Uniquely Singapore

7th January 2017

I did project 8 on 7th January. Though this was almost two months after project 7, I couldn’t decide on the subject till very late in the day – or year – when I forced myself to do it by the time the clock struck 12 on New Year’s eve.

Here’s the speech.

Good Afternoon, Toastmasters and guests.

What is this? [★slide] Which of you have NEVER seen a thumbdrive before? I suppose most of you would have used one before.

Next, what is this? [★slide]

It’s a plastic stool with a name called Unica. Its commonly found in local coffeeshops. [★slide]

Last object. [★slide]

This is a toy figure called Stikfas. [★slide]

What do these – [★slide] the ThumbDrive, the Unica plastic stool and the Stikfas – have in common?

They are all Singapore’s innovations.

These are three designs among many other iconic, popular and pivotal ones engineered by Singaporeans or Singapore firms in the past 50 years, and have shaped the industry.

Today, let’s look at these three uniquely Singapire designs – ThumbDrive, the Unica Plastic Stool and the Stikfas.

The ThumbDrive™ [★prop], small and light, yet able to store vast amounts of information, the capabilities of the ThumbDrive belie its tiny size.

It disrupted the way digital data is stored and transferred.

The ThumbDrive, a thumb-sized universal serial bus (USB in short) data storage device [★slide], was developed by Singapore company, Trek 2000 International Limited.

The ThumbDrive device took the computer world by storm. Only about the size of a human thumb, it can be plugged directly into any universal serial bus (“USB”) of a personal computer.

This ThumbDrive provides convenient plug-and-play capabilities. It can be connected directly to a computer via the computer’s USB port without the need for cables. [★slide]

It does not require a battery and derives its power through the USB connection. To the computer user, it functions like another hard disk drive as it allows him to drag-and-drop, read, create or delete digital files as easily as if he were using a computer hard drive.

Thumbs up for the ThumbDrive.[★slide]

By the way, anyone of you young enough to know, what data storage device did the thumbdrive replace?

That’s right, the floppy disk [★prop]. Some of you might not have seen a floppy disk before.

Another iconic design is the durable and lightweight Unica Plastic Stool.[★slide]

Go to any coffeeshop in Singapore, and you’re likely to sit on one of those red plastic stools. Who knew that the ubiquitous stool is a Singapore design?

The Unica Plastic Stool was designed in the 1990s by industrial design consultant Mr Chew Moh-Jin.

A minimal and straight forward design that was purely created to solve a problem – to be stackable and save space. And it had to look robust, as plastic had an unfortunate reputation for not being stable enough to sit on.

Every feature had been carefully thought through; the simple construct of the stool allowed it to be stacked up on other stools. The hole in the middle was also added for a purpose. [PAUSE] No, it’s not to air your bum.

The hole is there so that it could be chained together with other stools to secure them.[★slide]

Even the thickness of the plastic had been calculated to support the weight of the user and yet minimised the cost of production.


For those who do not know what Stikfas is [★slide], it’s an 8 cm model assembly figure that has interchangeable joints to provide freedom in creation. The design principle behind a STIKFAS is that all of the joints are ball/socket, and offer exceptional poseability, interchangeability, and articulation.

Local company, Stikfas, was credited for revolutionising the global industry with its figurines’ ability to pose ‘life-like’.

Huge market players like Lego and the world’s third largest toy maker Hasbro approached Stikfas, to understand the design behind its action figures.

Hasbro – the American multinational manufacturer of toys and board games including Monopoly even made an offer to acquire Stikfas. However, its owner refused the large sum that was offered as he and his team had invested not just money but themselves into the Stikfas, and wanted to keep the company truly Singaporean.

Would you have imagined The Thumbdrive, the Unica plastic stool and the Stikfas figures are Singapore designs?

While the thumbdrive, the unica plastic stool and the stikfas might not be as famous as Lee Kuan Yew, they are nonetheless iconic, popular and pivotal in their own right.

Look around you and you would find many ubiquitous products that are designed by Singaporeans or Singapore companies.

If you are keen to find out about other Singapore designs, you might want to visit the 50 Years of Singapore Design exhibition.

Thank you.


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