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Live By Design: Regional Design Practices Across the Philippines

How environment affects one’s work and design process



Design is deeply rooted to—and from—a community’s culture, heritage and geographical context. With an intersection of design disciplines, Globe Lifesmith showcased “Live by Design” at the recently concluded month-long Escolta Block Festival. This featured a series of talks on practices in branding and architecture by design studios across the Philippines.


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Rurungan, Palawan 

Rurungan sa Tubod is a non-profit organization located in Palawan; present at the talk was Business Development Director Rosal Lim. The growing community is constantly finding their identity as weavers by learning traditional practices—unique looms and weaving methods—while embedding their own artistry to create profitable, contemporary pieces. They are in the business of teaching homegrown female artisans to find sustainability through commerce and social entrepreneurship. Through basic business workshops and product development, they create an alternative livelihood for women by teaching “piña weaving technology.”


The Rurungan Sunday Market Program, a collaboration with the local Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), is a space by locals for locals, which aims to reach out to grassroots communities. It happens every first week of the month and is developed to make members become “market-ready” and “competitive as suppliers of sources of artisanal products and crafts, skilled workers and raw materials.”


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Happy Garaje, Cebu

Award-winning designers Mark and Johanna are at the forefront of Happy Garaje, an internationally acclaimed studio based in Cebu. Their list of clients include Uniqlo, Adobe and Disney Asia. Recently, UNESCO designated Cebu as a “Creative City” among a network of 66 others globally in celebration of World Cities’ Day last October 31. According to UNESCO, “The Network brings together cities that base their development on creativity, whether in music, arts and folk crafts, design, cinema, literature, digital arts or gastronomy.”


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Uncurated Studio, Cagayan de Oro 

The first ever Oro Design Conference was held in February of this year at Cagayan de Oro. Material was designed by Uncurated Studio, headed by one-man team Karl Adrian Aguro who has a “strong affinity for experimental treatment through the strong use of typography in crafting visual solutions.” 


He took part in Tipong Pilipino: A Typography Exhibit last November 16 to 30 at the Escolta Exchange with his typeface “Inandan.” His geometric typeface is “based from the beadwork and weaving patterns apparent on garments and accessories from different ethnic groups in the Philippines, geographically situated in Mindanao.”


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90 Design Studio, Baguio

Admittedly, Baguio is not a city for designers. Architect Aris Go believes this to be the case but refuses to leave it as such. In the midst of the bustling cosmopolitan—a hotspot for tourists alike—design is an opportunity to preserve a people’s identity because they are “constantly losing their city as natives.” Their geographical challenges include building in constrained spaces, thereby making use of land efficiently. 


90 Design Studio is responsible for a government-funded redesign series of iconic structures at the University of the Philippines Baguio including Teatro Amianan and Museo Kordilyera. Other notable structures in Baguio like the G1 Lodge and Malcolm Square, are also part of their diverse portfolio.


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The thriving creative community in Escolta is many thanks to the youth’s efforts to revive one of the oldest streets in Manila. Now a beloved hub for young artisans and businesses, this is a perfect example of how geography can perfectly be integrated to design. Through this revival, a new generation can feel more connected to Manila and its history. 



Explore and (re)discover Manila with enriching experiences from Lifesmith.



Words Elisa Aquino

Photo Iya Forbes

Art Alex Lara

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