Notes from our design studio

Notes from our design studio

The taste for identity and an urge for differentiation is nothing new. Like we have corporate logos today, the Japanese created their own family ‘crests’ for each family name, centuries ago. Each crest represents a surname (usually called a family name). These pieces of identity are also called Coat of Arms in some parts of the world. This fact might belittle a graphic designer at first but it reinforces their efforts towards their work of art as they are practicing one of the oldest arts, but in another way and by using modern tools. Nothing we do today is born out of thin air and nothing can all stand by itself. Artists seeking originality today have to attempt a dialogue with history.

A researcher once said that his passport is more powerful than him because it has all the information the other person has to know about him and it looks cuter than his whole self and that it can cross borders alone, but he cannot without carrying it. His argument postulated the inevitable inclination towards brevity and information. Although his statement corresponds to a different field of study, it seems more relevant in the context of design. Communication is essential in this world and we are more and more dependent on machines and mechanical persons for that purpose. To declutter the process, downsizing has to take charge.

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You are bound to reinvent the wheel and yes, it is useless. While thinking about a graphical/artistic representation of a product/brand you might first produce something that is close to an already existing piece of art. You will then go for some other unexplored areas to get a hold of a new perspective. This happened with the invention of the hand axe for the first time. During the hominin evolution, those who invented the hand axe could not transmit the knowledge of how it was made to the next generation and so it was invented several times over centuries. The hand axe and the subsequent compound axe were invented over and over again. Against this epic failure, a designer must avoid reinventing things by transmitting his knowledge from project to project about how not to think and where not to look for inspiration.

Design (graphic design for that matter) is closely related to semiotics. The French thinker Roland Barthes had a distinct voice in this regard. His idea of semiotics and the interrelatedness of every object within its vicinity sheds light on mass culture. Film is one such culture. For instance, the movies made in the early 60s and 70s had a nature of feeding information with every frame. Posters and titles have had many direct visual and symbolic representations of what the maker wanted to convey. So, it seems, film has always got the necessary semiotic perspective, if we reinterpret one of Roland Barthes’ statements that meant – the audience always looks for signs to interpret a narrative. For example, Saul Bass’ ‘Anatomy of a murder’ is one iconic poster designed for the film by the same name. Sometimes design acts as a substitute for language and thought, and other times it cannot be substituted.

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Orson Welles didn’t make ‘Citizen Kane’ all by himself and had a number of inspirations for many scenes of the film. Xerox didn’t invent photocopiers. Microsoft didn’t invent Windows. Apple didn’t invent MP3 players. Amazon didn’t invent online shopping. Sony didn’t invent games consoles, video recorders, or portable cassette players. They all just brought together all the greatest inventions and consolidated them to make the best product. When you don’t have an idea, stay open to the world and work things in your way later. A person, a word, a street or a coffee might give you an idea (not restricted to these and not necessarily in this order).

Few designers talk about Design Thinking, few others talk about Design Doing, some talk about Design Being but you can always end with Design Feeling.