and it was successful in doing so. It opened a lot of doors for us, and got us significant attention as well.
RT At the top of my head, I would say The State of Print, which is also our most recent project. Many aspects of design like branding, print, motion graphics, spatial were showcased. It was fulfilling to see nothing becoming something, and knowing that we created something that brought impact to the society. The project had many good intentions and it was also nice to see how design can bring people together, especially through these trying times.
PT What do you enjoy the most about living and working in Singapore, as a creative?
RT Born and raised in Singapore, the most important people in my life are here. Surrounded by people who love me, my friends and family, it helps a lot morally knowing there’s always someone behind my back supporting me. Apart from that, Singapore is great – although we are a small county, we have everything we need here. The different people and cultures also help to inspire and broaden my perspective of everyday living.
The question is how can everyone grow together?
PT How did you get involved with the State of Print exhibition?
JT During the pandemic in 2020, I was feeling so cooped up at home I decided to head to Basheer Graphic Books to buy some books. I started chatting with Nasser (the boss himself) whom I have known for a long time to do something fun together that involved augmented reality to drive more traffic to the bookstore. Much to our delight, that project, which was the first iteration of The State of Print, was a success as it was fun and brought sales to Basheer. The initiative was also picked up by quite a few international media platforms.
Fast forward to 2021, we started discussions with DesignSingapore Council to bring it to the National Design Centre on a bigger scale. I don’t think it is about saving the medium of print here in Singapore or a versus game. I think it is about evolution and coexistence. I do think by now that the conversation has evolved from ‘is print going to die’ to ‘print will not die.’ The question is how can everyone grow together?
PT How did you decide on the art direction for the exhibition design? Why black and pink?
JT We are typography-led so we wanted to create a visual for the exhibition that I’d like to call ‘Maximum Typography,’ a fusion of different typefaces together. Some were created by our friends that we really love, while others were created by us at Fable. Will it be out of trend one day? Let’s see. Black (or key) and magenta are two of the main colours in printing so we decided to use them. Also, we are really hoping that Blackpink will take note of us and invite us backstage one day so we chose that over BlackCyan.
Will it be out of trend one day? Let’s see.
PT What was your favourite part of working on the project?
JT The favourite part was connecting with new and old friends. Singapore and the world.
RT It’s really fulfilling to see nothing becoming something. To be able to witness the different stages of this project and have my ideas come to life. From the beginning – we had different brainstorming sessions, sketching sessions, to designing on the computer and translating it to print and production. It’s just amazing to see how the project developed into what it is now. And to see it being appreciated by so many people around the world. And I am really grateful to be a part of this – something that received so much love from everyone! It is a project with a good message and is also relevant to today’s fast-paced society. I feel that it allows people to slow down a little and enjoy what we have right now, and not take things for granted.
PT What has the reception been like? What kind of feedback have you received?
RT Really glad to say that it’s been really good so far! Everyone from students to families with children, even the general public who have little knowledge about print or design loved it. Other than just being aesthetically pleasing to the eye, they also mentioned that they managed to learn and gain more insights about print in today's fast-paced world.
JT The reception has been tremendous. From individuals to the press, we have been getting so much love from all corners. Some cite that it was great to bring their kids and families; some said they loved walking down the memory lane of ‘print;’ some just enjoyed the experience and consumption of knowledge. So many collaborators have been telling us they really want to visit Singapore because of this!
PT What kind of projects would you like the studio to work on in the future?
RT Anything really. Probably projects that we will be proud to show and projects that serve a purpose in today’s world.
JT One day, I would love to brand an airline, a museum, and the World Cup (as I am an avid football fan). We are also launching a few typefaces soon. For now – I would like to focus on family and raising the two young ones in this challenging world. We will be guiding the studio in spirit while the rest run the show.