A Retrospective of 100 Singapore Icons

January 27, 2010 at 8:27 pm | Posted in itchy mouth | 2 Comments
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Do you know why the Singapore flag is in red and white and why the crescent and stars? Some of us may recall reading it on school textbooks when we were young. But if you had forgotten about it, take some time to visit the exhibition outside the National Library.

Titled, 100 ICONS, the exhibtion is a retrospective of some Singapore’s
most widely seen and recognised visual icons

“The Singapore flag was unveiled on 3 December 1959, together with the
state crest and the national anthem…Upon Singapore’s independence in
1965, it was adopted as Singapore’s national flag.”

The Lion Head “was introduced in 1986 as the Government wanted an
alternative symbol that people and organisations could use to express
their loyalty and commitment to the nation.” Designed by Mr Michael
Lee, the Lion Head “symbolises courage, strength and excellence”, with
the same red and white as on the National Flag. The five partings on the
mane “represents the same five ideals embodied in the five stars of the
National Flag, namely democracy, peace, progress, justice and equality”
It still looks pretty modern today.. :p

“The Merlion was first designed as an emblem for the Singapore Tourism
Board (STB) in 1964 – the lion head with a fish body resting on a crest of
waves quickly became Singapore’s icon to the rest of the world. Designed
by Mr Fraser Brunner, the lion head represents the lion spotted by Prince
Sang Nila Utama when he rediscovered Singapura in 11 AD…The fish tail
of the Merlion symbolises the ancient city of Temasek (meaning ‘sea’ in
Javanese) by which Singapore was known before the Prince named it
‘Singapura’ (meaning ‘lion’ [singa] ‘city’ [pura] in Sanskrit), and represents
Singapore’s humble beginning as a fishing village.” This logo really looks
dated to me… :p

Singa the lion made this first appearance as mascot for the National
Courtesy Campaign in 1982. In 2009, he got a make-over – finally with
shorts to protect his modesty… :p I prefer the old Singa, he looked
friendlier, though I agree he should have put on some pants…

The downward pointing whiskers don’t make the new Singa look happy…
and he looked like he’s got a swollen toe on his left foot... 😀

The old HDB logo used from 1960-1980

The current logo, retains the symbol of the home and square frame “because
of  their strong identity.”

PUB’s current logo since 2005, “embodies a new vision and mission to
provide ‘Water for All’ by calling on all Singaporeans to play their part to
use water wisely.”

The first PUB logo (left) was used from 1963 – 1976. In 1976, the logo (centre)
“was redesigned to better reflect the modern mindset of Singapore.”  The one
at the right was used from 2001

Besides government bodies’ logos, there were also many old, familiar household brands, which to me, were the more fun ones to look at… :p

Axe Brand Medicated Oil! This was the logo in 1928! In those days, the axe
was a must-have household item. Choosing the axe as a brand “symbolised
the usefulness of the medicated oil and that every household should keep one
at home as a handy medicine.” I am so glad people now don’t have to keep
an axe at home! So dangerous…hahah…

The new logo…more modern but somehow I like the old one better…hahah

When you think of Axe Brand Medicated Oil, you will think of…

Tiger Balm!

was Aw Boon Haw, one of the two founders, who first lent his name –
Haw, meaning Tiger, to the ointment.” Hmm…not much change to the
logo except it was a “resting tiger” in the early days and a “leaping tiger”
in the 1990s..er…looks similar leh… :p

The tiger, always facing left and under a palm tree, was initially contained
within the roundel. As it expands both regionally and internationally, “the
paw was extended beyond the roundel to symbolise this growth (i.e. stepping
out).” This current one was revamped in 2005. Strangely, there was no
display of the old logos. Can’t remember if the paw was inside or
outside the roundel, but I remembered the tiger was more flatly illustrated.
See the old logo here
. Er..the tail and paws were all outside leh… :p But I
really like the Tiger Beer logo, very Southeast Asian feel.. :p

The latest F&N logo…hmm…when did they change to this with a leaf?
The very
first logo has a lion

The latest logo for Magnolia…The more rounded look makes it feel friendlier

I never like the old ones… :p

Wonder why Yeo Hiap Seng, or better known as Yeos now, was not featured at the exhibition…

Double Pagoda! Remember the old paper bag we featured on our earlier post?

Old logos for Chee Seng Seasame Oil. The Double Pagoda brand is “named
after a landmark in the founder’s hometown.”

Ads in the 60s

While taking photos, I overheard two secondary school students talking
out loud. One was asking the other, “Have you been to KK? I was born

Haha…Itchyfingers were born there too! 😀

Not sure how many people are familiar with CYC
other than those who
customerise their shirts. But apparently it is quite well-known to the
rich and famous, with shops in luxurious shopping areas. But I like the
nostalgic old logo, with the scissors representing “made-to-measure”

This was known as the Post Office Saving Bank in 1972. “In the form of a
key, it comprised the bank’s initials (POSB) and symbolised savings,
security and prosperity.”

Renamed POSBank in 1990, “the logo was refreshed in 2007…The ‘POSB’
key remains an integral part of the POSB corporate identity.” Many of
us grew up with the bank….

Another organisation which many of us grew up with….In fact,
Itchyfingers had too much tv when young…that’s why gotta wear glasses 😦

“The squares represent telecommunications and the advanced technology
used in the business. The ellipse shows the company as a part of the global
network.” Hmmm….all this while, I just thought it is a satellite they trying
to depict… :p

The old Singtel logos…

Not much changes have been made to one of the most well-known local
brand since 1972. The top one is the new logo

Chinese New Year is just around the corner, I bet now if you go to Chinatown, you would be seeing a long queue snaking from this shop all the way to the street…So, which shop is that?

The famous Lim Chee Guan Bak Kwa (sweet barbeque pork) lor…

“In the beginning, the logo was executed in calligraphic style against a
plain background…With  the rise in airtravel, a plane was incorporated,
marking the beginning of a new era, where consumers aspired to world
travelling and it became recognisable even to the illiterates..To date, Lim
Chee Guan is still known as the ‘Aeroplane Brand’.” Haha….Itchyfingers
didn’t know how to explain the aeroplane when my Hong Kong friends
came to Singapore and bought some bak kwa from them…Now I know… 8)

There are so many more interesting stories behind the 100 icons on display that Itchyfingers could only showcase a few here. Do drop by National Library and have a look before the exhibition ends this Friday, 29 January. While you are looking at the icons, try to look out for Itchyfingers‘ mark… 8)

Itchyfingers doing a little self-promotion on the whiteboard…hahaha…

Also see related post:
> Talking Behind the Bag –  Carrier Bags in Singapore from the 1950s to the 1980s
> The Singapore Pledge



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  1. Toh Chin Chye headed a committe that “initially wanted the flag’s entire background to be red, but the Cabinet decided against this, as red was regarded as a rallying point for communism…

    Also, Indonesia, Poland and Monaco already had plain red and white flags.

    According to an account given by Lee Kuan Yew, the Chinese population wanted five stars, which were modeled off the flag of the People’s Republic of China and the Muslim population wanted a crescent moon. Both of these symbols were combined to create the national flag of Singapore.

    (Sourcce http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_of_Singapore)

    • Hi Patrick,

      Thanks for sharing! 🙂

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