Immortalising the Unapologetic Beauty of Peranakan Culture

After a four-year long hiatus, the Peranakan Museum reopened its doors to the world once again. The museum is the world’s first and only museum dedicated to Peranakan culture, a culture indigenous to the Southeast Asian region and famous for its delicious food, colourful ceramics and intricate textiles. 

In 2019, the National Heritage Board announced that the museum would close for redevelopment. Working closely together with the team at the National Heritage Board, the brand practice at Anak was tasked with rebuilding the brand across all of the different physical and digital touchpoints that would come with newly transformed space. Anak’s mission was to inject new life into Peranakan culture by creating a refreshed brand identity for its de jure HQ – the Peranakan Museum. To create a forward-looking institution, Anak drew inspiration not just from their artefacts or their patterns – the brand practice made the Peranakan attitude the heart of the new brand. Instead of merely celebrating what they created, Anak chose to celebrate the creativity that built a world of unapologetic beauty. 

The core brand idea ‘Chelop’ – which means ‘to dip into’ in Peranakan Malay – is both an essence and an invitation. It represents the act of throwing oneself head-first into another culture for the purpose of reinterpretation. That’s what Anak did with the Museum’s 5000-plus-strong collection of artefacts, documents and verbal histories, diving deep to build a multimedia library of patterns and motifs, informed by the crafts (tiling, adorning) and the creations (food, textiles) of Peranakan culture. These patterns which once brightened homes and livened wardrobes, were updated for a new world of social media, projection mapping and more. 

The brand system is a shorthand for the maximalist, more-is-more, leanings of the Peranakan Aesthetic – one that is easy to use and with the power to flex across various visual applications. A brand system that continues the Peranakan legacy of ’chelop-ing’ and unapologetic beauty, finding the Peranakan in you. To give form to this over-the-top world, Anak evolved the ‘P’ letterform of the original PERANAKAN MUSEUM wordmark into The Museum Peony. It serves as both a symbol of the community’s multiplicity, as well as a graphic identifier for all of our brand touchpoints. 

The result was an explosive, visually arresting brand world; Anak created a design language to exude the intricate yet maximalist, audacious beauty Peranakans are known for, bringing together the old and new whilst embracing the cacophony of patterns and colour, to construct an irresistibly inviting new brand that will sustain through time. 

Commenting on the brand refresh, Hanyi Lee, creative partner at Anak, said “Peranakan culture—the lifeblood of Straits-born emigres—is vibrant, sardonic, beautiful, over-the-top and ever-changing. As we embarked on this journey, it was important to us that we did so in a way that was authentic and resonant to the culture. Our job was to remove it from the past and bring it to life for a new generation of not-just-peranakans, but artists, craftsmen, and future collaborators, locally and globally. Just as the Peranakans themselves were inspired by east and west and everything in-between, we want their multicultural legacy to inspire a more beautiful future.” 

Kennie Ting, director of Peranakan Museum, commented “In Malay, the word ‘Peranakan’ has ‘child’ at its root, and means ‘locally-born’ or ‘of the same womb’. It was a welcoming and inclusive sort of word, used by Malay-Indonesian communities in Southeast Asia to refer to all other communities who had made a home here, and blended the rich local culture with their own proud heritage. With the movement of people globally today, are we able to use the term Peranakan in the same way that older Malay communities did? To embody that ethos and language of inclusivity? To say that we are from the same womb and we welcome you? We are all, in some ways, updated Peranakans, so to speak.” 

The brand system is a shorthand of the maximalist leanings of the Peranakan aesthetic: pattern-on-pattern, stitching-on-stitching, more-is-more. The pattern library is a decorated base to simply layer on top of; to boldly showcase an artefact/word/image.

The brand emblem- the Museum Peony – that was created by rotating the ‘P’ letterform to form the petals of a peony – a symbol of the multiplicity of the Peranakan community. The Museum Peony is also the graphic identifier on all brand touchpoints, standing out against the visual cacophony of our brand world and Peranakan paraphernalia. 

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