These days, you can download a phone app like “LogoShop,” click on the samples you like best, chose a few colors, enter a client name, and answer a few questions about what they do. Voilà, in a minute or two a selection of bland, generic logos will appear—none with any relation to your client’s business.

Everybody knows that an app can’t come up with smart, witty ideas. But heads of startups on shoestring budgets could do worse than have an app-created logo. With the exception of the large, international design firms trusted by blue-chip corporations, cheap or free brand design is becoming more the norm that the exception. Thus, over the past decade many small graphic design firms have found themselves with significantly lower income, forced to downsize.

But not these guys.

Foreign Policy Design Group, a 12-person firm in Singapore, has expanded its capabilities well beyond what most small graphic design firms did 10 (or even five) years ago. And they’re growing and thriving.

Foreign Policy Design Group is a full service design group in Singapore.

The partners of Foreign Policy Design: Arthur Chin, business manager; Yah-Leng Yu, creative director; Elita Ong, architect.

That’s because architecture is a major part of the mix. Foreign Policy is doing so well that they recently expanded into spacious new loft-office space. Not only is the staff talented and dedicated, their work is strategic, thoughtful, smart, and literate. And they provide clients with the whole deal: branding, website, packaging, and design of exterior signage and interior spaces. They are the paradigm of the small graphic design office of the future today.

The firm’s portfolio of printed matter includes work for museums and banks, photographers and artists, retailers, and restaurants (Singapore being a city where everyone’s favorite pastimes are shopping and eating). The production value is uniformly high; they use the best paper and printing tools. In competitive, design-conscious Singapore, clients value innovation and quality as much as designers do. “Our clients want to be fabulous and not restrict the possibilities,” says Yah-Leng Yu, Foreign Policy’s founding partner and creative director, points out.

Foreign Policy also publishes its own monograph series, Critical Mass, an exploration of experimental typography and audience engagement. The content includes opinion pieces on branding, essays on social, environmental and social issues, and interviews with boldface names like leading fashion designers. The print run of 1,000 copies is sold to a connected local audience.

New Space, New Life

Formerly a hardware and lighting fixtures warehouse, the new space occupies the third floor of a building in the up-and-coming “Lavender” neighborhood of Singapore, surrounded by blocks filled with plumbing and electrical parts shops and dotted with interesting little restaurants and clubs. “We love it here,” notes founding partner and creative director Yah-Leng Yu.

Foreign Policy Design Group is a full service design group in Singapore.“The neighborhood is fun and not super-gentrified,” she says. A Singapore native, Yu is a graduate of the Art Institute of Boston. She freelanced for several years at top studios in Los Angeles and New York before returning to bring all that experience to her hometown. Her self-appointed title is “Ambassador of Design,” which sums up her passion for her work and the industry.

Foreign Policy Design Group is a full service design group in Singapore.Every inch of the new space is designed: the birch-plywood cabinetry, the long work tables and conference table stained a rich lavender-blue. It was designed by Elita Ong, the in-house architect, and built by their downstairs neighbor (and client) Roger & Sons.

Neighborly Love

Roger & Sons had been a client for more than five years before they let Yu know that the space two floors above them was becoming available. Foreign Policy had designed their logo and the neat-as-a-pin carpentry workshop, which feels more like a gallery of carefully curated objects than a contractor’s shop.

It’s a great pairing; of course, no one but Roger & Songs would craft their designers’ new space, which has a similar, blonde-wood aesthetic to their own.

Foreign Policy Design Group is a full service design group in Singapore.

Details and Dumplings

The same meticulous attention to detail is paid to every Foreign Policy project. For Dumpling Darlings, for example, Foreign Policy provided the menus, coasters, stickers, shirts, takeout box and bag—and the restaurant interiors and signage.

Foreign Policy Design Group is a full service design group in Singapore.

The yummy brand identity has a candy-colored, comic-book aesthetic personified by stylized line drawings of dumpling-filled environments and by “Jo,” a plump little-girl icon who climbs on a pig (pork being the main ingredient of many dumplings), flies from a dumpling parachute, stacks dumplings into a tower, and lounges on a chaise when she’s enjoying beverages from the cocktail menu. All drawn and animated on staff.

Foreign Policy Design Group is a full service design group in Singapore.

Yum. But all of this begs the question: What services and capabilities are you adding to the mix so you won’t be replaced by an app?

Credits: Photos of Foreign Policy Design Group and Roger & Sons by Yan Z Miller; photos of Dumpling Darlings by Jovian Lim.

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