The Question: Influence of place on designers
It’s no secret that the people of Australia come from nearly 200 countries and represent more than 300 ethnic ancestries. Whether you were born here or had at least one parent born overseas, you are not only influenced by the place you live in but also by the place that your parents had once called home.
This additional place provides both source influence and a cultural lens with which to moderate this place called Australia. With our Question for this issue we thought we would look in to this influence and how it affects the work of a number of designers. We’ve gathered responses from designers and creatives Bic Tieu, Danling Xiao, Nadine Beyrouti, Heidi Seeman, Lawrence Hanley, Becky Chilcott, Karen Kwok and Sanna Malveholm who all come from varied backgrounds. Here is what some of them have said.
Becky Chilcott | www.chil3.com
Director/Australasian Co-ordinator – International Society of Typographic Designers (ISTD)
When I studied typographic design at the London College of Printing in the 1990s, there was no internet and our reference – limited by today’s plethora of online resources – came from books and lectures. We were encouraged to adopt a European style with an emphasis on typography. One of my lecturers, David Quay, with Freda Sack – my mentor for many years – produced an incredible International Society of Typographic Designers lecture series with luminaries such as Josef Müller-Brockmann and Wim Crouwel. All this couldn’t help but have an influence and I still think how lucky I was to have been in the right place at the right time. I worked with former lecturer, Eugenie Dodd at Typographics. She and her husband Robin had trained at London College of Printing in the1960s – quite a legacy. For the 2 years prior to arriving in Australia, I was in-house graphic designer for the National Film Theatre and London Film Festival – an incredible job. It was so different when I arrived, almost 20 years ago, with a very different aesthetic and attitude to design. Since then – with online access – things have really changed for the better. There seems to be less of a distinctive regional style, though I’m still a European designer at heart.
Is there anything about my European origins that means that what or the way I go about it is different to a locally trained designer? Probably a focus on a typographic approach and typographic precision. Perhaps a modernist aesthetic, but I do wonder that this could have something to do with my age ;).
I am an Australian born Chinese who grew up in the 1960’s and 70’s when Australia was plagued with racial bias and judgement, during the tail end of the ‘White Australia Policy’ years. I was also brought up in a conservative family that questioned my choices and ideas.
It was from a young age that I pushed boundaries. And at that time, discovering in myself a mindset, rebelling society (to a degree), conservatism, and my culture. Challenging the ‘norm’, I channelled my angst into something interesting – like fashion.
Bringing this attitude into the fashion design field has allowed myself to challenge different ideas and thought processes. Such as to question why I can’t change the grain of the fabric? Or why I can’t use the ‘wrong’ side? (which incidentally was told, not possible). Pushing the boundaries and finding new ideas and approaches is all about design. But design is function, and needs to sell to the conservatives who dominate.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more passionate about Australian made. Cheaply produced garments imported from overseas makes me cringe with the lack of quality and ‘substance’ and seeing our employment rate dwindle. But also, seeing the disintegration of our fashion industry.
So, I design semi conventional styles, a little bit off-beat. But always keeping in mind the conservatives who dominate. AND keeping it made in Australia.
After all, fashion is a business that we need to support.
Although I was born in Australia, I have lived more than half of my life in Lebanon, particularly my childhood and my teenage-hood. I think because of that strong link I have developed to the Lebanese culture, I am strongly attracted to a raw, journalistic approach to design that is a bit more rough around the edges and contains elements of imperfection. This rawness and/or roughness could come in many different forms. It could be an unorthodox layout, an unusual choice of typography or typographic combinations, an intricate illustration or (my favourite) the use of strong, real photography that tells a story.
Another, more obvious way my link to the Lebanese culture has affected me when it comes to design is that it has given me my love for oriental designs, patterns as well as calligraphy. Unfortunately, having to be a designer for big brands that have a strict set of brand guidelines has deterred me from always being capable of practicing this type of design; however the attraction is always there as that type of design is the kind of design that grabs my attention in a heartbeat.
To read more responses, head on over to Tiliqua Press to purchase a copy of Ligature Journal Issue Seven! Be sure to check out some of our older questions and answers to ‘The Question’.