Sep 23, 2010

Lesson from Passport Terrorism - Which are our National Icons?

Singapore (biometric) passport

Earlier on, I blogged about the declining standard of our Singapore passport. Of course I don't mean the embedded technology used in the new biometric passport. Look carefully at the landmarks chosen as the backdrop for the passport page. Does the skyline (and choice of Esplanade in the foreground) remind you of Singapore in 2010?

With a government that is so concerned about branding, I thought that would be foremost in their mind when they designed the passport page. As owner of one of the most unrestricted passport in the world, citizens are to have pride waving their little red book at foreign immigration officers.

I used to think that was passport terrorism - blowing up skyscrapers by using a 1980s skyline to depict our financial centre (the old passport actually used a later skyline from the 1990s). That judgement was overly harsh. Now as I look at the design from another perspective, I start to see symbolism and code embedded in the design. Isn't the designer brilliant?

  1. The flower on the top right - no doubt Vanda Miss Joaquim our national flower - is there to remind us: be natural; just as our orchid is a hybrid, our society is a fusion of indigenous and immigrant cultures to create a national identity.
  2. The Esplanade on the right is there to remind us: learn to appreciate the arts and not be too obsessed with the worship of mammon; develop the nation into a cultural mecca.
  3. The skyline on the left is there to remind us: the 1980s were the good old days. Even the skyline was aesthetically more pleasing to the eyes. Back then we had fewer skyscrapers, so how did we do it?

If we see the page design as a 'picking of national icons' exercise, then the designer had made his or her choice - Vanda Miss Joaquim and Esplanade come out top. What do others think, which are our national icons today?

From Google Perspective

The top search engine can tell us what are some of our perceived national icons on public websites. I did an image search on 'singapore national icon' and saw this pretty interesting result.

The Merlion is the undisputed winner here. I am not surprised to see Singapore Flyer in top places. Even Goh Keng Swee is a possible candidate for national icon.

From Government Perspective

Earlier this month, I was at Changi Airport and there was this Changi GP Festival, to promote F1 of course. They came out with a mini race track for RC cars and also wasted no effort in promoting our national icons. To sell our country to visitors, certain landmarks are promoted to be national icons that tourists can identify with Singapore.

F1 @ Changi Airport

F1 @ Changi Airport
Do you see that? Changi Airport control tower, Singapore Flyer, Marina Bay Sands and Merlion .... but where is the Esplanade?


Anonymous said...

Why so particular? I see four landmarks in the last picture, two latest ones (Marina Bay Sands and SG Flyer) and two established ones (Merlion and Changi Airport control tower). Very well balanced.

Icemoon said...

Indeed very well balanced in Changi Airport GP Festival. This is good branding by the organizer.

But how come our passport uses the Esplanade which is not deemed worthy for branding?

me said...

most of tourist will take picture with esplanade the durian as the i think this 'durian' quiet famous and special among the course merlion is number 1

Adelin said...

maybe not enough space to put a 'durian' building.

Icemoon said...

I doubt Esplanade the durian is that famous like Opera House in Sydney. I suspect it is not even top tier like Changi Airport among the world's airports. In fact I was a bit embarrassed when a Vietnamese friend told me she went in with her family and was disappointed. I think she said the one in Vietnam? is better.

1. Reputation not there like Changi Airport.
2. Cannot bring in money like Flyer and Sands.
3. No mythological status and not cute like the Merlion.

fr said...

I would say the Esplanade is a nice pleasant place but it is not spectacular. Its uniqueness is its durian spikes.

I doubt any tour agent brings tourist groups just to see Durian.

Icemoon said...

I'm still confused why they call it the durian. The spikes and shape look more jackfruit to me.

To capitalize on the durian theme, do you see fruit stall selling durian outside the Esplanade?