TSLA Design redesigns Roots, a place to discover the diverse culture and history of Singapore

Roots is a cultural archive, founded by the National Heritage Board in Singapore, that features over 120,000 artefacts. TSLA’s design draws on this rich catalogue.

26 March 2021


Initiated in 2016, Roots is an online resource created by the National Heritage Board in Singapore, allowing visitors to discover the country’s diverse culture and history. Through a collection of objects, images, stories and more, it aims to preserve and catalogue a unique and distinct heritage and has just received a redesign by TSLA Design, a studio part of the Mother family, based in Singapore.

TSLA Design took inspiration for the redesign from the artefacts housed within the archive – a mere 120,000 of them. It was a process of cultural archaeology, involving sifting through the site’s original content and conducting multiple focus groups to reorder the objects into an intuitive catalogue. The goal was to make the content accessible and “facilitate a better user journey through the unique Singaporean heritage.”

The studio describes this process as “tough,” explaining: “Every piece is different and has a rich, deep story attached to it. The challenge is curating, categorising and archiving the content in a manner that not only does it justice, but is factually accurate.”


TSLA Design: Roots (Copyright © Roots, 2021)

To represent the new system of categorisation, or “key heritage content buckets,” as TSLA refers to them, the studio chose a palette of five colours. “The hues are muted respectfully to our heritage. We conducted an ontological scan of over half a million pieces of content and found that these were the five key colours that kept appearing.” Keeping accessibility front of mind at all times, the ensuing design system favours clarity and is “incredibly user friendly.” TSLA adds: “Our main concern was that we wanted a critical mass to be able to access large amounts of heritage content.”

The primary typeface of the redesign is Recoleta, a serif chosen for its “warm, friendly” qualities with enough eccentricities to highlight the diversity of Singaporean heritage. Value Sans then supports this as a secondary typeface with a modernity that is easy to use in digital contexts and at smaller sizes.

Finally, TSLA Design reflects on the experience: “You’re going through every artefact, article, photograph and piece of content thinking there is so much here, and yet, Singapore is still in its infancy. To be able to build our Roots right and redesign how all generations access this treasure trove of heritage was an incredible experience for us.”

GalleryTSLA Design: Roots (Copyright © Roots, 2021)

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TSLA Design: Roots (Copyright © Roots, 2021)

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About the Author

Ruby Boddington

Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor.

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