Tuesday, 5 May 2009

The Designers Republic

The Designers Rebublic was a Graphic Design company established on the 14th July 1986. The have done numerous designs for bands/ companies, produced record labels and also collaberated on Sheffield's Echo Installation for the 2006 Venice Biennale. However in 2009, after 23 years of trading, TDR went into voluntary liquidation. Ian Anderson who was the founder of this company bought back the companys name and assets.
I found an article about this within the new issue of EYE MAGAZINE, and the reason for including this within my contact reports, is not because I have been in touch with the company but, there is an interview following the article talking about the work Designers Republic created. The questions discuss topics of practice that I have been quizzing relevant practitioners on. Simplicity and communication issues.

"You were quoted on saying: 'We find it difficult to do anythin simple... Detail has almost become an obsession' ('Go-Faster graphics', Eye no. 16 col. 4). Does that still stand? Did that approach make it difficult to turn a profit?"

"The devil is in the detail, and more is definately more, but sometimes less is better. The detail has become less an output than part of a thinking process. It depends at which point your thinking engages with the tools and the means of expression and production. People always tell me I think outloud. I formulate and rationalise my ideas throughout a conversation, which can be quite disconcerting for new clients.
Some of TDR's busier work was a graphic design expression of that process of looking at the job from every perspective, layering up those perspectives and content, then almost visibly, forensically dismantling the structure to reveal what lies beneath, discarding everything that is wrong, and by default leaving what is right. I don't feel it's so important to go through that process physically anymore; the multilayering and discovery is more a mental intellectual excercise. I'm interested in simplicity right now: big questions, big ideas, global pancultural expressions. And, yes, because time is money, then making something work to a level I'm happy with does take more time."

"Sometimes you reveal in surface, though, and declare that that's all there is. At other times you're upset that critics and fans alike don't understand the concepts that have sparked the visual response."

"That's fair comment but the key is that TDR does revel in the surface - knowingly. And, for me, if you look deeper into the language we use and how we structure it within a context, it's clear there is something happening beyond the pure visual aesthetic. Two people tip buckets of water over their heads; one needs a shower, the other is a fluxus member creating an intervention and making a statement. We're all too pigeon-holed, life's too frenetic.
We don't have a God-given right to expect someone to invest their time in decoding our work, I don't expect it, but none of should assume there is no value in something when we havn't bothered to look for it. I don't want to dumb down our messages in the work; I don't want to make it obvious to everyone. I still believe information should be achieved and not given. I don't complain when people don't look deeper, I'm disappointed when they don't. I hope it's because they have something better to do, rather than because they've given up looking."

"In relation to detail, how do you decide when something is finished? Is it often a point of contention  with a client? And similarly, when the message needs to be 'unwrapped', how do you come to a consensus that a design is successful?"

"Something is finished when we have done what was asked of us, and we have delivered what we promised. Then the job is done. If a client wants more, or we feel we need to explore the ideas further, re-evaluate the deliverables, then that is exactly what it is: more. Surprisingly we've had very little contention with clients over work process and relationship during s project. I've learnt the advantage of developing client relationships and identifying opportunity with those clients. 
In theory, the client is better placed to determine if the design is working, for them, as they should know their business more intimately than us. However, the responsibility we take on is to deliver  a solution based on an understanding of the client, and it's often the case that we can help them in seeing the wood for the trees. Sometimes they're too close; we're in a privileged position, like official biographers or hairdressers, to offer a perspective. How consensus is reached depends on the personality involved."

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