A phone call that got me thinking about the triviality of graphic design

Like the image of a light bulb over my head, there came a question from a brief chat with a professor today. We were talking like old friends coming together after a long time of absence in each other’s life. Greetings were exchanged. He heard about the news and congratulated me and my team. I, on the other hand, was thinking that a stage experience of this magnitude shall be felt by many more Malaysian graphic designers (or visual communicators) in their homeland Malaysia, if not overseas. I wanted him to know that.

Believe it or not, such experience can truly change a person. After all that talking, I wanted to know if there is any award out there in Malaysia that dedicates a design-driven category for visual communication. One which the eyes meet the visual, see the breadth and depth of it, change the way we look at things graphically and forget about the monetary returns that you make out of that design. Turns out to be the answer is no. Or maybe, not yet. 

This is a replica of a production set used by artists and their backup dancers when they are making a music video. I was standing there and thinking what a life it could have been for me if I had followed my childhood dream.

I want to believe what Tommy Li believes that Malaysia is still in its infancy when it comes to design, and the room for innovation is as big as space can get. If you want to do a products-based business anywhere in the world, the originality and authenticity of a product is always favourable. Whether it is marketable is a puzzle worth your time spending on and piecing it together.

Back in Malaysia, the next best thing we can possibly hope for is obtaining a Good Design Mark. The Good Design Mark is neither an award or competition but rather a respectable recognition given by Malaysia Design Council to manufacturers and makers of furniture, interior design, industrial design and products with an aim that the Good Design Mark can help boost commercial marketability and profitable opportunities.

I certainly think that visual communication and graphic design is part of the game plan. Well, they just don’t get the same airtime, so to speak. I’ve said this before and let me reiterate that graphic design is not art. Graphic design is a way of communication through graphics, where part of its role is to break down hard facts and information into digestible formats, which can be called as infographics, illustrations, typography, wayfinding and others.

Where do graphic designers stand in the hierarchy of design? How is one being perceived in society? A tough job with undesirable working hours – is that what it’s all about being a graphic designer? Questions, questions, and more questions.

A sleek idea to show people the way. Can you tell? The Eslite Spectrum Songyan Store in Taipei is located within the vicinity of the Songshan Cultural & Creative Park.

Of course, I want to think that they are problem solvers and culture integrators. I know of those who integrate graphic design in their work and they are called visual communicators (because their aim is to design well to communicate well); and those who can operate a computer to create mind-blowing graphics are called graphic designers or crafters (because they spend plenty of time crafting their skills / brushing up on their talents until they forget the basic human communication). Regardless, like manufacturers and makers of furniture et al, any kind of designers – as long as they design for a living – are thinkers (and emotional beings, too) and should be recognised for their work – whether it be in the form of an award, a promotion or a bonus.

Although some may think that graphic design is but a fleeting moment – either setting trends or following them, whose works are usually produced from emotions of the heart – the word permanence cannot be applied to design, tangible or intangible. To say that design will be recognised and awarded for its permanence or durability is like hiding truths and telling one side of a fairytale when there are more sides to it. Design is not antique. It’s not destructive. It builds things such as concepts, art directions and styles. It changes according to time and experiences.

Forget about permanence and learn to appreciate graphic design even for a fleeting moment.

Scaling heights of 40,000 ft above sea level to Taipei

…I knew I was in for a pleasant surprise. I wasn’t really thinking about where we were going, anyway. Honeymoon in Ximending? Okay, good! Anywhere but KL for a week. All I wanted to do was to relax and unwind – that’s all that matters to me and for my husband to have some time out from work.

Upon our arrival at the Taipei International Airport, there weren’t many people at the waiting gate. Suddenly, I heard loud voices from what sounded like they came from young boys and girls, and what I saw was heartwarming. Indeed, they were a young group and two boys were holding up a big red banner saying “Welcome Back”. They looked to me like university students and had I been the one they were welcoming, I’d be really moved by the whole camaraderie.

The street in Ximending at night. Bright lights and chatters. Sun sets early in this part of the world and day turns to dawn by 4 o’clock in the evening.

At the very least, I was constantly being reminded by him that going on this trip could make a big difference to us. But how different? The answer lies in the Golden Pin Design Award 2014. I’ve always had a strong feeling that we stand a chance. You gotta believe in yourself and believe that you can. So, this same dialogue went on and on and on until the big day arrived to announce the winners.

When you think you’re lost, you’re not even close. Just look up and translate what you see into memories in your head. You’ll find your way eventually. That’s what being on a trip is about – discovering the undiscovered!

The Songshan Cultural & Creative Park is just 5 stops from Ximen Station, which is 10 minutes walking distance from the hotel we booked in. On the way there, the streets in Ximending are identical and I couldn’t quite register my location most of the time. Every corner of a building tends to have a fruit stall and kiosks selling things. You can’t get lost in this maze; you just have to look up at the buildings and learn about them as each building has a unique build, colour and height.

Much to our delight, our Taipei friends treated us to a hearty dinner at a place not far away from Ximending the night before the Golden Pin Design Award ceremony.

One blurry take before we both joined the rest of the Design Mark winners and design masters at the Eslite Performance Hall in anticipation for opening of the Golden Pin Design Award ceremony. Celebrities turned up to show their support to design too!