$1 then, $5 today….say whuttt!

What does $1 get you these days? A cup of coffee? A loaf of bread? No way!

I don’t know about you but I can barely think of anything that costs me $1 (or less) these days. Even my routine lunchtime (homemade) Ice Lemon Tea at the coffee shop costs me $1.40!

So you can imagine how intrigued I was when I read all about the $1 project at The Design Show 2014 catalog. In case some of you were wondering what The Design Show is, it is where the graduating cohort of Temasek Polytechnic’s School of Design get to showcase their Final Year Project (FYP) to the whole of Singapore.

Jodi Choo, third year Temasek Poly student from the School of Design, Diploma in Visual Communications (now known as Diploma in Communication Design), let us in on her project aptly titled $1.

Staring at the pristine white cover of the book with nothing but three $1 coins spanning three decades, I couldn’t help but ask Jodi where she found the first series coin. “Oh that ONLY cost me $5 at a local coin collector’s shop!” quips Jodi with a wide grin.


What started out as a grocery shopping trip to the supermarket turned out to be the brainchild of Jodi’s FYP. “I was actually buying some groceries for my initial FYP idea – a food photography commercial. As I reached out for a $1 coin for the trolley, the distinctive design of the $1 coin caught my attention and I stopped to think about what this dollar was worth today.” That experience triggered Jodi’s thoughts and inspired her idea. “I wanted to highlight the seriousness of the increasing living costs in Singapore through a visual showcase” says Jodi.

When asked why she chose to cover such a serious issue, Jodi’s answer was simple. “I believe it’s something we all face and live with in this rapidly globalizing city-state.” Spoken like a true visionary I say! She pondered about what would soon be her FYP and eventually shared the idea with her lecturer, Mr Isidro Alejandro Ramirez Ansela, who encouraged her to go for it.

Quirky and visually appealing, Jodi’s photo book explores the rising cost of living from the point of view of a $1 value. A compilation of images of items one would encounter in their daily life, she compares the quantity of the item you could obtain with $1 in 1967, 1987 and 2013 – the three years when a new series of coins were circulated.

So as to ensure that the book remained relevant to the masses, Jodi compares the value of a dollar in terms of daily necessities. In her basket of staple essentials – a simple breakfast set, apples, toilet paper, toothpaste, rice, eggs and a can of Coke. The items photographed in the book were arranged according to the order in which they are encountered in one’s daily life.

Browsing through the book I noticed two other things – an abundance of white spaces and page numbers. According to Jodi, the white spaces highlight the diminishing value of a dollar in Singapore. “In this day and age, shopping with only a dollar will result in an emptier shopping bag hence the empty spaces” she remarks. The other thing that caught my attention was the page numbers. I was halfway through the book when I noticed that the page number reflected 1967 so you can imagine my bewilderment (in the form of a shrill cry!) when I asked how many pages there were in the book. A highly amused Jodi then tells me that that’s just a reflection of the year 1967.

Ahhh of courseeee (I knew that!)

Jokes aside, these little details make Jodi’s project a visual masterpiece for the senses. Looking through the book, I couldn’t help but marvel at her simplistic yet captivating photos. And then to top it all off, her attention to detail goes well beyond physical design and age! I was amazed that something so modest and unpretentious could carry a wealth of details that could so easily be overlooked. “Never judge a book by its cover” couldn’t ring more true!

“$1 was the result of one key issue – the ever changing value of that one single dollar over the decades in Singapore” remarks Jodi when asked to sum her project in one sentence.

And you couldn’t have displayed that in a more visually appeasing manner than you did with your photo book, Jodi. It sure was a feast for eyes!


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