We originally began our Design Around the World series because frankly, we were tired of always hearing about the same studios and design circles in SF or New York. We wanted to spotlight design communities we don’t often hear about (especially those not based in the West) and see what we could learn from them. Almost a full year into the series, we’ve learned a lot.
After interviewing creatives in 11 different countries across continents, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite insights from the series so far. Thank you so much to these talented people who took time out of their busy schedules to give us a peek into their design community. It’s invaluable to us and we hope our readers have enjoyed the series as much as we have.
1. Design and art can help change society
“I’ve come to a realization that while a society needs its doctors and engineers, it also needs its poets and artists and designers for life to feel truly liveable, for a culture to remain humane and compassionate.” - Shehzil Malik, designer & illustrator from Pakistan
"I’d say design can’t really solve issues in our country by itself, but it can help in how others perceive these issues and influence them to change it." - Craig from Plus63 in the Philippines
“The nature of design is problem-solving and there are problems unique to us that good design can solve.” - Damilola from Dá Design Studio in Nigeria
Damilola and Seyi from Nigeria
“Good design for us is not about making things look and feel good; it should also change people’s behavior in a positive way, and we feel it is our job to continue educating our clients on this.” - Constant creative agency in Hong Kong
“Pakistan is generally a harsh place to live in a number of ways; most of the systems don't work and society is becoming increasingly intolerant. It’s getting harder every day to have meaningful conversations around social issues. This is where art can step in." - Shehzil Malik, designer & illustrator from Pakistan
"It’s easier to talk about beautiful pictures and foster empathy through an image that is honest.” - Shehzil Malik
Shehzil Malik from Pakistan
2. In some countries, design is still struggling to find its voice — and creativity can even be considered a luxury.
"People still think that a creative career is not a financially-viable path to take. Parents still prefer to see their children take conventional courses like nursing, medicine, law and accountancy." - Dan from Plus63 in the Philippines
“Nigeria is a hard country! Basic amenities aren’t basic so creativity appears to be a luxury. This is an illusion, but many brands are willing to buy and feed into this illusion.” - Damilola from Dá Design Studio in Nigeria
“[Design education in Vietnam is] growing and trying to find its voice. However, when it comes to design I don’t think young designers look up to the institutions to legitimize their creativity as we see in the West. Here, because of our past and the influences of technology, creatives are often time self-taught. There’s a huge reliance of intuition, self-determination and an pursuiant of passion. You might not see design that is globally groundbreaking all the time, but you can really get a sense of working best with what you got.” - Cong from Rice Creative in Vietnam
"Graphic design is relatively young in this country; we are all still finding a place to stand in the world." - Jean from Farmgroup in Thailand
Christina, Eliza and Mary from Armenia
“We live in a country with a developing design industry. We have a big share in its development… Step by step, with hard work over many years, we gained people’s trust and made them believe in quality design.” - Christina from Backbone Branding in Armenia
“Many designers have trouble communicating with their clients because a large number of clients do not understand what modern design is.” - Everyday Practice from South Korea
“I don't think we are that productive as a nation to be honest... I hope clients can understand that good design takes time, and hope that they do a lot of homework and planning so that each project can be planned ahead, so as to gain ample time for execution.” - Yah-Leng Yu from Foreign Policy in Singapore
Yah-Leng and Arthur from Singapore
3. Love of good design unites us.
“Humanity is complex; good design helps us enjoy our complexities when we can and brings simplicity when we can’t.” - Damilola from Nigeria
"Good designers here and everywhere work hard to push the boundary with their clients. Good designers here and everywhere are hungry to make a change in the client’s industry through their work... This is what matters to Foreign Policy: to create design that makes an impact, design that matters." - Yah-Leng Yu from Foreign Policy in Singapore
“We believe in design that makes people move, makes them feel, makes them happy or sad and forces them to do something.” - Studio Melli in Iran
The Studio Melli team in Iran
4. Crises and risk lead to creativity.
“I believe it is at times of crisis that the potential for change, discovery and innovation is at its highest. In fact, I believe the creative market can thrive during times like this.” - Leo from Bonde Conference in Brazil
“As nonsense as it may seem, crises are extremely interesting for the creative industry, because it is at this time that people reinvent themselves, come up with products and seek to escape the crisis.” -Isabela from Sweety & Co. in Brazil
The Farmgroup team from Thailand
"Where there is no risk, there is no creative breakthrough." - Jean from Farmgroup in Thailand
5. Design events & platforms in many countries can sadly be as insular they are in the United States.
“I see that there is an enormous willingness of the designers to exchange experiences, but I do not see common sense. There are many micro-events of little relevance [in Brazil] and others fostered by universities, but I still see them as shallow and purposeless.” - Isabela from Sweety & Co. in Brazil
“In Korea, the term ‘hipster’ is a trendy word among designers. If you visit any design communities they talk about their favorite brand, fashion, club, etc. They may think they lead the trend of design, but if they only focus on the design community, they will lose their sense of communication… Of course we need to share information and collaborate each other, but I would hope that such a community does not serve some only to reject others.” - Everyday Practice in South Korea
The Everyday Practice team in South Korea
So much more to learn
Of course these interviews give us only the tiniest of glimpses into complex societies and design communities. We’re eager to keep learning from these designers and following their work, and we already have several new interviews lined up with others. If you're still catching up, here's the full list so far: