Collaborative Laboratory (Co. Lab.) is an experiment to drive innovation through design collaborations.

Co. Lab. facilitates the connection of design practice and thinking with everyday individuals, businesses and organisations through small projects and experiments.


Co. Lab. Project 1: De Sign Books

Featuring Bruce Cayonne, Trinidadian Sign Painter

Up-cycled sign books celebrate local culture and showcase possibilities for innovation through design collaborations.

Co. Lab. Project 1 asks “Can design profitably address local social and environmental challenges?”

Opportunities & Challenges

Sign-painting, hand lettered signs and informal promotions contribute significantly to Trinidad’s cultural and physical landscape. Bruce's signs can be spotted along highways and main roads promoting fetes, musical artistes, food establishments and other local businesses. The colourful signs capture a distinctly Caribbean style and should be valued for their cultural contribution. However, there is an inherent challenge in the informal promotions system when it comes to removing signs that are past their date. Event-planners, sign painters, promoters and sign installers all play different roles but no one currently has the role of sign removal. This can result in visual clutter and debris along public roads.


Design Response

There are significant benefits to the support and continuation of hand-made signs and the informal promotions culture but these do not negate the need for sign-removal. A top-down approach from authorities to ban or remove signs could be considered shameful by the public as the informal promotions culture is not only widespread and culturally valuable, but it provides access to affordable promotions and a positive source of additional income opportunities for individuals. 

Up-cycled sign solutions can be a missing link in the event promotion system by placing value on outdated signs, securing their removal, giving old signs a second life and providing additional income-earning opportunities for sign removers and makers, all while celebrating and promoting local culture.

The first book was made as a present for Trinidad-born designer, Kriston Chen, who collects and blogs about local hand-lettered signs. Click here to view his posts.


Co. Lab. Project 1 Status: Ongoing

Sign books retail at Paper Based, Trinidad

To view more, follow on instagram @De.Sign.Books or Facebook @De.Sign.BooksTT