The season finale of Thinking Zoom Inc. has brought a reflective time, gathered together excavated admiration and reminiscents of how impactful these figures are to shape how they've become as well as what they aspire to be. Our Senior Designer Bram Patria Yoshugi invited Art Director Ira Carella, Leonardo Laurensius, and Sasqia Pristia to talk about their design heroes.
What is a design hero? And what does having design heroes mean? As suggested by the word itself, it could be about figures that are in the design field who have influenced a designer creatively. Liking one's work is one thing, but admiring the mind behind it is another. However, is it merely of figures in the design industry? Non-designer design heroes are not a myth, as discovered in the session. To Ira, having a design hero means having anyone who is not necessarily a designer that can be an influence on anyone as a designer and as a person. A design hero can be as much as a role model who isn't a creative practitioner to a designer that leave impacts on their work and self as a human being.
The first few waves of his sail in design, our graphic designer Leonardo (Leo for short) questioned what graphic design really was. He knew he wanted to do graphic design because of his love for drawing, Photoshop, and Illustrator. During his study at NAFA Singapore, the accessibility of design and good design studios led him to find the design scene in Singapore interesting. He stumbled upon and was caught intrigued by the mind behind Singapore-based Kinetic Studio, Pann Lim, who focuses on design, advertising, and communication. Feasting his eyes on their work, Leo was particularly intrigued by their approach in their website design, which to him was, though unconventional, a different and unique experience. Alongside his first few findings is their work for Singaporean Sushi and Salad chain, Maki-San. Leo found the branding work Kinetic did for Maki-San eye-opening. He also referred to their branding for K+ Curatorial Space. He appreciated their expandable media and the simple-yet-interesting approach overall.
Whilst inspired by Lim's role as a Creative Director and a father at the same time, he also resonated with and found the Rubbish Famzine Lim did was quite mind-blowing. One issue in particular that Leo examined was their "Return to Forever 80's" issue, which includes a vinyl in the zine. Leo learned that "zines are not limited to a bunch of papers bounded, through (the project) I see that zines can be expanded as far as mixing media which I didn't think was possible."
Editorial changed more or less forever for Leo since, and from the sail, the direction he asks for next is what graphic design could be.
France-based Graphic Artist Jean Jullien is also in his hero bible. He found Jullien's work to be humorous and relatable, and along the way, he discovered Jullien's illustrations packed with contexts in such diverse media. Leo identified Jullien's work to be driven by purpose, which is inspirational to him.
Both figures have influenced Leo as a designer, in approaching a creative solution as well as their unconventional thinking. This creative compass leads to show that they're able to extend an idea into something beyond the expectation, which they succeed at. Both figures have shaped Leo's interest in branding, prints, illustration, analog photography, curatorial, and retail. Lim's and Jullien's approach has led Leo to seek beyond the limit, play with plenty of materials and media. To collaborate and craft becomes a value adopted into his playbook, and their influence goes as far as staying humble as a designer and a person. The sail has now set sail to the South of Southeast, against the waves of new possibilities in graphic design for Leo.
Fashion and fashion illustrations have always been a bewitching spell to Sasqia, chaotically flipping through the pages of fashion magazines from a young age. Throughout her study in the UK, she has never had a pinned-down graphic design practice and role model. Instead, she learned graphic forms through fashion photography. During her time at Birmingham City University, she dug deeper into the field, found and fell in love with the work of British fashion photographer Nick Knight.
Knight thrives on unconventional beauty in what he sees, beauty that's disparaging from reality. What others might find "ugly" he finds beauty in. Through his photography that captures and embraces eccentric shapes and textures of dresses and figures, she learned forms and light-sculpting which she tries to apply in her work today. She referred back to the '80s-'90s when everyone else perceived women in fashion to be attractive with the least garment, Knight collaborated with Japanese fashion icon Yohji Yamamoto to shatter that view on a campaign showing women in coats and fully-covered dresses, which Sasqia found to be thought-provoking. Knight is also technology-driven and makes all the effort to break the boundaries and what's possible, especially with his series of A.I.-assisted photography and the home of fashion film itself that he revolutionized, SHOWstudio.
Until one day she read a book by American graphic designer, educator, and design critic Michael Bierut. His book How To (2015) was her gateway to the world of problem-derived design. His approach and solution to the work Bierut did for MIT opened a whole new world for Sasqia, and design thinking was one of the things she's kept in her playbook since. Trusting the process, stepping back to see the bigger picture, and stepping forward to connect the dots. From that actualization forward, she fell for why things are designed the way they are.
Knight and Bierut were two polarized points of the voyage for Sasqia, the unconventional and the rational respectively. To her, it's much like that of the left and right side of the brain. But, instead of putting them on a restrictive diagram, she forged the two points into a spectrum she can find balance and full control in when creating. When she needs to step on the gas to be experimental or rational, she'll have the power to do so. And so will she to being right in the middle of the spectrum. It's all suited to what's needed for the solution.
She further told that Knight has taught her even until this day to keep questioning what's possible when it comes to her work, and to embrace mistakes both work- and life-wise, while Bierut has taught her to find purpose in what she creates and how she lives, that "design is about everything else but design." This outlook she adopted innately has become a mentality to be open to anything and everything. Their influence has imprinted on her so much she later explained that the question she sometimes would automatically ask herself when she's in a dead-end, is "what would Nick or Michael do about this?"
The grand question asked to the previous two guests had Ira wondering at first. There was plenty whose work she admires but she wasn't particularly sure whether there was one true figure that could represent her voice in what she does and whose intuition she could align with. Thoughts after thoughts, her answer led to the very neighborhood of where she lives. On the outskirts of Bandung, there existed a small drawing school for kids, a hub for the creative and the curious of the arts. Much different than the drawing schools specifically set their students to win drawing competitions at the malls. Ira's visceral knack to draw from an early age sent her to the very mentors that have partaken in shaping into the creative and the person she has become today. Their names were Mr. Bambang Sapto & Mrs. Ratna, and the school "Rumah Seni Adhi Cita" (EN: Adhi Cita House for the Arts).
Upon her first day of the drawing session, Ira could recall vividly how she wasn't allowed to use colored pencils and started with black and white. In that way, she was encouraged to study shapes on her own. She was, in fact, never told what an object should look like. The students in the drawing school were always asked to imagine what they were about to draw first and use their intuitions.
The use of media was varied. From tracing ceramic tiles, Chinese ink, to cut-up vegetables. One realization that struck Ira during her study at Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) when she was reading a couple of books by the late Prof. Primadi Tabrani on her fundamental reading list, was the moment she realized that the theories offered in the books about appreciating process and creation, were implemented by Mr. Bambang Sapto and Mrs. Ratna in their teaching method.
Despite the scale of the school establishment, they were visionary for bringing their eager, young students to international drawing competitions, because international competitions value the content and context as much as, and if not more than, the aesthetic. Having her work printed on the local newspaper in the arts & culture column, Ira examined that the column felt like they were analyzing her drawing, and sought deeper what she was on to, for a children's work. She questioned a few times despite her efforts at trying to win competitions, she didn't. Then it dawned on her that the mentors weren't shaping her to win drawing competitions at the malls, "they were shaping me to be able to speak through my work." In a stronger essence, they were also shaping her to be a creative practitioner with a
Ira elaborated further that the two mentors have taught her the human quality of a designer: Courage & perseverance. To sow the seeds to finish anything they did, do, and will start. She then recalled how erasers were forbidden even when she asked for one. Had anyone made a mistake on their drawing, which was inevitable, it was only up to the young artists to reimagine how they could embrace and work it out. This has sharpened her crafting skills and enhanced her strength that's at the tips on her fingers, with every project she takes on board. She religiously appreciates the intricacy in craft with her side projects and believes in the power of experimentation with the touch that belongs to human hands, fusing diverse materials to branding. She's a native in the languages of different materials.
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