26 November 2014

The impact of design through creativity and commerce

By Kristian David Lee

Design is often misconstrued as ornamental decoration that does not have a function. Those who say this compartmentalize art and design as one and the same thing. While art and design may share common tools, however, the differences lie within the purpose of each field.

The purpose of art is to express truth. Art deals with consequences and moments in the life of an artist. It aims to inspire and captivate the viewer while the viewer, in this sense, is a limited participant who questions and investigates the artist’s motives in the artwork through observation. Art ultimately allows viewers to draw their own conclusion through their perception of the artwork.

While art provokes thought and feelings, design on the other hand, enables action and results. The purpose of design is to deliver new solutions to resolve old problems. Designers deal with intentions of wanting to create something new and better. By that right, a designer’s thinking is already in line with that of an entrepreneur since their work revolves around products which are meant to be used by the masses.

Designers create products like advertisements in magazines, animated or film productions for children and adults, or digitally illustrated character designs for games in mobile devices and consoles. These are only some of the items that have impacted consumers worldwide.

Designers are employed not only for their technical skills and proficiencies in drafting and operating various digital media software, but also for their ability and creativity to solve problems.

Creativity is recognized as the force for innovation and inventiveness. Companies, whether big or small, hire designers in order to gain a competitive edge over their competitors. One area where consumer goods companies seek a designer’s expertise is in brand identity and brand visibility. Therefore, emphasis is placed on the presentation of consumer goods so that they appeal to the consumer, with the goal that this will lead to sales.

With an abundance of product choices in the market today, however, the designer has to be resourceful, innovative and inventive in their planning and execution of their designs in order to provide the best solutions possible. A good example is Apple. While Steve Jobs, its late founder and former CEO, has been credited as the visionary for Apple’s success, another contributing factor stems from his partnership with designer Jonathan Ive. What Jobs envisioned, Ives materialized. Ive, the senior designer, was responsible for the designs of numerous Apple products that changed the way we use digital devices. By incorporating visual aesthetics and functionality into Apple products, his designs helped to bring out the products’ elegance and user-friendly interface to a wider audience.
Global consumer goods companies such as Xiaomi (China), JC Penny (USA) and Sony (Japan) have revolved some of their company policies to be more like those of Apple’s.

Design has sparked several businesses here in Malaysia, too. For instance, the animation media company Les Copaque Productions has produced several animated series such as Upin and Ipin and Pada Zaman Dahulu. The company was established in 2006 by a husband and wife team who understood the growing opportunities that came with animation and multimedia design. They hired multimedia designers to help create their first feature length film called Geng: Pengembaraan Bermula (The Adventure Begins) in 2007. It was Malaysia’s first computer-animated film.

Les Copaque has created several animated productions and won several awards such as the Astro NextGen Contentpreneur Award in 2009, MyIPO (Intellectual Property Award) in 2012, and Geneva International Quality ERA Award in 2013.

Originally a small company, Les Copaque has branched out and created several subsidiary multimedia design companies like LC Merchandising Sdn Bhd, LCP Animation Training Center Sdn Bhd and Les Copaque Games Development Incorporated.

Selangor-based animation, game and video effects company, MediaSoft Entertainment, has created digital media content for various markets. They include education apps such as FQ Genius and Rockee Junior as well as gaming apps like Oh My! Sushi, Mamak Dash, and Kung Fu Pow Panda.

Incorporated in 2012, the company has had multiple successes in its digital media projects. Its products for iOS and Android platforms, released in their respective app stores, have been recognized and received popular reviews.

Overall, the impact a designer makes can be judged by product presentation and customer satisfaction. Companies in advertising, marketing, game or animation production, engage designers to plan, configure and apply the best solution that produces results. By synthesizing form and function designers create products and solutions that strike a balance between visual aesthetics and practical functionality.

While some may confuse art with design, it is important to note the key differences. Art deals with consequences to create beauty. Design deals with intentions to solve problems. A good piece of artwork invigorates questions for truth and beauty while a good design answers and delivers results for commerce and enterprise. While an artist expresses individual perception, a designer communicates and creates products and solutions that impacts our daily lives.

Kristian David Lee is a lecturer with the Faculty of Business and Design at Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak Campus. He is contactable at klee@swinburne.edu.my