Getting Lit in the 80s

Although my mother was never a hoarder, she did collect items that had sentimental value. Growing up, the cabinets in my house were peppered with old sport trophies and handmade mother’s day gifts. Unique amongst the antique trinkets and memorabilia of her youth, was her collection of old matchboxes. These originated from the height of the disco craze in the ‘80s and early 90s, when matchboxes were not only useful to keep around, but also served as miniature advertisements for the clubs. For my mother, these became keepsakes and a capsule of memories to remember. Every time she went to a new disco club, she would make it a point to collect their matchboxes.

While spring-cleaning late last year, we stumbled upon her matchbox collection, slightly discoloured and dusty. In an effort to find out more about life in Singapore during her youth, I convinced my mother against throwing them out, and encouraged her to share the stories behind these tiny boxes. With them came a glimpse into Singapore’s past, and a snapshot of memories that seemed almost a lifetime ago.

Although this is just a small fraction of my mom’s collection, I would like to share 3 of the most interesting matchboxes amongst her treasures.


1. Zouk

Zouk is definitely a familiar name for many Singaporeans but I’m sure many of us are not aware that it opened in 1991 and is Singapore’s oldest club. My mom speaks fondly of their ‘Thank God it’s Wed” event that has since evolved into the popular Mambo Jambo.

fire disco.jpg

2. Fire

According to my mom, Fire used to be the hottest and biggest disco in Singapore in the early 90s. It would be tough to find a 90s party goer that did not recognise the name of this three-floor disco burning in the heart of Orchard Plaza.


3. Atlantis

An underwater-themed disco off Grange Road, Atlantis was one of Singapore’s first themed disco. It’s elaborate interior was the brainchild of a Disneyland designer that helped materialise the vision of the club’s owner.  However, despite its extraordinary interior, the club was forced to close its doors when the recession of 1985 rolled around.

Have you been to any of these clubs?

Singapore Design Week 2019

SDW 2019 - Poster.png

Heist is thrilled to announce that we are returning to Singapore Design Week for our third consecutive year! This year, we present to you License to Spy, a two-hour interactive session led by its team of designers and design researchers. Heighten your powers of observation in this fun and interactive session where we reveal our “spying” methods and insights gathered from different cities around Asia.

Starting off with a film clip - the session will be focussed on participants being given their own mission to crack out on the streets of Singapore, exploring the world and gathering information with their newfound skill set!

Date: 6 March 2019, Wednesday
Time: 11.30am - 1.30pm
Venue: 1 Neil Road, #02-04, Singapore 088804

This is a ticketed event. Tickets are S$15 and may be purchased here or by scanning the QR code of the image above! Should you have any queries, please feel free to reach us at See you there!


There are several meanings of the word move. It doesn’t necessarily have a good or bad connotation, it very much just is. However, as a verb, one of the meanings of move is to make progress; develop in a particular manner or direction. Over the new year, Heist moved. We moved into the new year, and we moved out of The Working Capitol into our very own studio.

Moving can be an exciting or harrowing experience. It often is both, even for someone who has experience. Moving is inevitable. Everyone would have moved at some point in their life, whether it’s your home, country, office, school or job. Because moving is inescapable, we thought we’d share five things we learned from our recent move.


No matter how much planning you do, something will go awry. Setting up the internet for our new office is the perfect example of this law of the universe. We’d gotten in touch with two internet service providers, but due to the festive period, only one was prompt in getting back to us.  Naturally we went for the service provider who replied to us and they estimated that the service would be set up by end January.

But that didn’t happen. We are now in February, and actually, it still hasn’t happened.

After a site inspection, we were told that a new cable had to be laid from outside the building - which of course, is a heritage building protected by multiple layers of permissions and rules….  And this would mean a three to six month wait for the system to be set up. We simply couldn’t wait and had to end our agreement with service provider A. We’ve since been working with service provider B and hope to have everything sorted soon, so prayers are welcome!


Those are the two words that open The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and the two words I tried to live by throughout the entire process because, see point #1.


I learnt that it’s best not to be afraid to make decisions with imperfect information - because the truth is by the time you get all the information you want to make the decision, it is often too late. From choosing tables to ordering the right style of couch, I often had to make decisions on my own and hope it all worked out!


Again, see point #1. Having to work in an office without internet is a big hurdle, especially in today’s system. But finding a smart solution - multiple SIM cards and hot spotting through spare phones took us just a few hours to sort. Spring into action, ASAP


Everything is urgent, but not everything is important. Prioritising is key if you want to remain sane, not just with moving but in everyday life. Take into account both the long-term and short-term goals and milestones in order to know what should come first, and how much time should be dedicated to each task. This helps you track and build your task list, and you’ll feel accomplished as you progress and check each task off!

The most interesting person I’ve met this year (so far)

I’m a design researcher. By trade and choice. This means I spend much of my time talking to strangers and using a mix of charm and curiosity to build confidence - enough for them to start sharing stories, secrets, hopes and dreams with me. It’s a privilege to be invited into the inner working of another human’s life, and while a few hours isn’t enough to even begin to understand another person, I can honestly say that I have learnt something from every person I have ever interviewed for a project. Some more than others.

We spent a week in Ho Chi Minh City recently, talking to dozens of people. And I was lucky enough to meet one whom I truly built a connection with.

Tao. That’s what we’ll call her. Teacher Tao, that’s what most of her students call her. She started an English training school in her living room, offering her spare bedroom on mainly to attract English speaking foreigners - willing to practice and chat with her students in exchange for a place to crash for a few nights. Interesting business model, especially given the plethora of ‘English Speaking Schools’ across Vietnam. Here are three things I learnt from her that I hope will be useful for you -

1/  You can always change your mind and dream new dreams: Tao started her career as a journalist, working with a National newspaper. She quickly tired of it though for reasons too sensitive to mention here. At 26, she was ready for a change. She was travelling around Vietnam with her American boyfriend and was impressed by how many young people she met wanted to practice their English with her. She would teach them for free, and this is what gave her seed of an idea. Learning English, she found, actually equipped people with confidence and a sense of freedom, as though they were suddenly liberated to pursue bigger dreams. And seeing people transform is how Tao decided to set up her own school, despite limited funds and zero qualifications.

Lesson #1: Prototype cheap, see proof of success, pivot, evolve but stay passionate about why you began

2/ First learn how to think, then how to express it. One of Tao’s greatest purposes is to teach people how to think for themselves. She told us about the Vietnamese education system - which typically of Asia - rewards learning by rote, simply repeating what is taught rather than building a comprehensive understanding of complicated situations. Tao told us that the first thing she works on with her students is simply teaching them to think for themselves; to make micro decisions and gain the confidence to voice them without heightened fear of judgment. This points to a larger goal - not just to equipping them with English speaking skills, but the confidence and ability to express their own opinions. Learning English isn’t just about upward social mobility but about being independent and holding your own amongst people from varied cultures and backgrounds.

Lesson #2: Empower others. Create a vision that is inclusive for impactful change to society. Are your goals self serving or designed to contribute to a brighter world?

3/ Pride in the homegrown: Beyond her students, Tao is equally committed to developing her own team of English teachers as well. She feels strongly about foreigners who can barely speak English coming into Vietnam and teaching just to make some money. Not only are these people incompetent, she says, but often their English is worse than hers. “Simply being white does not mean that you can teach English.” Tao’s goal is to have a strong team of Vietnamese English teachers, often students who have a desire to give back and help contribute to the community. Her team and students are actively helping her build her next enterprise - a cafe where students and travellers can meet for a chat, practice their English and also learn about each other’s cultures.

Lesson #3: Don’t stop evolving. Tao is constantly looking for new ways to strengthen her students’ skills and create new sources of income. What would this look like for your company?