Craft is a Dying Art – Josiah Tay Guan Hin


With the summer behind me and my mind now being focused on the new year , I have decided to make some major changes to the Daily Dose , I wont get into to many details yet ,you will just have to subscribe to follow the evolution. What I can do is give you a preview , I will have some of the top creatives , photographers , models and communicators share some of there Ideas , techniques and over all thoughts on all things creative and hopefully inspiring .

So to get the ball rolling it is with great pleasure that i introduce you all to Josiah Tay Guan Hin he is JWT’s Regional Executive Creative Director , in this post below originally for Campaign Asia. . I think this is a perfect follow up to my last blog post Exploitation as Opportunity .
He discusses the importance of Craft , I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Craft is a dying art. To craft something beautiful or thoughtful takes time and money, which sadly there is a lack of these days. In fact, with digital media, it’s more important to get creative out of the door quickly even if it might not be as well crafted.
How important is craft today? We are made to believe that without a stro
ng creative idea, there is no point “polishing a turd!” Please don’t get the wrong impression; I still believe that any good piece of communication still needs to begin with an original strong concept. But, in the hands of a skilled craftsman/woman even the most clichéd ideas can become pretty good in their final executions.

Bill Bernbach once said: “Execution in the hands of genius becomes content.” I tend to agree. Having judged many award shows, I’ve seen the same idea repeated over time. However, when a creative idea is crafted brilliantly it always tends to pick up an award or two. On the other hand, I’ve also witnessed groundbreaking ideas that haven’t won a single award because they failed to express it well. This just goes to prove how important craft is in enhancing great ideas.

The idea behind executions like art direction, editing, sound/music design are integral to the overall ad and can’t be neglected. Great craft is referred to as ‘invisible,’ because when it’s done well, we become so engaged and don’t realize it’s even there.

‘Xylophone’ from NTT DoCoMo in Japan, a Gold Lion winner for sound design in Film Craft, is a stunning example of how a visually simple idea, supported by detailed craftsmanship levitated it to greatness. The ad depicts a wooden ball rolling down a long xylophone built in the middle of a forest. As the ball rolls down and hits each wooden key, it plays an all-natural performance of Bach’s Cantata 147. The first design for the Xylophone was complicated with twisted gimmicks like the ‘Rube Goldberg Machine.’ So they simplified by designing a straight-line cutting into the forest. This element adds to the unique mystique and narrative structure of the film. In today’s computer generated world, it’s refreshing to see good old-fashioned hand crafted wooden instruments made from raw materials. Carpenters and sound designers were on site when the installation was built. The Japanese craftsmen not only made it more accurate than the blueprints but also created a visually stunning xylophone that sounds authentic. Even the choice of Bach’s musical piece was carefully selected to achieve the viewer’s empathy for the wooden ball.

Nike ‘Paper Battlefield,’ which won Design Grand Prix some years back, is another great craft example that didn’t use high technology but instead, used silk printing, a process that first appeared during the Shang Dynasty (960-1279) in China. To create the spirit of competitiveness between basketball leagues, the players were invited to a studio to silk screen their own image, one on top of the other. These posters became their ‘battlefield.’ Not only were the posters beautiful, it provided a unique experience shared by the basketball community and reinvented the poster category by making it social. The posters became collectibles, as every design was different.
“Paper Battlefield”, created by McCann Hong Kong for Nike.

Cannes Lions 2009: Grand Prix Design – Nike (Paper Battlefield) por brainstorm9 no Videolog.tv.

Why use this age-old technique? To me, it gave each poster an individual personality. Handmade design always brings out the soul of the product. I like it because they are perfectly imperfect. After one judging session, many judges were fighting to take a sample back. This is the power of great craft applied to a great idea.

One of today’s finest craft example has to be Samsonite’s “Heaven and Hell” print.


A beautifully symbolic ad depicting a vivid contrast between how ‘heavenly’ first class passengers are pampered by angels compared to the “hellish” treatment suitcases are subject to during flights. You only have to look closely at each image to appreciate this work of art. Each sculpture manages to capture the soul of the character. For example: the expression of a smiling angel playing the harp to a passenger who applauds her enjoyable performance; the devil’s creatures that scratch the surface of the luggage. The rich composition and how the narration unfolds makes for repeated viewing. It’s emotionally visual storytelling that pulls you in, giving you the opportunity to spot something new each time it’s viewed.

The ad is a simple universal insight that is brought to life by the stunning craftsman from Illusion in Bangkok. The company’s mission statement, “Craft is our Blood” is clearly demonstrated in this piece. However, I was completely fooled by how this was created. Computer generated images! For once, high technology was used to create something so naturally perfect. This is another fine example of ‘invisible’ craft that works seamlessly to bring out the idea.

The future of craft will see a return to authenticity with more emphasis being placed on the appropriate execution instead of chasing after the latest technology to experiment.
Good craft tends to elicit a certain amount of emotion and if done extremely well, the execution naturally blends in.

At the end of the day, craft is all about choosing the right execution that will enhance the creative idea. Not the other way around.

I have also added more details below about Josiah Tay Guan Hin .
Already showing early promise in his Art Center College of Design days with his Best of Show win in the LA Creative Club Student Competition, Tay Guan Hin has since become a force to be reckoned with. He has mentored many a young creative to prominence and has led the agencies with which he has worked to great success.

His creative flair played a significant part in Saatchi & Saatchi Singapore being named International Agency of the Year in 1998 by Advertising Age. His inspiring leadership saw Leo Burnett being ranked by Campaign Brief as the fifth-hottest agency in the region in 2004.

Since joining JWT in 2005 as Regional Executive Creative Director, Guan Hin has made history by being the first South-East Asian creative to be inducted into the JWT Worldwide Creative Council for his outstanding work. Not surprisingly, he also steered the agency to AdFest’s Network of the Year in 2008 and 2009. Spikes Asia naming JWT as Network of the Year in 2009 was yet another testament to Guan Hin’s potent leadership.

The awards that line his office shelf include Gold Lions, Gold Pencils from The One Show and Gold Clio statues, as well as numerous awards from D&AD, AdFest, Award and Spikes Asia. His most recent accolade is the New York Festivals’ Creative Achievement Award, which recognises Guan Hin as one of the most talented and respected creative leaders in Asia, consistently pushing creative standards in the Asia-Pacific industry.

On that note, Guan Hin strongly believes in nurturing young talent. He was instrumental in setting up the Crowbar Awards, AdFest’s Young Lotus and the Award School Asia, and continues to give his time unstintingly to encourage budding creatives.

As a much sought-after judge, he has shared his views at Cannes Lions, The One Show, AdFest, Spikes Asia and Award. Even here, he has made his mark as only the second Asian to chair the CLIO’ for print, poster, innovative media and integrated campaigns. He’s also the first Asian to serve as D&AD’s Foreman in the poster category in 2009, and he was the Jury President of Outdoor in AdFest 2008. Most recently, Guan served as Cannes Lions Outdoor Jury President for the 2010 festival, making him the first Singaporean ever to hold this title.

His insightful thoughts and infectious enthusiasm have made him a popular speaker. He has been a keynote speaker at The One Show in New York and has imparted his words of wisdom at Ad Congress, the 17th China Advertising Festival and various other conferences around the world.

On top of his position as JWT’s Regional Executive Creative Director, Guan Hin is currently the Global ECD of Lux, Unilever, a role that allows his boundless imagination to continue to push boundaries.


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