Monday, 18 January 2016

Connecting Dots: A mission, A project and A message
“Design education in India has always centered on needs identification and contextual learning for deriving solutions. However in India, most communication design studio practices, end up as design on the desktop rather than design on field… the former will be gradually replaced … It is the latter, where a huge chasm awaits to be bridged with a design thinking approach…Bordering on activism, planning, development, social work, entrepreneurship, ‘Design on Field’ is where one can truly effect visible change for a democratic, empowered and equitable society.”

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Story About a Workshop on Stories

(Thinking Aloud)

Stooooorrrry Makkkkkker Caaaamp, Voila! I finally found a name for a children’s Summer Retreat…or should I say a Fun Treat of adventures with Stories? What was I thinking? What was I intending to do? Will young children really connect with ‘The Story Maker Camp’? Before I answer these, let me unroll some memories from the secret scrolls of time, so we can trace back the roots for this latest adventure!

Saturday, 14 March 2015

#6FrameStoryChallenge: The Girl Who Flew Away

Returning to this blog after more than 2 years...with an enriching Cathaa experience.

What would you do if you had complete freedom to choose? Would it liberate you or leave you perplexed? Well here I experienced the two extremes and a whole lot more in between...
The 6 Frame Story Challenge was one helluva creative exploration just so that the story may strike a chord with its young audience: Children!

So what was the challenge about....Read here

The Making...

With that checkered matrix of random words shouldn't one be overflowing with ideas and stories...?? Yes of course. But then, here comes the part to discern and decide.
Words of William M Bulger.

...."There is never a better measure of what a person is than what he does when he's absolutely free to choose.".... seemed to prompt me to make a choice that is worth the while for the readers/ audience. Obsessed with meaning-making in life and affected by the grave news of Col. M N Rai's martyrdom....i felt compelled to create a story as a commentary on something I felt children held a key to.

At first I was tempted to create outlandish/ endearing stories of the mundane and the magical....but wondered if that's something children are already getting enough of. Are we helping them by feeding their already imaginative minds with more of the same? Don't children need to face/ react to the violent reality which they experience in varying doses (either directly or via mass media) ? What if the story can portray an alternative reality? Should I be representing the real in all its brutality or downplaying it ? 

That's when I let the creative flow take over the over-thinking mind. Turned out that I did want to focus on ending it positively but not without bringing in the magic and wonder I thought of weaving in right from the beginning. (Probably children would like it?).
But I was convinced from M.K. Gandhi's quote....

“If we are to reach real peace in the world, we shall have to begin with the children.”

The 6 words I chose were:
# Scared; # field; #camera; #flying woman; #valley of flowers; #tail. 
Read more about The Girl Who Flew Away here
Published visual story


While the challenge demanded a purely visual narrative without any words, it was originally visualized for a 6 line story. The more I read into the finished imagery, the more I could peer into the unconscious messages and symbolism I had woven into the story. At the risk of killing the fun of open interpretation, I wish to share my intended and unintended meanings of this story. 

The intent was to make the reader empathize with the central character (Girl) and view the world through her eyes and emotions. The direct message was to use imagination, creativity and appreciation of nature and beauty to rule over regressive phenomena such as hatred, war and murder. As my father put it succinctly.."Shoot with a camera/ creative eye rather than guns and tanks"...But there seemed to emerge another unintended not so positive yet hopeful side to the story. So after all the story was not ending on a pleasantly escapist fantastical note but on a poignant one instead.

I am rather fascinated with the latter unintended meaning as it forces the reader to sympathize and wonder in guilt and sorrow as to what could have changed such that the end could have been pleasant and happy? What is the sad meaning anyway?...What if the fantasy was just a subversion of a morbid reality? May be the girl's soul passes on leaving behind the message of life and peace. Maybe the girl was never alive in the first place. Isn't this appalling and crushing for a children's story? Well if I have to go by the famous illustrator/ author Maurice Sendak...that's a whole lot of debate in itself....which is....what is a children's story anyway? Aren't stories just stories...?

Keeping that confusion out....moving on...

Why would the story be interpreted in such a morose and negative light? Why not? Is it important to shield children from intense sorrow/ grief? Must not a tragedy in children's tales be used to awaken empathetic emotions and compassion? What about Anne Frank's account of her real life experience of war ridden times in Europe?

The unintended meaning or subtext appeals to me more than the superficial niceties...a crude attempt to create magic realism may be. But I just discovered how the experience of  children's story writing has turned out to grow from childish nonchalance of singular interpretation to an intense layered interpretation with far greater resonance of the message/ meaning.

Maybe that is why 'The Girl Who Flew Away' was no less of a mystical learning experience for me. There has been such a deep understanding of how every story no matter how naive or simple, is capable of showing up its undercurrents upon deep analysis and reflection....unintentionally albeit....but nevertheless it offers an opportunity for alternative interpretations and meaning making. Doesn't this make 'Story' a marvelous living organism? :)

Take a look at the other wonderful visual stories that form Pratham Book's open source repository for children and adults alike....Let's see if there are more subtexts and layers to decipher.

Until the next post...
Signing off.....
PS: A revelation from Thich Nhat Hahn's quotes...and calligraphy

Friday, 21 September 2012

Typical Design Problems No. 3: NDA’s and Copyrights-Creator’s Glass Cages

Creators and designers have an amazing role of creating something out of nothing but vague notions and whimsical ideas. But the whole process is quite exciting and emotional inspite of being performed in exchange of monetary incentives. That is the joy and pain of creating. With numerous hours of mind jostling dialogues within and with clients to crack the best solution that fits the purpose and does much more aesthetically and psychologically to connect with the audience. It is only natural to take pride in owning up to something created by the group that ripped their neurons apart to find that concrete discernible solution out of thin air. But, it isn’t always that the brief is coming from the blue, often the work is familiar, similar to something, something like a solution that needs to be improved, beautified, repackaged and so on. How many times do we get approached for a ground breaking design solution, one that never existed before? Ha, that’s easy you could count on your fingers. Its nice to say that every project is new but we know how ideas and processes get re-jigged thanks to numerous references that can be found. But for a new idea that has never been thought of? What about it? Here’s what you would have come across...

Although it is exciting to work on new ideas its best to be done with those you know very well. Why? Trust! There’s whole lot trust and assurance that need to be exchanged if you are a starter and most often confronted by clients and/or companies and agencies who are willing to hire your services in exchange of an agreement a.k.a the its not a political party although an equally toxic creature. That is our cloaked foe the Non-Disclosure Agreement. Why so caustic one may wonder. Most agreements are introduced as harmless veils and something that is only to protect the work in consideration from being private. How straightforward and simple, if things were this way in reality? Indeed, nobody wants to release the work in its raw form, work-in-progress status.... and if the idea is truly revolutionary why would anybody concerned with the designing not want to keep it in wraps? But then come the Clause(s) (read claws). There has to be a catch in the phrase rather paraphrase right? So then come a trail of clauses (in contractual lingo a clause is a statement that defines the terms and conditions under which the agreement is drafted as a document {whose length is as per the size of the client’s business and project}). 

So, the clauses are designed elements of this creature called NDA. Yes, it is an ultimate design to nail down one’s own creativity to a paper (e-paper) with one’s own admission and signature. Some NDA’s are straightforward in seeking confidentiality of the creative person whose unique ideas will be the driver of this unreleased design be it software, game, film, document, program, product, service etc. But most also pin down the creator to relinquish their creations over to the client and some even more devious ones (truly devil’s in the details) can delineate the real estate of a designer. They can actually prohibit the designer to venture into a sector for a certain duration of time. It’s like debarring a child who takes the same route to school and forcing him/her to find an alternative because the roads been booked/ leased/ bought over and thus not to be trespassed, even if the child contributed his/ her free time collecting funds to build the road.

The other kind of venom from some of these clauses is the one that asks the creator to refrain from admitting that s/he was the creator. That is ad absurdum. The power of an agreement to turn back time? Kudos to whoever said Impossible is Nothing.

As a passionate young designer who believes in the model of collaboration and co-creation these 21st century incidents are reminiscent of the plight of all those nameless, faceless craftsmen who once built the Taj Mahal. Shah Jahan took all their credit, may be some was left for the architect/ planner but what remains hidden and forgotten are the names of all those skilled artisans who painstakingly slogged to created the marble marvel and later as the folklore goes even lost the very hands with which they created the masterpiece. Does money, status, a piece of paper/ agreement for that matter have immense power to erase from history the time and effort put in by creators and contributors to a massive mission? 

Any business big or small is a massive mission at hand until it is realised. In its realisation a host of services and facilities are a staple requirement that come from many individuals and organisations. Since its a given thing that no one person with a unique idea is capable of realising that at any cost. But may be at the cost of an entire lifetime with extreme patience and persistence, traits which are inherent to very few wise clients of this era or to clients open enough to hire designers that establish an understanding and trust. There that’s where this article comes a full circle. In the end irrespective of language, literacy, educational qualification, position, power, status, location, language, etiquette, manners, habits whatsoever that differentiates us as humans one thing that does unite us is TRUST. One other thing is TOLERANCE. With trust if we have the ability to tolerate the other person’s whims and fancies we have a peaceful state where both are free doing what they do. This is immensely important and appropriate in this regard. 

An agreement is only to certify a mutual acceptance of terms and conditions. It is drafted with the fear of an unforeseen dispute or malpractice that arises from doubt and lack of trust on both sides and hence further safeguarded with further discomforting clauses. As a young practice there is a great deal to be learned about this practice of applying archaic feudal laws of dealing with distrust for avant garde times. Physically these agreements are like glass boxes, (some even multiple-walled) through which the client and designer communicate. The basis of building a relationship and trust is communication and free exchange of ideas and the very same is hindered by these impenetrable walls. What’s more to ensure nothing leaks out of these glass 

boxes are seals that lock in all information with the Client. This is the shackle named Copyrights. While Copyrights have had great use for artists and creators in the publishing industry of print, film, music, science and technology, there are others who have had to regularly give away their works in exchange of money and anonymity. Can a parent ever sign an adoption agreement from of his/her child the richest organisation with the clause that states that the child is not theirs and they have nothing to do with the child forever or for the duration of the agreement? Why treat design as a commodity that can be parted away with in exchange of incentives? It is great to be detached with one’s work of art/ creation but to the point of anonymity? 

Often the commercial film industry is sneered at for its frivolous, dark and unholy practices but what is inspiring and worth learning from this field is the way every smallest of small contribution from the crew is faithfully credited for and made part of the last 1-2 minutes of credits for a 60-90 minutes film. As an advocate of collaborative thinking, its truly overwhelming to stay on those extra 2 minutes and admire the host of individuals and organisations who have partaken in creating the 60-90 minutes wonder. On a human level it feels great to know that a collective creation is so much worth the money one spent in experiencing it. Why then is design to be more specific graphic or strategic design of to be released products/ services so harsh on the creators pushed to oblivion to maintain secrecy? 

To me this aspect of design is not much of a problem for established designers as much as it is for budding designers. And as the designer gains more foothold of the design arena, terms can be spelled out in black and white. Also, there is a personal take on what the designer considers legitimate and fair and what it is to cross the line. My personal take is this that NDA’s and agreements if they are meant to be must be true to their word an NDA being only a certificate of confidentiality and an agreement/ contract a certificate of the committed service, quality, duration, cost and in case of failure the applicable penalties/ overcharges. When it comes to copyrights that a whole different ballgame but for the creator to own the credits to his/her own work is no copyright infringement. A melodious and soulful song Vande Mataram may be the property of the record company but the composer and singer was and always will be remembered as A.R. Rahman. That to me is the recognition and acknowledgement a designer must always enjoy, if not then it is clear that s/he is yet to find a secure trustworthy collaborative environment.

Typical Design Problems No. 2: Office Designs and Office Culture:

My search or research (sounds more appropriate) for finding a new model of entrepreneurship and work culture in 21st century made me wonder why people always worked the way they did. My experience and those of many others tied to air-conditioned cubicles and a desk is not a very pleasant story to go gung-ho about irrespective of the nature of work. I have also been puzzled with why any new business, innovation, venture or design idea fails to reflect the same in the area of work be it culture, spaces or strategy? Why does it seem to leave business owners and entrepreneurs just content and sufficed with creation of employment and workplaces that differ from one another only superficially and conceptually but practically and structurally are quite same even historic and primitive. Are they traditionalists, or indifferent, or ignorant, or left at the mercy of the construction economics and the skills of architects and engineers that create such workplaces? 

 As an architecture graduate, it amuses me how as students we dreamed loftily of being able to create stupendous designs with the oh-so-glamorous ‘Architect’ prefixed before our names. If only we were given the chance we’d build fabulous wow-worthy structures and spaces with mesmerising interiors and fine details such that it balanced both spiritually harmonizing beauty and intelligently functional systems that the occupants would fall in love with. And... one fortuitous day in future, all the fancy prodigal dream crash lands into the real world of work. Every cotton candy of our dreams is mercilessly gnawed at and battered and the residual stick trashed back at us for its imbecility. But why? Simple, the world just doesn’t work that way! So, how does the world work anyway? 

Welcome to the place where 80% of ‘adults’ for 60% of their lifetimes mill their way to a hopeful retirement in which they can blissfully lead the remaining 20% of their lives away from the dreary rigmarole of work and it’s temple: ‘the Office’. The office as we know it today is worth learning about and I can only look back into history to learn how exactly it became such an important part of our lives and economic existence. Well, technically the word means a work place. Which leads me to the next puzzling question of the kind of work that happens in this place? Well, way back in the hunter-gatherer days, work was all outdoors hunting animals, gathering berries, planning for migration/ hunt seasons, much later even cooking food, fighting and protecting territories etc. It is difficult to strictly call it work because it was so closely related to life and sustenance.

Jump to times when life was a little settled with men managing herds, women partaking in farming, some others who had time to spare learning and trading crafts and lifestyle goods. There again, most work happened outdoors whether in the farm, fields, streets or bazaars or in the quiet comfort of houses. Work now took on more meaning, it was life and sustenance but it was also growing into an occupation or profession. Later, primitive times gave way to civilisations with defined structures and hierarchies of power and roles and one begins to see the seed of what we know as feudalism, bureaucracy, corporatisation and the likes. We see a striking similarity of a monarchist way of life reflected in the work culture followed by so-called evolved humans for centuries to come. If the feudal system wasn’t enough along came the golden age of discoveries and inventions followed by a rigorous phase of employing these inventions in industries that could mass manufacture by employing large human resources. 

Humans were resources in the most valuable sense as they could collectively create value for the industrialist to send his produce overseas and win great profits. To him his resources were humans who laboured in exchange of meagre wages that they received in regular intervals. This set off a range of socio-economic changes in the way work was perceived as industrial work and had fixed timings and hours and every hour was metered and compensated as monetary remunerations or incentives. With the socialist and communist movements the formation of trade unions did only so much to protect these resources from being exploited and under-compensated but there never is something as a perfect job. All this started with the 9-5 industrial set-up and extended across all disciplines some even applying this logic into day/afternoon and night shifts.

From administrative point of view it makes perfect sense to categorise work and manage a group of individuals in such conformations and pretty efficient too....after all they had inspiration coming in from nature. The busy bee and the laborious ant are superb examples of excellent use of numbers for efficient working regiments. And then came the information age when suddenly more machines could take care of what humans could do....analog to digital has not just transformed work flows but also work cultures. When the millennium bug of IT and the power of internet crept into the modern work culture it gradually began shaking the very foundation of workplaces, so much so that we now question the need of a work place such as the ‘Office’? What makes the office of today different from those we had in the last two centuries? What happens when work we do in today’s times becomes a blurry bubble that can happen at any time, with any number of people from any part of the world? What happens to the way people learn on work and grow with unlimited unrestricted access to information that no longer regards the old world hierarchy of roles at work? Why is work suddenly being viewed as work and not as a job that pays the bills?

This information age has made us take a leap as a civilisation but also made us look back at times when work and life went hand in hand...when work and life never needed to be balanced...they were happily married as one and the same. Even the mundane of the mundane chores were fun and done with a beautiful rhythm, song and enthusiasm. Even today in the information age, there are many who enjoy this work-life marriage because they are the ones who have truly understood the meaning of work and life. They are not swayed by the mathematics of economics. All they know is to live life and work in this direction to enjoy life. They enjoy every work they do and also choose work that they enjoy doing. Without enumerating those who enjoying what they do, lets sum them up as professionals who live to work but aren’t workaholics either. They are wise in acknowledging how work and life are so closely intertwined and what it takes to balance all this with the economic reality of sustaining oneself in this pursuit of a balanced life. 

With the information age, there are many who understand the spiritual side of life so where is the typical office culture headed? Office designs? What must an office be? A building, a room, a lab, a workshop, a meeting room, a set of computers, a room full of servers? A captive congregation of thousands of people? Shouldn’t the workspace reflect the work culture? With the work culture diluting into a loose, forward thinking, non-mechanical set-up what must the work space for such a culture be? Is it any different from a comfortable home? It can’t be too cozy but must it be too rigid and cold? What is the workplace of tomorrow? This is to me a topical and recurring unsolved problem which I wish to revisit with more examples from real life. Out of ordinary workspaces and unique open-minded work culture/ practices that inspire people to love their work (mind you not jobs) at the same time let them be humans free to attend to their myriad pre-occupations. Until then the solution to this 21st century lifestyle issue remains elusive.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Typical design problems:No.1. Branding

WARNING: Following is a LONG post based on my short work ex. in trying to create a simple thing....ahem....called a LOGO! Brace yourself.....

...ever encountered this? “I want a nice creative logo design in 2-4 days for XYZ Company” like asking “I want a nice comfortable house design ready to use for XYZ family in 4 days.” Excuse me, but who is XYZ? Is the house going to be built on air, where is it situated? How big is it? Comfortable alright....but how do you define what is nice? A house in 4 days, surely you are looking for a movie set to be dismantled in a day! So many questions for designing a neat little house?  Oh probably a house is a little more complicated, but what about a logo?

Its unfortunate to know, that the popular perception of logo design is something of a tattoo or a sticker instantly designed to be pasted wherever you feel like in whatever shape, size and color so long as it looks fancy or stylish to represent literally any XYZ brand. This popular perception can very well be equated to another presumptuously false idea that abstract art is bogus and child’s play and that any random set of brush swooshes or paint blobs can be tagged ‘abstract art’. Can’t blame anyone for this mindset, frankly my own thinking of a logo was no different few years ago, when I was bitten by the juvenile self-branding spree. One is always tempted to rush into the future to see how the logo a.k.a. some arbitrary symbol or emblem of one’s inflated self would look after its printed on visiting cards and letters and these days social media, blogs etc.

Much to the shock, horror and mostly contempt of those sensitive to the arts and design profession (mind you, I am not calling it an industry or business here) these other worldly and disdainful ideas are but a resultant of an entire population that is simply not enchanted by the wonderful world of arts, history, nature and the likes. Often immersed in their systematic, mechanical routine daily lives which involves fulfilling the basic needs of survival, very little room is left for knowing the wondrous world of creativity that a few of us have been fortunate enough to experience, thanks to our families or just plain destiny and our sheer drive to pursue knowledge.

It is not that there isn’t much exposure, we are incessantly surrounded by visuals from the time we open our eyes in to this world. And even the busiest of the busy knows how to relish tasteful art and entertainment. Art is something that is so ingrained in our human race from the first time we discovered the power of our hands and minds, from the first hand that drew marks on the ground and on cave walls. Even today, a whole population of people who, in spite of oodles of hidden genius within them, think they haven’t any formal connection to art, but often possess a highly individualistic aesthetic taste and a unique opinion about arts. So then, where did the link go missing?

May be in the rigmarole of competitive educational system, or the unending work-life struggle to achieve the small-big dreams of owning an endless list of urban amenities and the habit of scanning and browsing rather than waiting, watching and absorbing. I am at a loss, but since when did art get estranged from nature and society to be viewed as something imperceptible, lofty, inaccessible, elitist and overly intellectual beyond the common public’s reach, interest and understanding or sensitivity? Our profession today arises not from our roots of democratic folk arts and crafts, but from a foreign regime of elitist art and design education and practice. Arising from the days post renaissance in Europe, arts and design took off from the public realm to be closed within the glass walls of the rich influential circles that commanded and proclaimed what was good and tasteful and what was plebeian. In spite of efforts to go back to the old world charm of inculcating folk arts and indigenous art sensibilities, often a huge chasm awaits to be bridged. Born out of economic divide and political favouritisms but drastically affected by a fast changing world of the modern times.
At the risk of sermonizing and generalising, I can only attribute human greed of aspirations from the onset of commoditisation and the age of assembly lines of becoming the richest, fastest, biggest, largest, newest and earliest. The assembly line not just marked a phenomenal age of engineering prowess for the collective humans, but on a subliminal level played into the minds of the people that quantity speaks more than quality in the pursuit of large holdings. The power of the transient took hold over permanence. Thankfully, not all were swept in by this notion, but for a majority of dreamers and enterprises (fighting to support their lavish systems) this seemed as the beacon of hope to greatness and the adventure of embarking on entrepreneurial voyages, only to be beaten at their own game by niftier more promising technology that went way ahead in quality and quantity.

Commoditization and consumerism has constantly taken a toll on enterprises that passionately jump into their proposition of a unique product or service production line, without knowing the role, purpose, mission and meaning of their actions in the larger society. In the slightest chance of any thinking that goes in, a major part of it is in acquiring the most profits and that’s there. These enterprises faintly resurrect the old picture of charging conquerors from the west, who with or without their flags bearing their emblems, rampantly looted, plundered causing only destruction. They never seemed to know the meaning or purpose of true wealth and never seemed to think much on the idea of running a well administered empire of their own. Their only thought was how to make the money to lead a wasteful life of luxury. Well the allegory here might seem rather extreme, but that is exactly what happens to enterprises that do not incubate their ideas during which time the necessity of bringing an identity to their unique work arises. And that is where the logo design component fits in.

Logo design is not just the clock on your pretty walls; it is part of a carefully designed framework of your house’s design. Yes, interior design is expensive, thank god for a public consensus on that, but so is logo design. Why view logo design in isolation like a wall decoration, when it fits into the context of a well fleshed out strategic identity schema of icons, typography, colours, images, words, experiences and much more that represent the brand. Why hold a myopic view of investing in a cheap ad-hoc logo as if a bargain buy only to be later refined into an even more expensive re-branding exercise (which is beyond one’s control anyway). Why refuse to believe that a logo design is far more difficult, detailed and scientific than a house design, since it is a short hand code of what your brand wishes to express not just visually but psychologically too and the connection time is the shortest, a fraction of a second.

So let me come again with... “I want a nice creative logo design in 2-4 days for XYZ Company”. Unless, XYZ company is a school or college project, looking at a short term existence, or over confident about their work to over-ride a cheap logo and communication design, going to have ignorant customers wanting cheap bargain services, who don’t care about good quality themselves, then yes why not, here’s a quicker more affordable bargain you can’t refuse, how about 2-4 hours of free work instead? As smug and conceited as these sound, the idea is not to shun good quality designing for those with small capital or berate their understanding or the lack of it about branding, but to re-inforce the importance of a systematic and serious look at their own business and also reinforcing that disciplined design never comes cheap. Then again, if you are in the profession (mind you not industry or business) of communication design you better convince your client by communicating the nitty gritties of the work. Else you’ll fail, but keep trying, after all clients are your employer and not your enemy and who knows brighter times are here to stay.

An initiative in this direction was to create a little hypothetical case study that would help me illustrate to a prospective client, why the simple little an outcome of a crazy detailed here is the A-version....that needs oodles of finishing and details but just for starters... 

Until my next typical design problem...
Tschüß (or Tschüss) (Pronounced Choos meaning - Bye in Deutsch/ German)

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

The proverbial dilemma: Content or Medium?

This post has been the result of a series of friendly banter aka debate over the email. It just randomly began with as usual my urge to dig out a hypothetical problem only to find the same darn thing unearthed eons ago...and possibly even put back to rest in the form of established theories and findings.
Anyway brace yourself for an exceptionally long 'The unabridged' email discussion which ended up concluding with the winner of the match Content vs Medium.

Had been in conversation with a family friend/ aunt from Kolkata/London....shes into film theory/ academics....and somehow the conversation drifted towards the proverbial....content vs medium polemic....especially something I ended up getting confused with by the end of IDC...

My P2....was about exploring the medium...and i ended up concluding that "no! content is king....medium is just supportive..."

And by the end of P3...i was so much into the content that presentation of content made me read stuff about Marshal Mc Luhan....and I was so taken in by the'medium is the message' funda that I began to conclude that "content is alright...and sometimes predictable and easy to find...but the medium is the real king..after all without a container, how do get hold of the content..?"

Makes me wonder....if there is a conclusive answer to this dilemma....
Ofcourse the middlepath is what most people end up concluding as an agreeable solution...

Just now i ended up figuring out....that content is something the presenter must know inside out but the medium is the sole interface that the presenter uses to manipulate content....

so yes content is important but not any more than the medium...infact often times medium and content are so closely knit that one cant tell them to which one is more powerful.

 For instance...internet is the medium for people to share and present content. It not only presents content but also shapes the behavior of the audience that consumes the content...Not only does the container provide the contents it also adds another subliminal layer of interaction with the container...Pretty much on the lines of product design concepts of affordances....

Din realise i have written a lot...but these are few things I hv been thinking about off-late....:P apologies for overshooting the fence if its been the case....:P

Chitra Chandrashekhar

anindya kundu

Of course both are equally important...
its nothing but ying and yang in my opinion....

content is the aggressive male energy while medium is the feminine accepting one.
One can't survive or even exist without the other!

More on that....David mc candless has made me relook at the balance bit....:P there is an excessive need to work more on the medium than the content since content is more or less a given thing but how it is communicated takes all our energies so i'd say in comm. design the medium takes more attention to create than content.......
heres the thing from your own example...
the concept of yin-yang you sent is in itself the visual medium to convey the concept or content of balance....even if i dint know that i would have read it like a little pattern/ visual logo that holds my attention and god knows how long the creator would've taken to come up with this concise symbol....

Chitra Chandrashekhar

anindya kundu

But suppose I want to make illustrated book.
The content is most important at first!

Once finalized it... only then can I thin of medium, and then medium takes dominance....
But yes.. sometimes we make content keeping medium in mind.

yeah! design is definitely more inclined towards content....
its also a matter of left brain and right brain thinking.

creativity is more right brain while logical thinking is left brain....
but for a complete product or experience... both are important.

or else we end up with movies like Transformers.....
all effects and look and sound.... no trace of script! 

sorry i mean design is more inclined towards medium not content. (sorrywas typing too fast n not chking)
its more right brain creativity oriented....

hey u can take this test to find out too..... 

The left and right brain stuff is inherent in any form of design, or else it would be just art for arts sake guided only by intuition and preference. BTW my score turned out to be 46% Left and 54% right...quite a close competition... :P

Chitra Chandrashekhar

anindya kundu 
mine came 67% right and 33% left....
hemali do try n tell us your score! 

Stories are indeed visualised if not designed as a visual medium for instance Novels. But here too how the story is communicated takes precedence be it illustration/ packaging. his TED talker is quite an entertainer, Chip Kid's work is prolific:

Even if the story was to be conveyed through non-visual channels, communication is predominantly a medium based task. Sometimes a painting communicate more than just the content through visual composition, colours, styles, iconography, cultural associations. 

Medium has more power and capacity than the original content. Minimalism was one movement where content was hailed as king where medium was simple and unobstrusive and the content came through typography and colours and white space (well in graphic design) and in architecture too it was pure function without all that jazz. But ever since po-mo (post-modernism and deconstructivism) to the digital age the medium has blurred styles and trends. 

Btw....I'd be glad to contribute stuff on mutli-displinary design for your newsletter if it welcomes random people with this vague disorder called the type-oh-mania...i just cant get a count of the word limit...:P
Chitra Chandrashekhar

anindya kundu
its a matter of perspective....
for artists, designers, musicians or any other creative person,
medium will of course be more important.

but if you see the larger picture, both are definitely equally important.
i think its often content which sets apart good artists from brilliant ones.

Look at film-makers.... whts d difference between spielberg and kubrick?
between Herge and Uderzo-Gossini?
between 'Calvin anh Hobbes' and Superman?
between Ruskin Bond and Enid Blyton?

medium wise both have equal mastery.....
but in terms of depth of content... one is so much shallow!

Firstly these comparisons are not pitted equally....each has its strengths, each has its target audience, each had its own purpose when they were made in different times and contexts. And all to me were great in their own rights....for having etched a memory in many people's minds. 

Here I doubt...What do you mean by content?

In a poster, newsletter, report, presentation it is the factual information. In a storybook it is a bunch of characters and the trajectory they take to the end. Everything else the addition of emotion or depth or (mental) visualization is according to me additional layer on top of this bare set of data....which is in itself is 'the medium': the narrative.

Content is to me only the raw data set (the left brain stuff) and everything else is part of the media creation: narrative/verbal, visual, tactile, aural, emotional etc.

....I also recall the Vastusutra upanishad's process of image making: the idea>the words> the image/ pratima> actual physical manifestation/ sculpture, the content was as simple as an anthropomorphic representation of divine power. But it was the medium creation that involved the mantra, the visuals and then the sculpture.

I might be getting carried away with this thing...but I see the argument holding some validity....what do you think...??

Chitra Chandrashekhar

anindya kundu

so we completely differ in our meaning of content.

to me content is never the data. thts like telling medium is just brushes!

content is the story of a book. its the lyrics of a song.
its the script of a film. its the name of the company for which we design logo.

hmm..thats definitely valid for the story book, song and script except for the logo...:P thats a lot deeper...logo visually represents the brand story which in turn craftily packages the factual business plans and models, audience and their future goals. pretty much like your graffiti represented the values of Kuliza that were carefully chosen words from Kuliza's business mission which was born out of the need to serve a certain type of customer, in a certain type of market, for a certain number of years....atleast thats the way big identity designers approach logo design.

Anyway, i'd like to agree that the content has some inherent value whether educational, informational, philosophical, emotional etc. that drives the need to communicate to achieve a certain reaction whether planned or otherwise. The vehicles that are used to communicate this value form the medium. Reminds me of P2....Gerard Genette a constructivist coined the termed narratology... he dissects a narrative structure into  story, narrative and narration. Heres more:


omg! long discussion huh! 

@kundu: will tke the test a lil later... Woke up half an hour ago...

Though i have not read the whole mail chain, I do believe that it is very individualistic.. I mean it all depends on the target audience.. it is nothing but the art of communicating in a language that someone can understand.... some people would only buy books reading the synopsis...And sometimes, the style of writing is so beautiful, that whatever the author writes, the admirers are going to spend time reading it..  But for a set of some people, for example children, visual presentation is very important... 

In magazines/posters, you cant just write content without having to think about the presentation. If it has to make an impact, it has to be designed accordingly.. since it has a purpose! The message needs to be communicated... If it a self expression, then there is no constraint..

chk this book.... its nothing but a beautiful visual presentation of a poem.. Why do you think Dr. Seuss is so famous? both are equally important...

anindya kundu
That's my point too from the beginning....
both are equally important! :-)

anyways, sorry... lets not argue much further.
let every1 have their point of view....

and the lines between content and design is also 
bit blurred for each of us. i understand why as a
designer Chitra is emphasizing on medium...
since as designer thats where we can add life to dull content!

it was a fun debate though! 


I just went thru the Chip Kidd's TED talk...
This guy is so weird that he seems to be out of a Dr Seuss book! 
and lovely inspiring book design work.... 

yeah! David's talk is brilliant....
a brilliant speaker and designer par excellence! 

@ Chitra, sorry, I think I re-write what you already mentioned.. Why dont you blog about these views? It would make an interesting read..what say?  zyada time nahi lagega.. you only have to copy paste and edit the things you mentioned here in the mail... pls kar na!

Hehehe,...I know...i mean such discussions really improve understanding sometimes question our beliefs.... yup i agree it was fun....and luckily din drag on much....:) Hemali you have a point...yup will do that....copy paste the whole thing.... on my blog then....???
I totalleeeeeee love this book!!! for its Yellow-submarine-sque illustrations and the 'CONTENT' ...:P it makes a lot more sense to adults i guess...

hehe :D ya.. even i loved the book.. he has got two such books and working on third one :) and the good thing is that he has shared it for free.. chk his poem wala book.. i checked only 2- 3 poems.. thoda nonsensical hi hai... i guess shayad mujhe itna nahi samjha..

Heres something i found regarding the content/medium dilemma.... 
Really completely devalidates the says neither are more important than the other....and the main thing is communicating the essence with effectiveness....thats important..... everything boils down to communication design...which means working our way from bare bones to the skin..


anindya kundu
'Communication is King!' (quoted 4m the article) i think this sums it up best.... 

While it seems we have a winner, the stubborn me still feels:
Chitra: And I wish to sum up that communication design is 100% medium creation as it involves integration of simple ideas and factual information into well crafted language (inspired by semiotics: choice of rhetoric/ words/ tense/ tone/narrative), typography (visual letterforms, arrangement of words and paragraphs), icons, illustrations, images, photography, videos et al, use of other sensory inputs: sound, smell, touch etc.

So while communication is king, The King's mighty army is the medium and his wise minister is the communication's ideas and factual data. So to me the proverbial debate remains elusively inconclusive coz there are times when one over powers the other. But one things clear the two can never go on solo...its always a team. It takes two to communicate!