Dreams - development images here
This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for a while. It’s wordy, and probably clumsily-phrased in certain places. But it’s a matter I take very seriously. Bear with me?
Style is a dangerous word, and a topic I find myself revisiting lately. After the completion of the Coke poster campaign, it seems an appropriate time to reflect on my own work as a whole, and how to proceed from here.
I am confident about my ability to design, but the truth is that the vast majority of the people who have seen my work will only judge me based on the Steve Jobs/Apple image, and to a smaller degree, the Coke campaign I recently helped design. Judging from the responses the poster generated, this piece of work can be seen as an affirmation of my abilities that go beyond designing the right picture at the right time. But it can just as easily be “proof” that I’m a one-trick pony.
To be absolutely clear: it’s not that Ogilvy came to me and ask me to do something along the lines of the Steve Jobs/Apple design. It just so happens that my solution is a continuation of the “style” by which people may recognize my designs. Subtle twists on well-known imageries and the use of negative space aren’t exactly new tricks in the book, but the association is understandable. Having two images that have gained popularity using similar approaches under my belt is both good and bad. It’s something I can always fall back on… and while I will not go so far as to say it is a cop out, I will not be challenging myself enough if that is all I keep doing.
Right now, most of my work can be easily categorized into two groups. One you should already be familiar with: even before the Apple image, combining elements has been a hobby of mine. Making puns with neat little graphics is a good exercise.
When you look at the designs I do, it’s either sleek, minimalist design (collection incomplete) where a joke is often involved, or it’s me going bananas with shapes and colors. I have a lot of fun with the nonsensical experiments, but these outbursts of visual diarrhea are more “art” than “design”. They may convey a certain atmosphere, but there’s no message behind.
So I’ve been trying to combine mood with meaning.
That’a a simplistic way to put it: minimalism conveys a certain mood too, of course. A design does not have to be expressive to be emotive — case in point: the Apple image is an example where a sombre, restrained look works in its favor. Similarly, the Coke hands imagery cannot be too overt. The fact that it looks like the ordinary Coke ribbon at a glance is what makes it interesting.
But this clean, slick look can be limiting at times, especially when I find myself going straight to the faux-minimalist approach whenever a pun comes to me. It’s gratifying to capture a message through a few cleverly-combined elements, but the satisfaction in discovering a certain combination of shapes and colors that excites my visual sensibilities — that feeling is much more visceral, and rewarding on a different level.
To use a pretentious analogy, it’s a bit like the work of a comedian. There’s writing a good joke, and there’s the delivery of it. Sometimes, the joke stands on its own. The fact that some jokes require a certain way of expression does not mean they are not good, but the way they are told can elevate the result to new places. Telling one-liners poker-faced is all well and good, but I need to expand. I need more texture, richness, and sophistication in my repertoire.
Not to compare my work to Glennz tees or put them down — I think they are awesomely witty images done with a great degree of polish. But I find my attraction to them dangerous: it’s too tempting to keep applying the formula of placing a clever joke against a plain background every time. It works, and there’s absolutely an art to doing this, but I’m yearning for a bit more diversity.
Like I said, I’ve been meaning to articulate my thoughts on this subject for a while, so this is not new: in fact, I have been trying to incorporate a certain randomness into even the more “proper” pieces that I posted here before. They are not quite at the level I would like them to be, but it’s a start. *
I like that there is still a sense of sparseness in my work, even as I attempt to be brave with colors and embrace irregularities. Because I’m not turning away from my soft spot for white space, just trying to evolve my design sensibilities.
I’m not exactly outgrowing minimalism, but growing into something more doesn’t sound too bad either.
* Past examples: