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.
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.
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.