Stimulating, insightful and entertaining are the words which can describe the second Think Outside talk series.

The topic under discussion was ‘communicate’ and how it related to the theme Design and Conflict. Graphic designers, Min Choi of South Korea-based firm Sulki & Min and Brisbane-based Jason Grant from Inkahoots explored the topic with passion and wit, touching on an array of  issues regarding branding, nationalism and social responsibility.

Jason Grant commenced his talk provocatively; he stated graphic design destructively conceals as well as productively reveals conflict. He also spoke on the role of branding, lamenting its overpowering and subversive presence in every day society.

“Branding has breached, I think, even the few remaining barriers to advertising’s ferocious environmental and psychological penetration… This is design’s complicity in maintaining social inequities. The design is daily obscuring and reinforcing hierarchies of privilege and class division,” said Jason.

Jason described how branding affected and transformed an organisation like Amnesty International. He displayed 20 of their posters from the 1960s until the present to illustrate how it has evolved into a strong corporate brand.  The visual difference of the promotional material over time was startling. What began as organic expressive human communication surreptitiously became material that was bland, uniform… a ubiquitous corporate message.

Jason then proposed ways in which design could redeem itself, using examples of his collaborative design work that made meaningful political statements.  His projects, in association with kinetic artist Michael Candy, on tackling homelessness and a thwarted (although much-publicised) visual project during the Brisbane G20 summit demonstrate how designers can challenge the status quo.

Our second guest speaker, Min Choi began his very entertaining presentation with a brief background about life in South Korea from a graphic designer’s perspective. He briefly described the conflicts and the controversies of history education currently being debated in Korea and the insecurities which surround national identity and branding.

Additionally, Min discussed the idea around replica branding and the art of imitation. He reflected on the quandary of when a good replica was so good you could not tell the difference, then how could you make sure it was not, in fact, genuine?

“Fake things can be beautiful I think, sometimes even more beautiful than the real thing,” explained Min.

In his talk, Min spoke about various examples of ‘genuine fakes’ such as a theme park in Japan which recreates a Dutch town using real-life scale replicas of historical buildings. He also spoke of the subtle differences between typeface competitors, Helvetica, Arial and the rogue font called Union by designer Radim Pesko.

“To me, I think the world has been speaking for a while of a certain utopia of compromised identities. I think our obsession with authenticity often leads to false conflicts and design can enlighten us by simply showing the absurdity of that obsession, ” said Min.

After the presentations, our moderator Peter Edwards facilitated a healthy discussion between the presenters and the audience which you can now watch on our Vimeo channel.

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