I had a wonderful 3-hr-tea with Ziqq today about our thoughts about critical thinking behind Design. The problem widespread these days is many creations are done without thought, yet they are tremendously aesthetic pleasing.
This is not to say that aesthetics is not important. It is a very important part of Design. But what about the thought behind it? Where Design truly takes on value? Are we solving a real problem? Or are we catching on trendiness?
I can write more on this topic but because recently I have been so pressed for time, I have no time to really sit down and pen a thoughtful article on this issue.
Not surprisingly, Paul Rand had written a similar article with “Thoughts on Design - Seduction of Contemporary Graphic Design” with the exact questioning. He and Charles Eames had often stood by their stand on what Design truly encompasses. Good design stands the test of time, classic solutions; not bubbles which burst with the passing of each trend.
I had no idea I will be one of those to fight this battle but since I began to work as a Designer, I have always had this inner voice telling me that something is very wrong with the circumstances I was experiencing.
Ziqq, while interviewing many Designers, also gained particular insight that we are causing our own downfall as most Designers do not spend time questioning, nor reading or improving their knowledge outside of work. This is why Designers are rarely valued, often abused, and subjected to clients’ own tastes on what is good.
I am having my braces now and my dentist has never allowed me any question. He always gave me the “I know what I am doing” look and “If I say no, means no”.
Why can’t Designers command the same kind of stance? I am not referring to Designers with the likes of Karl Lagerfeld. More like local Designers.
I’m not sure if Singapore being a young country and relatively new history can be stated as one of the reasons. But there may be a chance. Samantha Lo (SKL0) is making her stance as a local artist, not without a price to pay for it — she was charged, subjected to public opinions, etc, yet she is fighting for her belief. All for love for what she does. True respect and with each committed individual, we are inspiring more people to stand up for their beliefs and improve the scene together. One love.
Artists and Designers truly have it hard in this expensive, young country but we are not about to give up without a good fight.
We have to look deep into the system - from school (how is the curriculum structured?), to the leading agencies in society (what are they really doing?), to the government bodies that promotes Design —or so they claimed (what are they spreading?). It is a chain reaction.
What kind of minds are we hoping to groom in schools moving forward? Ultimately the future in Design lies in these new generations of Designers.
People with critical thinking, understands real world, real problems, who addresses consumers’ needs, who questions enough, who places substance over trendiness, quality over quantity, core values over fame.
What are we all really doing? How are we going to contribute?
We believe that Good Design can Change the World for the Better.
Ziqq raises a fundamental point that even I need to apply to my life. We all know that change starts from self. Design your own life, before you intend to Design other things for the better.
What kind of change do I need AND want to apply to my life?
I left the talk with a lot of questions in my head but an eagerness to set myself up for this challenge. I know exactly what kind of change I want to see in my own life.
I have a very clear idea of where I would like to see myself in 2yrs and 5yrs down the road.
And I know these change includes returning to my alma mater here and then and share with young minds, about what Design truly is. Lecturers have been keen to have me back and I want to be back, when I have prepared my stuffs.
From the moment I began work as a Designer, I know I am married to this discipline. Whoever my future partner is, he has to understand and be supportive of my cause to impact the world in a positive way, in a way that I can.
Other reading references: Charles Eames’ thoughts on Design on Brainpicking
Before I go, here’s the article by Paul Rand, it is very heavy, may not be suitable for everyone to digest:
In the torturous history of painting and design, from Cimabue (1240-1302), to Cassandre (1901-1968), communications between artist and spectator — even if one disagreed with what was being communicated - was rarely a problem. Today, with emphasis on self, on style, rather than on content or idea, and in much of what is alleged to be graphic design, communication at best, is puzzling. Order out of chaos, it seems, is not the order of the day.
The deluge of design that colors our lives, our print, and video screens is synchronous with the spirit of our time. No less than drugs and pollution, and all the fads and -isms that have plagued our communities, the big brush of graffiti for example, has been blanketing our cities from Basel to Brooklyn. Much of graphic design today is a grim reminder of this overwhelming presence. The qualities which evoke this bevy of depressing images are a collage of confusion and chaos, swaying between high tech and low art, and wrapped in a cloak of arrogance: squiggles, pixels, doodles, dingbats, ziggurats; boudoir colors: turquoise, peach, pea green, and lavender; corny woodcuts on moody browns and russets; Art Deco rip-offs, high gloss finishes, sleazy textures; tiny color photos surrounded by acres of white space; indecipherable, zany typography with miles of leading; text in all caps (despite indisputable proof that lowercase letters are more readable); omnipresent, decorative letterspaced caps; visually annotated typography and revivalist caps and small caps; pseudo-Dada and Futurist collages; and whatever ‘special effects’ a computer makes possible. These inspirational decorations are, apparently, convenient stand-ins for real ideas and genuine skills. And all this is a reflection, less of the substance, than of the spirit of graffiti - less of the style, than of the quality.
That these cliches are used repeatedly, irrespective of needs, is what defines trendiness. The ‘Memphis’ fad was also based on cliches and on outrageous, kitschy notions. (Occasionally, however, some potentially useful ideas seeped through — only proving that it takes talent to make something out of nothing.) The huge investments involved in the manufacture and storage of Memphis products have probably helped speed its demise. Trendy printed ephemera, on the other hand, which involves less capital, may take a bit longer.
There is something about graffiti and graffiti-like design that smacks of WW I Dada. But that was a revolt against the lopsided conventions of the time. The participants were often great artists and reformers: Arp, Grosz, Heartfield, Duchamp, Ernst, Schwitters, etc. And the work was not, in any way, trendy; it was serious, often amusing, and always interesting. Today’s Dada, if it can be called that, is a revolt against anything that is deemed old hat. Faddish and frivolous, it harbors its own built-in boredom.
‘I feel that the ideas I tried to outline…will strike many of you as consisting too much of the atrabiliar grumblings of a disgruntled elder,’ is how Roger Fry,(1) the distinguished British critic, expressed the fear that his message might be falling on deaf ears.
Most of this ‘new’ style of design is confined to pro bono work, small boutiques, fledgling studios, trendy publishers, misguided educational institutions, anxious graphic arts associations, and a few innocent paper manufacturers, who produce beautiful papers, but then spoil them with ‘the latest’ graphics, and who, undoubtedly, see themselves as the avant-garde - and are comforted by the illusion that this must be progress. Unhappily, this is infecting some of the graphics of the corporate world: annual reports, identity programs, direct mail, etc. Trendiness is seductive, especially to the young and inexperienced, for the principal reason that it offers no restraints, is lots of ‘fun’, permits unlimited possibilities for ‘self- expression,’ and doesn’t require conforming to the dictates of reason or aesthetics. ‘… Self-expression isreal only after the means to it have been acquired’,(2) comments the author of a brilliant commentary on the foibles of education, ‘Begin Here.’