A New Chapter

Interview by Gilda Lim

Known for his idiosyncratic take on design, Nathan’s reputable work has been exhibited all over the globe. Currently based in Singapore, he runs a multidisciplinary design consultancy practice with work spanning industrial design, graphics, interior design, architectural design, strategic planning in product development and manufacturing processes as well as branding.

Now he’s produced his own book, BEING: The Thoughts and Work of Nathan Yong, 2006-2014, documenting his creative struggles, consideration for the end-user, and hope for greater expression in Asian design and materials. The book, designed by Hanson Ho, went on to win the The Tokyo Type Directors Club (TDC) Award. Taking time off his busy schedule, Nathan shares how his ethos and insights have been captured and translated into print.

Why a book now?

I’ve been doing this since 1999, so I thought it’s finally time to archive my work and let people know the thoughts and stories behind my creations. Every time I create a product, it’s out in the public for consumers to form their own interpretations—I don’t get to explain much about it. Unlike graphic designers who have all their work recorded in computers, mine are just products. I can’t be keeping everything in the warehouse, so I thought a book would be the best way to document some of my favourite works.

In the book you mentioned that function itself can be beautiful, can you tell us when you first realised this and when you decided to make this quality a permanent feature throughout your products?

When I started out as a young designer, all I knew was that I had to make every detail beautiful. It came to a point where I realised that when you put everything together, it’s just noise. Some things just have to be simple in design. It’s also through experience and maturity that you realise that it’s not all about the visual aspect of things, it’s about connecting and interacting with them. A lot of things are quite sublime, they speak to you in many ways be it through their texture or weight—these are not just visuals.

There are little inserts of pictures and notes that mimic bookmarks. Is there a reason behind this distinct design?

A lot of people may not realise it, but whatever you see on the front page is exactly the same as the inserts inside. This was through much discussion with Hanson. I wanted a cover that communicates the gist of the contents. Also, because a lot of it features my sketches, we wanted the book to be like a diary in which you have some ideas, you sketch them and insert them in. It’s very tactile in that sense.

Read more in The U Press N˚11 (Singapore edition).