Singaporean graphic designer Hang Kwong Lim struck internet gold when he transformed the names of all Singapore’s MRT stations into logos resembling those of famous local and international brands.
My first thought was “Hm, that’s interesting…” and my next thought was “Oh, I recognize some of these,” and my doom was “I think I’ll share this with my boyfriend.” The two of us proceeded to spend over three hours together on Skype puzzling them out.
Some answers were really obvious, some were less obvious, some came in a flash of uncanny insight accompanied by a feeling that was equal parts pride and utter mystification in the face of the veiled mysteries of the workings of the human mind. A few of them, I admit, we got by the simple expedient of using Google’s “search by image” feature. I only looked at answers in Facebook comments for the last two, because TBH I didn’t realize the answers were there.
Keep reading for a complete list of answers and my thoughts on this delightful excursion into the world of branding. Visit the Mothership post first if you want to work out the answers on your own!
General Thoughts on These Designs
Staring at the images for three hours makes you ask yourself questions such as What do I know? How do I know it? Where does my knowledge go when I’m not using it, and why does it sometimes decide to manifest itself and other times… not?
Moreover, there are questions such as How many logos do I have stored up somewhere behind my eyes? (And how accurate are they?) And exactly how did it come to pass that I’m very ignorant when it comes to luxury watch brands, but actually not so ignorant about performance car tires, of all things!
The answer to the great question of Life the Universe and Everything is 42. The answers to the utterly mind-bending Singapore MRT station mystery brand logo exercise are here.
Downtown Line (Blue Line)
- Bukit Panjang is British Petroleum
- Cashew is Casio
- Hillview is Hilton
- Beauty World is BMW
- King Albert Park is Krispy Kreme
- Sixth Avenue is Sesame Street
- Tan Kah Kee is Tao Kae Noi
- Stevens is Seven-Eleven
- Rochor is Razer
- Downtown is Domino’s
- Telok Ayer is Tesla
- Fortcanning is Facebook
- BenCoolen is Ben&Jerry’s
- Jalanbesar is Jetstar
- Bendemeer is Budweiser
- Geylang Bahru is Guinness
- Mattar is Marvel
- Ubi is Uber
- Kaki Bukit is KitKat
- Bedok North is New Balance
- Bedok Reservoir is Baskin Robbins
- Tampines is Tabasco
- Tampines East is Transformers
- Upper Changi is Under Armor
East-West Line (Green Line)
- Tuas Link is LinkedIn
- Tuas West Road is TWG
- Tuas Crescent is Tencent
- Gulcircle is Google
- Joo Koon is Jordan
- Pioneer is Pirelli
- Boon Lay is Lay’s
- Lakeside is Lakers
- Chinese Garden is Tong Garden
- Jurong East is Nike
- Clementi is The Boston Celtics
- Dover is Dove
- Buona Vista is Bueno
- Commonwealth is Continental
- Queenstown is Quiksilver
- Red Hill is Red Bull
- Tiong Bahru is Bank of China
- Outram Park is Oral B
- Tanjong Pagar is Tropicana
- Raffles Place is Rolls Royce
- City Hall is CitiBank
- Bugis is Baidu
- Lavender is Lazada
- Kallang is Kellogs
- Aljunied is Android
- PayaLebar is PayPal
- Eunos is Esso
- Kembangan is KPMG
- Bedok is Kodak
- Tanamerah is Terminator
- Expo is XBox
- Changi Airport is Channel News Asia
- Simei is Siemens
- Tampines is Toblerone
- Pasir Ris (not shown) is PornHub
North-South Line (Red Line)
- Bukit Batok is TikTok
- Bukit Gombak is BHG
- Choa Chu Kang is Coca-Cola
- Yew Tee is Youtube
- Kranji is Kraft
- Marsiling is Mastercard
- Woodlands is Windows
- Admiralty is Audi
- Sembawang is Samsung
- Canberra is Pandora
- Yishun is Yahoo
- Khatib is Kia
- Yio Chu Kang is Yves Saint Laurent
- Ang Mo Kio is Amazon
- Bishan is Bandai
- Braddell is Dell
- Toa Payoh is Toys R Us
- Novena is Nintendo
- Newton is Netflix
- Orchard is Oreo
- Somerset is SMRT
- Dhoby Ghaut is Dragonball
- Marina Bay is Mercedes
- Marina South Pier is Marks & Spencer
Circle Line (Yellow Line)
- Telok Blangah is Telegram
- Labrador Park is Jurassic Park
- Pasir Panjang is PlayStation
- Haw Par Villa is Tiger Balm
- Kent Ridge is Kenwood
- One North is One Championship
- Holland Village is Harley Davidson
- Farrer Road is Ferrero Rocher
- Botanic Gardens is Bata
- Caldecott is Campbell’s
- Marymount is Marigold
- Lorong Chuan is L’Oreal
- Bartley is Bentley
- Tai Seng is Tag Heuer
- Macpherson is McDonald’s
- Dakota is Daytona
- Mountbatten is Mont Blanc
- Stadium is Starbucks
- Nicoll Highway is Nikon
- Promenade is Prudential
- Bayfront is Baywatch
- Esplanade is ESPN
- Bras Basah is Blackberry
Northeast Line (Purple Line)
- Harbourfront is Haagen Dazs
- Chinatown is Chupa Chups
- Clark Quay is Clarke’s
- Little India is John Little
- Farrer Park is Fair Price
- Boon Keng is Burger King
- Potong Pasir is Patek Philippe
- Woodleigh is Disney
- Serangoon is Supreme
- Kovan is Vans
- Hougang is Hang Ten
- Buangkok is Bugatti
- Sengkang is Sega
- Punggol is Pringles
Specific Thoughts on These Designs
It was challenging to try to guess all the logos. The ones that were the most fun were the ones I had to stare at for a while, because it’s such a joy when the answer appears suddenly, out of nowhere. Those gave me the feeling of having witnessed some kind of miracle.
When I first saw the logo for Stadium, I thought, I’m never going to get this. It’s just… a white word on green. But then I think the first few letters “Sta” tipped me off and I knew it was Starbucks.
I was convinced for some reason that the Holland Village logo must be for a restaurant, probably an Italian restaurant. But then it hit me. I think I figured it out because I used to walk past the Harley Davidson Asia Pacific office.
I had even less reason to recognise the design for Tanah Merah. I looked at it and thought, That’s a movie title. Like the 1994 Lion King title, in red, with the line over it… But the font is obviously sci-fi… BAM. Got it. Is that Terminator? Of course it is! “TAna MERah” has the same consonants and rhythm of “TERmi NAtor”. I don’t know how he came up with that pairing, but it’s awesome.
The eureka moment for my boyfriend was Marymount. I thought maybe it was chocolate or coffee… it’s Marigold milk! He put his brain to work on it in the shower and the answer presented itself in due time.
Cashew was another eureka moment for him. I thought it was a car brand because to me the lettering looks like FORD on the tailgate of an old pickup truck. He said it didn’t look like anything… and then he saw the CAS and ignored the rest, somehow autocorrecting to IO.
I thought Dakota was some kind of ink or printer company because of the coloured flags, though it also struck me they looked like racing flags. I think it was an image search that revealed that it’s really Daytona, a race/racetrack in the US.
I thought Tai Seng was a football team. Looks a lot like like the Portuguese flag, right? So I was getting European sports vibes from it. Nope, it’s Swiss watch brand Tag Heuer. At least I was correct in guessing it was European.
I thought Nicoll Highway looked like a textbook brand somehow, but my boyfriend who’s a shutterbug said it’s obviously Nikon.
I thought Potong Pasir was surely a hotel or bakery. It’s Patek Philippe, a watch brand that has never once intruded into my awareness.
I thought Bishan was Adobe, because the red A looks the same, but… the box made no sense.
Since I think I’ve never heard of One Championship, a martial arts media property, so I thought One North was almost certainly a retail sports shoe shop.
Brands I Love
We develop feelings for brands, both good and bad. Here are the ones that triggered warm fuzzies for me.
When people in Asia ask me where I’m from in the US, I say I’m from Atlanta, the birthplace of Coca-Cola, the host of the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games and the home of the world’s busiest passenger airport. I don’t drink Coke particularly often. I don’t have to… it’s in my blood, so to speak.
I was happy to see Krispy Kreme. They only opened in Singapore within the last few years, but I once toured an old old branch in my hometown with my Girl Scout troop long ago, and I used to buy doughnuts there to take to class on the way to school when I was in high school. You can’t go wrong with fried dough covered in melted sugar! I don’t want none of them yankee Dunkin’ Donuts.
Baskin Robbins has one of my favorite ice cream flavors: Pralines and Cream. Sugared pecans and caramel in vanilla. The branch at Novena is gone but there are still five branches around Singapore.
You know the meme that goes “You can’t hear pictures…”? Well, I can hear the Sega logo. People my age made the Sonic The Hedgehog movie for other people my age to take their kids to because nostalgia.
Singapore, Global City
It was interesting to think about which brands were world-famous ones (McDonald’s) and which ones are regional (JetStar) or local (SMRT). There’s a mix of all three. There’s also a wide variety of industries represented (food, restaurants, hotels, cars, software, shoes), some of which are not retail or customer-facing (KPMG, Siemens). Some are media brands (Netflix) or movies (Jurassic Park) and TV shows (Baywatch) running the gamut from Sesame Street to PornHub, which has been the cause of many winks, nudges and wisecracks, and respectful suggestions of alternative brands (Pizza Hut).
Anatomy of a Logo
The collection can be analysed from the standpoint of the elements used to construct the logo and their arrangement. Most are primarily (Esso) or entirely (Facebook) typographic, because it wouldn’t be very impressive to just stick a new word next to an immediately recognizable symbol (Domino’s). But then maybe that’s how the best logos work: the company name itself is unmistakable. Often the color is a big clue (Siemens doesn’t give you much to go on).
The worst logos in the world, in my opinion, are the company name with a generic asymetrical disc/crescent/swoosh/eclipse thing swooping over the top left corner. It’s so bland it works for anything and nothing. Gives me yucky cheap vibes. (I’m looking at you, PowerPac!)
Many of the logos are just… brands that start with the same letter, and that’s it (King Albert… Krispy Kreme). Sometimes it’s the same few letters (Hillview… Hilton, Kranji… Kraft), or sometimes it’s multiple words, each of which starts with the same letter (Bedok Reservoir… Baskin Robbins).
I have more appreciation for the ones where the sound correspondence is less straightforward. Stevens is Seven-Eleven, with the the same consonants and vowels, mostly, just moved around. Raffles Place is Rolls Royce because there’s an R at the front, yes, but then there’s a “ce” at the end of both that corresponds nicely, and the R of Royce becomes a P by removing a leg. Canberra is Pandora, two words that have the same length and rhythm and same-sounding last syllable, just spelled differently. Somerset is SMRT, just with some extra letters between their common consonants. Gul Circle is Google, same beginning and end. Hougang is Hang Ten, with H….ng in common.
Haw Par Villa is Tiger Balm for reasons that have nothing to do with the sound or spelling of the brand. Haw Par Villa was the home of the family that built the Tiger Balm company, and is the name of a strange kind of theme park also located there, currently undergoing renovation for yet another, uh, reincarnation. Tiger Balm may have been an obvious choice for the logo for Haw Par Villa MRT, but it’s a good choice, one that honors Singapore’s history.
This is Where I Respectfully Quibble
Some of these re-imagined logos are pure genius. Here are the ones that in truth I don’t 100% like. I’m not a graphic designer, so… grain of salt, blah blah blah.
Bukit Panjang / British Petroleum: Nobody calls BP ‘British Petroleum’ and those words aren’t in the BP logo. Squeezing them in doesn’t look good. Also, I think they’re using lowercase “bp” these days.
Cashew / Casio: The ‘s’ in ‘Casio’ makes the ‘s’ sound, but in ‘Cashew’ it’s part of the ‘sh’ sound. I’m a phonics teacher. This bothers me.
Mattar / Marvel: That double T looks bad. Why not use Mattel?
Ubi / Uber: Nothing wrong with this MRT logo, but… why does Uber’s logo look like it belongs to a Chinese Bank? That’s totally a coin with a square hole.
Tuas Link / Linked In: It bothers me the blue square is on the wrong side. But that’s because of the position of the word “Link”.
Jurong East / Nike: Yes, it looks like a J, but the swish is not used in an orientation consistent with the Nike brand.
Red Hill / Red Bull: I do not like it that the big yellow sun has been reduced to a little dot.
Tanjong Pagar / Tropicana: Most of the Tropicana logos I saw online don’t look like that, they’re a different style. I thought for sure that that weird lowercase g would be in the logo itself, but no.
Aljunied / Android: I don’t think the robot should be sideways.
Tana Merah / Terminator: I’ll be back… to fix your kerning.
Marina Bay / Mercedes: Again, if you’re going to use pictorial elements from logos, IMO they should be used in the correct orientation.
Macpherson / McDonald’s: Uh, I really don’t think the yellow M is used at the front of the spelled-out company name. Looks unsettling.
Potong Pasir / Patek Philippe: That flower square is supposed to be oriented like a diamond, not on its side.
Rochor / Razer: Okay, so both words start and and with an R, but there’s a special “O” in Rochor which was misleading. The special looking letters of Razer are A and E.
Boon Keng / Burger King: That’s the old BK logo, but… actually I like the old one better than the new one!
They’re not perfect. But who cares?
Most of the MRT logos are at least a little bit awkward. However, this awkwardness is to be expected and does not diminish the massive achievement represented by this collection. After all, the original logo was not designed to accommodate the specific letters in the name of the MRT station. Far more work has been put in each of the original, world-class logos than could be expected in the case of a personal passion project. The important thing is that Hang Kwong Lim has done an excellent job showing us images that, like the famous rabbit/duck and crone/lady, tell our brains two different things at the same time.
Read an interview with Hang Kwong Lim at Singaplex.com
Want more fun with re-imagined brands?
It’s true what they say, there’s nothing new under the sun. People have been remixing famous brands ever since there were famous brands.
Here are some vintage parody brands spotted in the Facebook Group Weird Secondhand Finds That Just Need To Be Shared, of which I am a lurking member. They seem kinda creepy, so maybe they should be cross-posted in one of those “…with threatening auras” groups.