Excuse Me, Are You A Designer?

News broke on the last day of May that The Grapfeeks Room, a Singaporean design production house/studio, was guilty of copying from Tuesday Bassen, an illustrator and art director living in New York city. Within hours, the guilty admitted (on an Instagram post) to the copying (calling it lifting but it looked more like tracing) and could point to the culprit being an intern. You can see more on The Little Drom Store’s FB and Organisation of Illustrators Council’s FB.

We felt rather sad about this state of affairs, and wondered why there is such blatant copying/ lifting/ tracing that go on around us, and why we as a society seem to not care. Our heart went out to the those who suffered the pillage, and as the day turned, there were more news of copying/ lifting from other illustrators by the same so-called design studio.

I think we decided earlier that we would do a blog post on it. Because it is easy for things to get buried by newer posts on Twitter/ Facebook/ Instagram. And then we felt relieved, in a way, that we had decided to do a post on our own website on this. Outfits that took products from them seem to have scrubbed the offending items from their websites; the guilty, other than a post on their Instagram, do not seem to have made reparations for their actions.

Our thoughts on this:

  1. Screen caps are very important. Because it is so easy to delete posts, abandon a domain name, and/or run away.
  2. We love those sleuths going through the guilty’s designs and calling bullshit on them.
  3. Other than that, we are actually quite sad because other than to people who design, it might well be that most other people do not care about art or copyright or respect for another person’s livelihood. Some people just want to buy their stuff at the cheapest price. They may not care that stealing art means that someone else has gone unpaid for his work. They may not care that one day in the future, there will be no nice things because hey, no one wants to pay for them.
  4. Intern? It was mighty fast how you got to that conclusion. Does it absolve you? Not really. It means that you do not have a process for checking that the work that your intern produces is something he produced. It means that you took an intern’s work wholesale, no questions asked and went off to make money off it. Did you pay that intern for that? And what design studio are you that you take an intern’s work without making any changes/edits?
  5. No one can confess to knowing every design out there, that’s understandable. But maybe you want to not copy very known illustrators. Do you know how these illustrators make a living? Definitely not by having their work “lifted” by you.
  6. This reminds us of an incident a few months back where we asked a local zakka outfit whether the cushion covers being sold were from the artists. The covers were sold at a price point so low that it sounded too good to be true. Donna Wilson and Sandra Dieckmann designs on cushion covers, each going for around S$17. Whoa. The reply we got was disheartening: something along the line of we didn’t get it from the artist, didn’t know about the artist, and oh, we got them from an overseas supplier. The sadder part? Months later, those items are still on sale.
  7. Actually, it is easy to say this is only the fault of the copier or the person who is selling the offending product. But maybe not. If as consumers, we are more discerning, if we as a society cared more about the providence of our purchases, one does not even need to resort to copyright to see that it is simply wrong to steal someone else’s work. How would you feel if something you wrote/ made/ drew is stolen and used by the thief to generate revenue? [There should be other philosophical discussions available on this topic, but I suspect they might also be premised on recognition of the designer’s rights in the first place.]

The local scene is very small. Life is short. Why would you want your story to be about lifting/ stealing someone else’s work? Why would life have more meaning if you undercut others so that you have just a little more of a very small pie? We cannot emphasise this enough. The Singaporean market is very small. And if you say you are aiming for something bigger, just that bit more money, then you should really be careful with what you are doing. Because if and when you do get big, do you think that what you really do (steal) would go unnoticed? We live in a day and age when we, Singaporeans, have the means and the intellect to be among the best in the world. It is truly saddening for us that among us, there are people who either cannot or would not think, and that there are people who do not understand the value of doing something yourself. It is maddening that there are people out there who chase trends to make a quick buck, and in that process, cast away decency and responsibility for their own actions.

Cafe & Bar Gavroche

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It is not clear why we took so long to get ourselves here. Cafe & Bar Gavroche serves light French fare, and is a suitable counterpoint to those (and us) suffering from cafe fatigue. We booked ourselves a table one weekend (we love Chope), and were happy the moment we spotted the facade of the cafe. You know, the feeling you get when something is probably genuinely good instead of trying to look like it’s good. I digress.

Foursquare tips told us that no one had anything bad to say about the food, and that there would be an unfriendly lady pecking at her laptop (check). Then, we were distracted by our lovely table, and so we proceeded to enjoy ourselves. We were seated to a side of the indoor space that was made to look like the outdoors. In Singapore, this is important, because the humidity will kill you if you really sit outdoors. But we too like natural light and this cafe did such a pretty job of its “Terrace” section. The Drucker wicker chairs caused a lot of serious envy.

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We pored over the menu a little, since it was really quite hard to say I only want to try this or that. In the end, Siew decided on a ham platter, and I chose one of their specialities. We also ordered a pot of brew and English breakfast tea (comes in a pot).

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Scrambled eggs atop caramelised onions was new to me, but it made so much sense when you take a bite. As for the ham plate, let’s just say that Siew could have finished another serving. The food is good, and they do a devastating trick, I think. They serve you a portion just short of satisfying you so you end the dish thinking that you really, really want some more of that. But at the same time, you cannot say that the portion was too small. Clever.

We definitely have to come back. We had a good time, and I felt very chic, sipping and sipping my coffee endlessly. Plus, I need to slowly work my way through the menu.

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Location: 69 Tras Street
Nearest MRT: Tanjong Pagar
Parking can be found along Tras Street (parallel lots), at Carlton City Hotel or at Amara Hotel.