The recent brouhaha over the logo for the upcoming National Day celebrations is emblematic of a much larger issue; the importance of design in our lives. Around the world, countries are beginning to realise the close links between design and innovation. A future that is being built around ideas and technology has at its heart design which is always a marriage of form and function.
Entertainment, graphic design, advertising and digital design fields like game development are at the forefront of this movement. A culture of innovation is built into the DNA of these industries because by their very nature they cannot replicate anything done in the past. There can never be two movies or logos or online games exactly alike, because only by providing a differentiated, better experience can they succeed.
As attention spans shorten, the importance of these industries goes up because of their ability to compress large ideas and stories into easily understood and remembered creative expressions. The colours, motifs, typography, etc used in logos, for example, have the power when done right to conjure up a whole slew of emotions. I Love NY, CNN and WWF are just a few examples that carry whole meaning systems just around their logos.
In this context, as the era of assembly line manufacturing gets replaced by an era of innovation, the focus should be on these industries to propel the country forward. We will always need things, but the drivers of growth are going to be the ideas surrounding them over the things themselves. Think software over hardware, Internet over TV, graphic design over auditing and the future over the present.
In Malaysia though, the utter lack of professionalism exhibited in the preparation of the Logo Kemerdekaan 2012 shows how low in the priorities of the government the creative industries really are. Innovation is a buzzword associated with all the transformation programmes touted by the government, but scant attention is being paid to stimulating the growth of the design industries that have the ability to quickly alter the innovation landscape of the country.
Instead of promoting professionalism and growth of this industry, in the words of the president of the Graphic Design Association of Malaysia (wREGA), Zachary Ong “we, the creative professionals, are appalled by the poor quality in creativity, skill, execution and rationale of the new logo design. We believe it does not do justice to represent the real virtues, principles and spirit of independence of our country. We are genuinely and deeply concerned that the quality of good graphic design of this country is deteriorating.”
Creative industries deserve to be treated at par if not as a priority to truly help engineer the transformation to a high income nation by 2020. Instead we have a situation where censorship is deeply affecting the output of the entertainment industry, the restrictions on advertising are leading to stagnation in the creative landscape, Malaysia is relegated to being a mere user of digital innovation, and design is seen as simply a trivial pursuit.
Things need to change fast, because the future is simply too important to ignore.
[Source: Kapil Sethi, an advertising strategist]