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Jordi Ng: Help Me Chope Seat, Can Or Not?

Work / Graphic Design

Self-taught graphic designer Jordi Ng uses 3D modelling and vibrant colours to examine national identity

Jordi Ng is a self-proclaimed “designer, illustrator and witch”. Effectively self-taught in the field of graphic design, Jordi has cultivated a multidisciplinary approach, producing works that are fresh, dynamic and engaged with cultural politics and identity. As she describes her creations: “A lot of the narratives I tend to convey are informed by my unique experiences as well as what I’ve gleaned from my studies in the world of politics and culture.”

Although she studied political theory and economics at UCLA, with a minor in Scandinavian studies, Jordi actually began creating digital illustrations at 13 years old. When she came into higher education at college, graphic design became part of her extracurricular world when she joined an events committee as a designer of marketing material and stage graphics for shows and gigs. “Because of my primary academic pursuits,” she tells us, “I never thought to switch to a design major.” It was only after undertaking various internships with design studios in Los Angeles and Singapore that she began to consider pursuing graphic design seriously as a career.

“Towards my last year of college,” Jordi says, “I devoted more and more time to growing as a multi-disciplinary designer with a focus on editorial design and the documentation of arts and culture.” Despite not taking her academic studies further in a professional capacity, Jordi has found that “political theory and culture, in particular, has been helpful in explaining the somewhat perplexing world around me, and it’s something I’ve been increasingly trying to examine in my work.”

Jordi’s designs are vibrant, revolving around a rainbow colour-wheel while incorporating elements of bold, simple typography, surrealistic illustrations, elementary shapes and often grid-like structures. Her personal publication work is where her fluid, experimental approach is seen most clearly. Most recently, she created, in her words: “a book titled Help Me Chope Seat, Can Or Not?, a title which wouldn’t make sense to the average reader because it’s in Singlish, a form of broken English that Singaporeans speak. It’s an archive of ten things – objects, food and habits – that offer a glimpse of what it was like growing up in Singapore.” The book is inspired in part by Stefanie Tam’s 3D goods and products catalogue. Jordi states: “I wanted to portray the items in my book in 3D to represent my newly multi-dimensional, multi-faceted way of viewing my nation’s culture.”

Help Me Chope Seat, Can Or Not? is, Jordi tells us, “meant to break away from the things Singapore is usually known internationally for – like its gum ban, limited political freedom and clean streets," she says. "Instead, these are more subtle icons of Singaporean culture that only a native would be deeply familiar with. On the one hand, it’s a reflection of a fledging nation’s identity, but it’s also deeply personal for me. It’s funny because when I was living in Singapore, I only saw my country through an outsider’s lens, and resented it for its conservativeness and excessive strictures. It was only after I left Singapore for America that I was more able to visualise the little quirks of my country that set it apart from other communities I’ve encountered. Sometimes you have to leave home to know what home is, and that’s what the book is about.”

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Jordi Ng: Help Me Chope Seat, Can Or Not?

Describing the format of the book itself, Jordi says: “Each item archived in the book comes with an index of six locations and addresses – shown through Google Maps screen-grabs – where someone could find these things. I knew I wanted to portray the ten items in a different way from just illustrating or photographing them, and I’ve always wanted to learn 3D modelling, so I decided to feature the objects in 3D wireframes and models to push myself in technique and form.”

Working in collaboration with her partner, Shayan Saalabi, Jordi has also recently designed and illustrated a children’s book. In her words: “This project was a little more silly since it was grounded in fiction; it’s a short tale about an egg that eats too many sweets. It was Riso-printed in three colors, and it was my first time designing for a project to be Riso-printed, which meant I had to approach it in a completely different way. The illustrations range from silly egg drawings to more abstract works, and I had fun experimenting with type and shapes as well. It’s definitely not your average children’s book. We worked with Tiny Splendor to print them, and they came out beautifully. Limited copies are now being sold at Skylight Books and Family Books in Los Angeles!”

For Jordi, the process of designing is based largely on instinct – matching a concept to a visual theme, form and structure by experimenting and exploring, rather than by adhering to strict, predetermined design principles. She states: “I usually first try to nail down the specific narrative that I want to convey, and then work out in my head how I want to breathe life into this narrative. Do I want to do a poster series, a book archival, or an animated essay? I usually try to push myself into using techniques I’ve never used before. Then comes execution, which can take weeks or months. I usually jump straightaway into designing in Adobe without any prior sketches. I feel like I have to apologise for saying that. Nevertheless, concept and narrative always come first, and that’s usually the hardest part.”

Jordi’s intuitive process means that her design is never limited in scope, and she is constantly employing it as a means of engaging with the ideas that preoccupy her in other aspects of her life and the experiences that inform them. “I have developed a penchant for editorial design which breaks down and analyses culture," she explains. "Strong stories in turn power strong concepts, and I want to be able to utilise design as a vessel in analysing society, literature and culture. I’ve done a little bit of that with Singaporean culture, a little bit with Swedish film culture, and I want to continue in that trajectory.”

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Jordi Ng: Help Me Chope Seat, Can Or Not?

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Jordi Ng: Help Me Chope Seat, Can Or Not?

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Jordi Ng: Life is Sweet

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Jordi Ng: Life is Sweet

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Jordi Ng: Life is Sweet

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Jordi Ng