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This 16-year-old aims to be the first in 35 years to redesign one of Singapore's most iconic logos

This 16-year-old aims to be the first in 35 years to redesign one of Singapore's most iconic logos

Fleming Siow Yi and the Total Defence logo he designed. (Photos: Aqil Haziq Mahmud, Nexus)

SINGAPORE: You would have seen it at least once a year in primary and secondary school and it would have likely been etched into your memory.

The Total Defence logo, designed to resemble a hand with five red arrows representing the five pillars of Total Defence, has remained unchanged since 1985. With the addition of digital defence as a sixth pillar this year, the time is right for a revamp.

And a 16-year-old student has emerged as the youngest among 10 designers vying to get the most votes in a competition to redesign the logo.

Fleming Siow Yi, who recently sat for his O-Levels, told CNA that he decided to join the competition after being inspired by the sacrifices made by Singapore's forefathers to build the country into what it is today.

"It’s a way to show that the newer generation is capable of continuing what our forefathers did," he said of how he wanted to play a small part by joining the competition.

READ: Digital Defence pillar added to Singapore's Total Defence framework to strengthen cybersecurity

But Fleming did not always appreciate Singapore's struggles growing up.

"My first thought about Social Studies is it will be quite a boring subject," he admitted. "What’s there to learn about Singapore?"

However, his "kind" and "bubbly" Social Studies teacher made things interesting in the classroom, and soon he was looking forward to all her lessons.

He learnt how Singapore guards itself against the threat of terrorism and keeps its healthcare system sustainable and affordable, among other things, and realised "how lucky" Singaporeans were to be living in the country.

"It makes me feel proud to be in Singapore," he said, crediting his teacher for making him understand the Singapore context. "We need to continue to work together."

So when a notice of the competition was posted on his school portal, he didn't think twice about signing up as a way to give back. 


Fleming first spent a week researching the history and meaning behind the current Total Defence logo. In 1985, freelance graphic designer Berwin See beat more than a thousand entries to win the first Total Defence logo competition. Mr See also designed the iconic Singapore Pools and 4D logos.

Freelance designer Berwin See created these logos. (Screengrab:

Fleming recalled the first time he saw the Total Defence logo in Primary 2, stating that he thought it looked more like a house than a hand. "The arrows are shaped like a house," he said. "So, it was a bit confusing to me."

His design teacher, however, advised him to not only think about aesthetics, but also to create something that could resonate with Singaporeans.

This was not easy, Fleming said, admitting to having some difficulty with his thought process. He eventually decided on a design that would not be too different from the current logo.

Fleming on his MacBook Air. (Photo: Aqil Haziq Mahmud)

He added his own elements, like a colour gradient that goes from dark to light red to show that obstacles at the start can be overcome by working together, and a shield as "the first thing that comes to my mind" to signify defence.

"I just created a giant shield to clearly show that Singapore is strong and a force to be reckoned with," he explained.

Fleming used Adobe Photoshop to design his logo in a day. (Photo: Aqil Haziq Mahmud)

Fleming made use of what he learnt from the design modules he took in school and his knowledge of Adobe Photoshop to create his design on a MacBook in just a day. He did this while preparing for his O-Levels.

His logo, which "emphasises the need for collaboration and connectivity to ensure Singapore's invulnerability", was shortlisted together with nine other designs.


The design which gets the most votes will be unveiled as the new Total Defence logo on Total Defence Day in February next year.

Fleming said he doesn't have any expectations about winning.

"All the other nine logos to me are very impressive, so it doesn't really matter if I win," he said. "The fact that many Singaporeans take their time off to cast their vote, I already consider it a (winning feeling).

The public can vote from 10 different designs for the new logo. (Photo: Aqil Haziq Mahmud)

While he feels "intimidated" about competing with adults "literally twice or thrice my age", he doesn't feel his youth is a handicap.

"Although I'm young, I'm still capable of contributing to Singapore's development," he said, "At the end of the day, we’re all trying to design something special to Singapore. I think that’s what truly counts."

Fleming also used Keynote in the early stages of the designing process. (Photo: Aqil Haziq Mahmud)

If he wins, Fleming said he would be "elated" knowing that his logo has "touched the hearts of some Singaporeans and I actually played a part in Total Defence". 

"I also do hope that others who didn't have time to cast their votes will see my logo and be inspired to also play a part," he added.


Winning would also cement Fleming's legacy in schools in Singapore, as future generations are shown the logo he designed. It is something that Fleming will "take some time to get used to".

"I'm definitely not used to fame," he added. "I just hope that it will leave a positive impact on future generations."

As for more material rewards, the winning designer gets S$5,000 in cash, while the nine others will each receive S$500 worth of prizes.

Fleming has also participated in an SG50 T-shirt designing competition, which he said gave him experience and confidence. (Photo: Aqil Haziq Mahmud)

When Fleming was asked what he plans to do with the potential winnings, like if he will use it to get a new MacBook, he shook his head and smiled.

"I'm actually quite a thrifty guy," he mused.

The public can vote for their favourite design at this website and stand to win movie or cash vouchers of up to S$1,000. The contest ends on Dec 29.

Source: CNA/hz


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