Things that make you go hmmmm.
I was reading the Creative Australia website’s executive summary. You should too, a worthy effort from the Federal Government, and you might enjoy having a look and reading it.
Here it is (the executive summary) reposted in (nearly) full:
Creative Australia celebrates Australia’s strong, diverse and inclusive culture. It describes the essential role arts and culture play in the life of every Australian and how creativity is central to Australia’s economic and social success: a creative nation is a productive nation.
Creative Australia aims to ensure that the cultural sector—incorporating all aspects of arts, cultural heritage and the creative industries—has the skills, resources, and resilience to play an active role in Australia’s future. Creative Australia reflects the diversity of modern Australia and outlines a vision for the arts, cultural heritage and creative industries that draws from the past with an ambition for the future.
Creative Australia has five equally important and linked goals at its core:
Recognise, respect and celebrate the centrality of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures to the uniqueness of Australian identity.
Ensure that government support reflects the diversity of Australia and that all citizens, wherever they live, whatever their background or circumstances, have a right to shape our cultural identity and its expression.
Support excellence and the special role of artists and their creative collaborators as the source of original work and ideas, including telling Australian stories.
Strengthen the capacity of the cultural sector to contribute to national life, community wellbeing and the economy.
Ensure Australian creativity thrives in the digitally enabled 21st century, by supporting innovation, the development of new creative content, knowledge and creative industries.
These goals are realised by pathways for action under three key themes:
Modernise funding and support.
Creative expression and the role of the artist.
Connect to national life for a social and economic dividend.
All sounds great right? Who’d argue with any of the above? Nobody.
Notice any particular word that might be missing? Design.
You’d think after all these years, and all the over-exposure, Star Wars wouldn’t have anything new or interesting to bring a smile to your face.
Then you see a photo Chewy groping Princess Leia and the other behind the scenes pics in this collection. Just so much awesome. In related Chewy news, he and Harrison Ford had a ‘catchup’ on Jimmy Kimmel recently.
Wow. I’m the last person I’d ever expect to be posting Star Wars stuff, and yet here we are.
Sydney Design: With friends like these, who needs enemies.
For those from further afield than my own backyard let me set the scene; for many years Sydney Design had been Sydney’s one and only effort to recognise, celebrate and promote Design to the good people of Sydney - Design in it’s many guises, product, interior, architecture, urban and of course a bit of graphic design now and then too. An initiative of the Powerhouse Museum, and originally titled ‘Sydney Design Week’, over the years the festival morphed into a longer and more complete program of events - thus dropping ‘Week’ from it’s title.
Each year, I looked forward to seeing the campaign concept and marketing for the festival appear - who won the job? Who was on the pitch? How’d it turn out? Then the appearance of the program and the events - from symposia, workshops, films, exhibitions and talks - another source of anticipation and high expectations. But mostly I cared about the look and feel - I’m a graphic designer after all. And over the years it threw up some highlights - from the chicken and egg games on street posters by Boccalatte from many years ago, to the more recent efforts demonstrated above from Toko and Boccalatte again (stalwarts and acknowledged masters of working with cultural clients that they are).
I speak of Sydney Design in the past tense because the festival I remember, used to be about Design.
It used to value Design. It used to celebrate, promote and champion it. In 2012, Sydney Design took a year off, with the reasoning being vaguely attributed to budget cuts (presumably the organisers would blame the newly elected Liberal state government and their budget balancing ways). Over the one year break and the near death experience, Sydney Design seems to have changed, and not for the better.
For 2013, Sydney Design have decided to embrace an open competition (translation, crowdsource) to source their ‘campaign concept’, using the ironically named site, Creative Allies. It would be tempting to begin a critique of this approach by pointing out the Creative Allies site is usually for music fans to design the merch for their favourite band - but that would be too easy.
A couple of disclaimers before i really roll up the sleeves and work through my thoughts on this. It’s indeed understandable that budget cuts are budget cuts, and the effects they can have on a cultural festival already stretched thin are devastating for all concerned. Also, by no means is my reaction an instinctive reflex against crowdsourcing as inherently bad for the industry, as many are fond of moaning; I have little interest in doing logos or websites for $500.
However, many people need them, and designers around the world are willing to take on this type of work. Crowdsourcing sites provide an efficient mechanism to facilitate such a transaction, rather than the high maintenance ‘relationship model’ many of us in the industry prefer from our clients. If the phone in my studio rings less with clients whose budgets are measured in the hundreds, and not thousands (or tens of thousands), it’s a win for everyone as far as I’m concerned. Especially the (admittedly few and far between) designers in developing economies earning a living from working almost exclusively through these sites.
But Sydney Design isn’t a suburban dentist or a plumber looking for a spiffy logo to put on the door or truck. Forgive the crudeness of the expression, but Sydney Design are meant to be in our corner.
A festival that is tasked with celebrating and promoting capital-D Design should know the core of great Design lies within thoughtful interrogation of a subject matter. Meaningful dialogue and collaboration are at the heart of the design process, and it can’t be achieved through posting 5 paragraphs and some tension sliders on a crowdsourcing site. Sorry, it really can’t.
Small budgets have never intimidated or limited great designers - design books, museums and award annuals are filled with clever solutions to small budgets. Non profit organisations the world over have created value with, and enjoyed the benefits of, working with designers who place an importance on making a contribution and giving back to society, rather than purely chasing commercial outcomes. Sydney is alive with studios doing work of a scale, quality and significance in direct contradiction to their client’s budget. This work not only makes these organisations look good and speak with a compelling voice, thus growing their audience, but in many cases those creative partners contribute valuable strategic and business advice, making those organisations more professional, relevant and financially viable.
A city’s program of cultural festivals, their visual identities and highly visible marketing campaigns are a key part of the experience it’s inhabitants and visitors have of a city. If a city is a person and the building are it’s clothes, the visual language we experience on the street are it’s jewellery - bright, shiney and attention grabbing. In my own experience working with the Sydney Biennale (way back when), the importance of the marketing campaign as another venue through which the public engages with the art, artists and themes of the biennale was discussed and explored at length. I may be biased towards the work of friends, but the vibrant, contemporary nature of the 2011 campaign by Toko was particularly memorable. The city became a gallery for one of Australia’s most progressive design studios to strut their stuff - for a short period, Sydney was an aesthetically better place to experience. I remember seeing Michael and Eva on Foster Street during their time on the project - to say their heart and soul was being poured into that project is an understatement. Sydney Design have turned their back on that relationship for the expedience of a design competition and the illusion of choice through ‘options’.
Lastly, and perhaps most heartbreaking of all, for a program that is heavy on architecture, interiors, product and craft - the identity and marketing campaign was the primary vehicle by which Sydney Design celebrated graphic design. Year after year great studios did fantastic, challenging, progressive work and humbly presented it as their gift to the people of Sydney for their consideration, admiration or otherwise. If people chose to tune it out and ignore, well that was fine too. The point is, we were there, we had a forum, a vehicle.
People are free to decide what they do with the efforts of designers of any stripe - that’s entirely ok. But when a publicly funded organisation (whose entire justification for their funding, and thus their existence, turns on promoting and championing Design) chooses a crowdsourcing model, it’s incredibly disappointing to say the least. But who knows, maybe a great designer like Vince Frost will enter, create something amazing and win, thus proving me wrong. Stranger things have happened.
Sydney is capable of better, Sydney’s Design industry deserves better, and the people of NSW are providing funding for something better.
Want vs Need
It’s very clear in the execution and tone when a brand or company does something not because it has to, but because it wants to. This effort from Mailchimp is clearly all about want, not need. Intent is everything.
I want to throw up. But then, it’s the Gold Coast after all, and the logo feels very appropriate.
On Identity, for Desktop
Desktop and it’s editor Heath Killen were kind enough to invite me to contribute a few words to their April issue, on Identity.
I sat down and read it from cover to cover - it’s a cracking issue with a great line up of contributors. I’m in what I would call ‘intimidatingly good’ company; Kevin Finn, Chris Doyle, Jenny Grigg, Stephen Banham and Ian Anderson, amongst others.
To be honest, I sweated on this piece - identity is a deceptively tricky subject to approach, and I pushed myself to think about it a bit more deeply than I usually do in my writing. The piece explores how identity has been considered since we humans started considering things, from greek philosophy, psychology, modern art and celebrity culture - right through to today’s social media.
I really tried to push myself on this one. I’m actually very nervous about how the piece will be received, so please buy the magazine (print! remember that?), have a read and tell me what you think. Gushing praise, angry vitriol, thoughtful response - all welcome. Or just continue to ignore me, whatever - it’s up to you.
Thanks must go to Heath for the invite and re-assuring words when i was doubting things, and to Benja Harney for the awesome paper craft illustration, and the similarly awesome Anna Pogossova for photographing his creation. As you see above, they made two versions, buy the mag to see which one they ran with - I loved both.
Stunning series of photos (via Navid Baraty Photography)
On Identity, for Desktop Magazine
Who are you? Where were you born and where did you go to school? Who are your parents and where are they from? What’s your favourite music, films or colour? Are you religious or atheist, do you like pizza, hamburgers or are you a vegetarian?
I’ve spent the last month or so thinking, reading, re-thinking, writing, and re-writing an article for Desktop magazine, on identity. Increasingly, I came to think identity is a complex and multifaceted construct — and very little of it is visual. Also I started thinking about sail boats.
It’ll be out soon, I’m looking forward to seeing it in print. You may not be, or you may be - either is fine by me. Let’s just keep it chill, shall we? No big deal, just an FYI.