I don’t want to change anything

I recently worked on a book project with a young designer.

After receiving a set of photos intended for the cover, her immediate response was to experiment with the photos in Photoshop — tweak the colours and try some overlaying translucent typography.

Being somewhat of a purist, I rejected the idea and requested her to leave the photos in their original state. “But they look so raw, so un-designed,” she complained.

At Kyoorius Designyatra, Bart Kresa and Melissa Weigel (Moment Factory) impressed the audience with their digital projection projects. Smitten with the wonders of digital projections, a delegate gave a comment to the press that “Monuments like the Red Fort should have shows every evening to deliver historic facts… Our country is famous for its ancient architecture and festive culture. Bart Kresa like projection design installations would definitely enhance those experiences.” (Amish Dasgupta, quoted in The Economic Times’ Brand Equity).

Digital projections on the Red Fort?

Ancient forts and heritage buildings never fail to overwhelm me with their grandiosity through the exuberance of scale, and the miraculous fact that they are still standing dignified over time. During the day they become compelling storytellers to tourists and at night they transform into beautiful massive sculptures that adorn the night sky.

I enjoy my forts for what they are and I don’t want them to become a blank canvas for designers to project content and computer-generated animations. I believe that projection design should be kept for celebrations and entertainment, for the Superbowls and the U2s.

Leave the monuments alone.

I have travelled quite a bit across India. The vernacular signages and graphics never cease to amaze me. The chaotic combination of hand-painted type, and carved type from wood, marble or stone, combined with illustrations and iconography form an incredible visual experience for visually-oriented people, aka designers. The visual output didn’t come from prestigious art schools — it came from the soul of the locals.

Within all these, there will always be some shops that had been designed. Some would have engaged the likes of Winkreative or Fitch — paying handsome money to project themselves as modern and progressive brands. Others would have engaged local self-taught designers and proudly got themselves garish multi-gradient signages with Zapfino and drop shadows.

There will also be those who have accepted the generosity of Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Nokia or HP’s and displayed brand new sponsored signboards.

At any given time, I rather preserve the existing, and not introduce some alien graphic language to the original beautiful mess.

Gabor (Schreier), who leads the creative output for Saffron Brand Consultants reminded me recently to question what really is good design. Maybe it is the education, or maybe it is because of the Internet — hordes of local graphic designers embrace and adopt whatever is current and trendy coming out from the western world, defining that as the right way to practice design. The begging question is — are you sure that it is good design, or is it the designer’s arrogance that dictates what is good for the public?

As a designer, this may sound ridiculous, but many times, I just want things to be what they are meant to be. A photo. A fort. Handpainted signage.

Sometimes, I don’t want to change anything.