Photo from Jeffrey Kong Facebook

Singapore’s Land Transport Authority (LTA) put up a tender calling for the design and production of Public Transport collectables and toys in June this year, only to steal the design of an unsuccessful bidder. The toy is sold for S$24 a piece on LTA’s retail website. When confronted by the original designer for clarifications, LTA claimed that the uncanny similarities is only a “coincidence”.

The artist, Jeffrey Kong, took to Facebook and shamed the government’s transport authority with a picture of his submitted design and LTA’s new merchandise. You may read his post here:

“Quiz time: Spot the difference!

One of these is merchandise sold by Land Transport Authority Singapore (http://knackstop.sg/products/downtown-line-miniature-train). The other is a draft creation by a local brick artist.

Here’s a quick background: I am the founder ofArtisan Bricks and I am a full-time brick artist from Singapore (see http://artisanbricks.com/about). I create custom sculptures, murals and building kits, with LEGO and compatible bricks, and I conduct workshops and teambuilding events as well. I am blessed to have worked with wonderful corporate and government clients. My works include the Botanic Gardens bandstand at the recent Piece of Peace show at Fort Canning, and the brick doodle walls at Google Singapore HQ, and I produced the first-ever brick building kit for a Singapore school, for Catholic High School.

So like any business owner, I submit bids for projects every now and then. Here’s what happened:

June 2017: LTA put up an ITQ: Invitation To Quote For The Design And Production Of Public Transport Collectibles. After attending the ITQ briefing, I decided that Artisan Bricks will submit an online bid, which I did.

End June 2017: Interested vendors are required to submit physical material samples, which I did. When I was at the tender office, I had on hand a draft design that I had built, and I showed it to the LTA staff that this is how I would approach the brick design, However, I said I cannot hand it over to them until the job is confirmed, plus this is just my working draft (only 2 of 3 segments), and I still want to refine it. The LTA staff asked me if they could have it, to aid their management in the decision making process. My policy is to not do that unless I am paid a design fee, but this time I relented and passed it to them. All this happened at the tender office, so it was verbal and not documented in the email trail.

July 2017: Tender awarded to another vendor, LTA staff informed me to say they are going ahead with another medium (i.e. non-LEGO bricks). Fine, no worries, I thought, hope to work with you next time!

13 Oct 2017: Found out from I’m a Singaporean Adult Fan of Lego (AFOL) that there is a LTA merchandise that looks strikingly similar. I tried calling the LTA staff but could not get through, so I paid them a visit at their Hampshire Road office that same day.

There I got to compare their version with mine, and the similarity is uncanny, right down to the sideways building using the same curves and plates in the front of the model. I asked if there could have been a leak, and the LTA staff said not possible, as the only people who had seen my draft sample are themselves and their management, and that they did not share this with their appointed vendor at all.

The LTA staff said that their appointed vendor came up with the brick design by themselves with the reference pics provided, and said that since the reference materials provided are the same, any vendor would have come up with something that looks the same.

So there you have it. It’s just a coincidence.

There are only 3 things for you and I to do:

1. Move along, move along. Must remember to never hand over any physical works for any tender, even if it is just a draft, and no matter how nicely the client asks. Ah well, just another day in the life of a local artist. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

2. Buy this model from LTA at Knackstop stores:http://knackstop.sg/products/downtown-line-miniature-train. Because their website says the sales proceeds will help the disadvantaged with their land transport needs. They’ll need it. It’s also heartening that something that looks so much like my draft design is deemed good enough for sale.

3. Share this to let your friends know that coincidences do happen.”