“I compared diabetes to hell for my design project. I was inspired by religion and used Haw Par Villa as my point of reference. To me, how diabetes affects a person’s health is very similar to the way in which the theme park portrays the different levels of hell.

I took an interest in this topic because my dad is diabetic. On a broader level, diabetes has become an increasingly serious problem in Singapore; we even talked about it at the 2017 National Day Rally. As a communication design student, I questioned why this is so.

In my opinion, the Let’s Beat Diabetes campaign is too keen to tell someone what to do. It didn’t make people feel concerned about the disease itself. I did some research and learnt that it’s actually a lifestyle disease that can start from young.

But people in Singapore seem to have this weird perception that diabetes is only for people aged 40 and above. I wanted to change that narrative and demonise the disease, so I compared the experience of living with diabetes to going through the different stages of hell.

Yes, this project is a bit horror-ish. My visuals were inspired by manga artist Junji Ito because I thought his style would connect quite well with the younger generation. With that being said, I didn’t want the whole campaign to be based on just full-on fear.

Anti-smoking campaigns try to scare people into quitting, but smokers tell me that doesn’t really work on them. I read somewhere that fear tactics make an individual feel stigmatised instead. That is why by demonising diabetes, I hope to motivate people to fight the disease.

What I’ve learnt as a student at Glasgow School of Art is that design needs to be research-driven; it cannot be just about aesthetics. You really need to have an in-depth look at what’s happening and try to solve a problem.

That’s why I look forward to working as a strategist after graduation. I get to do research and look at the bigger picture. I’ve become more academic in my approach to design, and I’m not so straightforward with my visuals anymore.

Now, when I’m given a brief, I ask myself if that’s the best way to go about solving a problem. I recall how Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde told me at one of his conferences.

He said that designers shouldn’t just be looking at form and function, but also at how they actually create impact. Those words have stayed with me to this very day.” – Peng Da, 24

You can check out Peng Da’s portfolio here.

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