Red Repels Demons! Design Your Own Red Packet

It was 2014. A huge family event was taking place, all of my to-be-in-laws were gathered together. Noodles were being happily tossed and relations chatted away. These little envelopes, ang paos, were being handed around but I couldn’t understand how I was supposed to accept them. In fact, I found it difficult to accept them all the way up until recently. So what changed?

First of all I discovered how I fit in the picture. I’m woven in, I can’t just receive ang bao’s I have to pass them on too. The ang bao is supposed to be symbolic of a blessing or well wish and it would be discourteous and rude not to pass them on. But where do these ang baos come from?

In popular stories the colour red, loud noises (think of drums and the dragon dance), and coin shaped charms are revealed to offer protection from an evil spirit that lived in the sea or mountains. He was known as Nian, 年兽, and he typically terrorised villages, most famously Peach Village. This sets a mythical origin for the gifting of money packaged in red.

That’s bad news because if we have to start at a myth, then the evolution of the ang pao to what it is today cannot be clear.

The connection between money and blessings, seems to have origins in early China, likely predating the time of the Three Kingdoms (220C.E). Eminent officials and leaders had began producing coins with blessings on, or coin shaped charms, that have survived until today (primaltrek). The most obvious continuation of this idea is the string of replica coins and charms that are continually for sale for the purposes of fengshui. Then as now, carrying these charms is believed to offer protection, luck, or fortune, amongst other things. Given the symbolism of the colour red, passing a red bag of such positively charged coins to a loved one or a neighbour would have been an extra compassionate gesture.

祥庆荣华 — happiness and celebration, prosperity and high position

Coins, as a form of money, represent power.  Coin-shaped charms are, therefore, a very compact form of power.primaltrek

Today, the ang pao remains a symbol of well wishing and blessing and its contents echo that intention wherever they are distributed; at WeddingsTea Ceremonies, the Lunar New Year, in exchange for a service like Lion Dancing, a bribe, or a baby’s first month celebration. However, ideas, particularly those disconnected from an original purpose or belief, are quick to change. Mystical coin charms are still occasionally found in effigy, printed on ang paos, but it’s rare. Ang pao’s are more often emblazoned with corporate logos instead of blessings and they do not even need to be red.

After using Italic&Bold’s special themed design of red packet, we wanted to create ang paos of our own. First we trawled the internet for templates. This is a good way to start because then you have some print ready layouts and the measurements are all predefined for you. There are some already available online, see below examples, but usually you can just inquire at a printers directly.

Easitech — Singapore (Ai.)

e-print — Hong Kong (Ai. Cdr.)

The Copy Boy — Singapore (Ai.)

Print100 — Hong Kong (Ai. Cdr. Psd.)

Presuming you have the correct software, you can quickly adapt the colours and image to suit your taste. Do you remember that coat of arms we were talking about using? Well that ended up emblazoned on our red packets. We didn’t specify that all the specs on our ang bao were supposed to be in gold foil so we got the CMYK version of gold instead. My bad.

I don’t want to go into too much detail about printing techniques but just know that you should be able to print in “foil” if you have marked a colour or layer for printing in a shiny colour. There is also hot stamping if you want a raised image but honestly, what does this add?

We scanned around in Singapore for a good price and almost went with the company Print City. But in the end we went with a printer in China for cost reasons. Whether printing in Singapore or abroad, ask about gluing, you don’t want 500 unglued and unfolded red packets to deal with.

Prepare to print in advance of your event as designing might take a week and printing can take anywhere from 3 days to three weeks depending on where you’re sourcing the print from.

Extra note: As a teacher, these ang baos were perfect for giving a token gift to my students. We used The Natural Confectionary Co. chews for most packets and YumEarth organic pops for the kids that don’t eat meat or pork. See below.

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An Introduction to Parametric Design

Architecture is not limited to Gothic churches and ornate baroque constructions, this article on parametric design illustrates how the 20th century was not a rest period for architecture. Since the inception of design software on computer systems in the 1940’s, great revolutions in design have taken place. Even today innovations in the evolving field of Architecture are using parametric design.

The most important feature of parametric design, as you can tell from it’s name, is to do with it’s application of parameters. The seminal conception of parametric design actually has nothing at all to do with parametric processes. Internationally the industrial boom was affecting the architectural scene, modules were the vogue. However modules were ineffective, they didn’t make the most of the space that they had, they were not very adaptable, monotonous and were considered a fast, budget conscious way of housing people. In response to this a more fluid form evolved that deviated from the square rigidity of modular design. Antoni Gaudi may be an early precursor to this innovation as he moved architecture towards organic forms, even considering how natural light would enter the building. However Gaudi did not create parametric buildings, only after the introduction of computer aided design (CAD) would such design be possible.

CAD programs made it possible to design without draftsmen, and drafts were infinitely adaptable. Computers allowed designers to calculate areas and spaces in a way that would be otherwise impossible to calculate. Buildings no longer needed to be boxes, they could be created to fit spaces, to respond to the local environment and to natural elements. In collaboration with computer numerical control machines (CNCs), which custom cuts unique pieces for construction one by one, architecture was and has been revolutionised.

Cutting with the CNC makes economical use of available resources and reduces the amount of waste created. The CNC cutter is precise and ranges from small iron car parts to huge curved wooden ceiling beams. Architects typically use the Rhinocerous design program, along with the Grasshopper plug-in to design for the CNC. This software is designed to calculate intelligently how an architectural construction might be built whilst retaining maximum efficiency. Parameters that are determined by the architect or designer ultimately determine the possible forms of the end design.

The first bureau to implement this system did so without all of this knowledge, they were Frank O. Gehry & Partners. After winning the Guggenheim Museum commission in Bilbao with their curvy model, they started looking for ways of making the design a reality. Realising that existing architectural design programs would not suffice, they turned to software (CATIA) intended for the airplane and automotive industry. This unusual methodology was an unprecedented success, the building was finished before the settled deadline and with less money spent than expected.

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao
Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

This represents the beginning of an era, however it was not without problems. Frank O’Gehry’s designs required heavy duty structures in order to sustain their grand facades. Later this trend would evolve and the structure and façade began to share roles, the structure even doubling as the buildings façade. Today, architects are challenged to innovate ways of making the best use of space and location. Better control of the interior climate of the space is preferable, less air-conditioning equipment will be needed and less energy will be consumed. Parametric design can be used for making sure that the space within a building is being used at it’s maximum capacity. The new category of buildings that have their structure working as the facade include Jacques Herzog, de Meuron and Li Xinggang‘s The Bird’s Nest.

The Birds Nest (China's National Stadium, Beijing)
The Birds Nest (China's National Stadium, Beijing)

The purpose of building using parametric design is to warrant sustainability. The better it is designed for use, the longer it ought to be inhabited and preserved. Similarly, buildings consume energy and create pollution during their life cycle as well as during their construction. If this is reduced and is manageable then it will be more valuable to the people who inhabit and use it.

Kartal Pendik Masterplan © Zaha Hadid Architects from Zaha Hadid Architects

A pioneer in the uses of parametric design is Zaha Hadid although she is not alone. Buildings of a parametric nature are already widely spread (British Museum Courtyard, London, UK by Foster and PartnersMetropol Parasol, Seville by Jürgen Mayer HOrdos Museum, Ordos, Inner Mongolia by MAD) and propositions for parametric cities (read a damned good article by Patrik Schumacher) have also been made (and see video below). The most intriguing property of parametric design is it’s diverse applications, it is a technology that can be used in any design field and designers have exploited it to create furniture and even shoes.

Mojito by Julian Hakes
Mojito by Julian Hakes

End of Blog

End of Blog

An interesting discovery dating the history of the clarinet back in time.

In 2005,

“The artifact is made of a deer antler in which several holes are seen, and a brass layer has been riveted with seven nails to its end.

No additional studies have been carried out on the skeleton yet. But considering the size, the archaeologists estimate that it is a male. In addition, a dagger, a cup and a glass, as well as a bracelet and a necklace have also been found in the grave. A bronze ribbon and a brass sheet were also put around the head of the skeleton.

With the discovery of the artifact, the musical history of the region dates can be dated back to older an era, indicating the cultural development of the inhabitants of the region 3000 years ago.

Today, in the villages of northern Mazandaran and in Gohar-Tappeh, the clarinet is still made out of a deer antler.” (Cais-soas)

September 10th 2011,

“The musical instrument, which was very common in Mazandaran, had been discovered in a grave beside a skeleton that belonged to a woman…

This is the oldest musical instrument ever discovered in the Mazandaran region…

Based on the carbon-14 dating tests carried out on the oldest archaeological stratum of the mound, it dates back to about 3500 BC…

The Parthians ruled part of Mazandaran and the northeast of Iran, but Gohar-Tappeh dates back from third millennium BC to the Iron Age.” (Payvand News)

What this means is that the musical culture surrounding the wind instrument is very old and logically very rich. Of course what this means for people looking into the music itself I cannot say, because what records might exist of the music that might have been played are not recorded but exist, I would assume, embedded in the musical traditions of the day. Typically music was passed on by ear and through peer to peer learning, and musical understanding is something of a heirloom. I don’t think that that is bullshit even though it is admittedly speculative.

I would rather belong to a culture that treasured the humanity of the arts and accepted its’ inherent belonging to the soul of both an individual and the society that nurtures it. This is in opposition to a culture which automates all of its production and seeks connectivity through digital and therefore mechanical means. Evidently I am not a good example of my own desires. But I find this is due to a sort of obligation that I don’t really understand but that I have certified within my own understanding of how the world works. Therefore I am going to stop keeping a personal blog of reflections and thoughts and I will not use Facebook for “socialising”. Neither will I express opinions that are my own overtly, I will only do this through reference because this is the way that the system prefers to work.

Whilst it makes sense to store and harvest a portfolio online, like a treasury of accomplishments that one can exhibit to others, this is also a habit contrived out of insecurity. Why should we be continually judged upon what we have done before. No-one really follows a linear progression of continual improvement, the idea of continual success is tied to competition and together they are dependent on there being a continued state of inequality. Competition does not mean all round improvement because it does not condone sharing or helping the competition. It actually requisites that the competition is, where possible, hindered or oppressed. But of course this is not something to willingly acknowledge because having been raised under societal pressures to conform to this ideology I am supposed to excuse the consequent inequality (social, economic, political…) that is engendered by my upbringing. I may seem to have digressed but the presentation of ones accomplishments as trophies to warrant some “higher” social status is problematic. I should elaborate.

Take the act of recording achievements as a token situation and look at why it is done and to what aims we follow this course through. It can be broken down as follows.

Presenting ones skills to get work:

The individual engages with the competitive commercial market and attempts to ascertain a status of value (capital)

The individual posits their faith in an employer (reduction of individual to commodity values)

The individual presents the fact that they are capable of working (reliability)

The individual competes for desirability in a commercial market (assumption of seller’s values (capital)) – this has nothing to do with the interests of the people but the interests of capital.

The value of art only really makes sense when we live in a state of excess. This is because we have enough time to appreciate the art, enough time to consider our immediate surroundings and our place in a local and tangible space. In other words we are prepared to dedicate time to ourselves which allows us to reflect on our being and upon the aesthetics of being. Why would there be a greater value placed on art in the past as opposed to now? Is this even a true reality? Do people have less time for art now? Well it seems incorrect to pose the suggestion that we have less time now, with so much of our life being automated and the tasks that we set out to do having been made easier through mechanical intervention, one ought to have more time for aesthetic experience. However we simply don’t.

Or we don’t realise that we do. The arts have seeped into our lives in a way that they don’t seem to be arts anymore, they are too integrated to be distinct from our lives. This is what we call culture. We have a culture that is fast, energetic, composed of bright colours and entrancing melodies. The arts occupy ever space of our lives and in fact we have a hard time escaping them. The music on the radio is constant, the television is a framed image in almost every house, the colours that have been chosen for the packing on food stuffs, on shoe boxes, have been selected because they are psychologically affective. Art has been conceptualised, broken down, and the aesthetic potency of the arts have become a thing for study. A study of how people are affected and a study of the arts themselves. The arts community is a community of designers, designing the psychological landscapes that the masses will experience on a day to day basis. But the reason why this is problematic is because it is about money and that is it. Whilst it is great to be an artist today, there is lots of money in design (if you exploit rather than being exploited), it is removed from the interests of people. People are not interested in television, they are not interested in the radio, or product packing design. People are captivated but they are not interested in what is going on, the opportunity to contemplate on the situation, the role of the artistic director as a mediator of information is absent, there is no lasting impression. The age of meaning is behind us. The technological age has been about a displacement of roles and a supposition of conceptions regarding status. As long as people are preoccupied by colours and sounds they will not be thinking about their status or about their own interests. The modes of living are conditional but the conditions are deeply ingrained into the culture. Media presents a study of other people – forget yourself.

As it stands my argument is flawed. What do I propose in response to the problem of capitalism (which promotes artist as producer for capital gain)? Well first of all I propose that the artist chooses to make artwork for themselves and to practice in opposition to capital industry. This seems illogical because it seems to be biting the hand that feeds but makes more sense because the individual feeds themselves. Not only would the work be able to more more reflective, enlightening, valuable and critical to the age in which we live, but the arts would be considerate of the societal needs rather than the needs of the commercial industry.  What is more is that there is no limit to the scope of the individual, mass media is not enlightening, people must be aware of what grows in their back-garden as well as what distant country has waged war with what distant country. Not only is this “distant” information useless to the masses but it inhibits curiosity and engagement. What would one do if they watched the news all day long, a war can be began, waged, and ended without any participation of the individual at all. When the Greeks were fighting the Ottomans for independence, the poet Byron went to take up arms with the Greeks, he didn’t just read the papers and talk about what people ought to do. We are only alive for a very short period of time, what good reason do we have to work in a monetary system that exploits those whose human rights it harms? A system that builds up expectations and promotes desires only inhibits our ability to engage in those interests. What good does this do the human psyche?

So for that reason I abandon this blog and look to seek a better way of life.