Our Design Around the World series explores design communities outside our own, introducing us to new creatives and perspectives. With this latest interview meet LIE, an independent graphic design studio based in Kuala Lumpur.
As soon as I discovered LIE, I knew I wanted to include them in the series. The studio's work is fresh and vibrant, and their team clearly has personality. Driv leads that team as LIE's founder and art director. Here he gives us a peek into the Malaysian design community, still young in the country with great opportunity ahead.
First, let’s talk about your studio. Who is the team behind LIE and why did you decide to open a graphic design studio?
Having stuck at work as a designer for several years in overseas, I took a long break strolling around Japan for three months. Along the journey, I met many Japanese people who dedicated their lives to their business and career. Inspired by such dedication, I decided to start a design studio in Kuala Lumpur with the hope of contributing to my hometown and the local design community. To date, LIE consists of an art director, three designers, a content writer and an intern periodically.
It seems as though industrial design is big in your country, but is there a strong graphic design community as well? What are the job opportunities for a designer in Malaysia?
The graphic design industry in Malaysia is not as mature, nor are the values of graphic design as well-recognized, as in other industries. In the past, most designers went to advertising agencies. Yet it is getting more and more exciting in the recent years, as an increasing number of amazing work and small to medium-sized design studios have been popping up. With the popularity of online platforms, talented creatives have increased exposure and opportunities to work individually.
Illumination 10, one of several beautiful music packaging projects by LIE.
Do many local design platforms or events exist yet?
There aren’t many mainstream graphic design-related events in Malaysia, but there is an increasing number of small to medium scale events and activities related to graphic design. These are initiated by designers through cross-collaboration, or organizations such as wREGA, ThinkCity, Malaysia Design Archive, Design Union and Huruf, to name a few.
I’ve read Malaysia’s colonization plays heavily into its design history, and Malaysian design in the past was influenced by its social and political climate. How would you describe Malaysian design today? Do you notice a specific style or influences?
Malaysia as a multicultural and multiracial nation has inspired and influenced local artists and designers. Nowadays though, designers are taking influences or references from everywhere. As such, it is rather difficult to define a particular style or identity as "Malaysian design." Nevertheless, with our diverse culture and the collective effort of local designers, I still look forward to seeing design here slowly take shape and lead to what we can proudly claim as Malaysian design.
"A Fruitful Mind," LIE's work for an exhibition celebrating local Malaysia fruits.
What is design education like in Malaysia? And do many designers seek a formal education or are they self-taught?
Malaysia has quite a number of institutions of higher learning with design courses. Some of these institutions focus solely on design education. Most designers still seek a formal education at local institutions or further their studies overseas.
What would you say are unique challenges for Malaysian designers right now?
There are actually a lot of talented designers out there, but we don’t have enough established companies or platforms to keep everybody together. A lot of Malaysians will have to look for jobs overseas for better pay. It might be different if the design scene in Malaysia improves and more opportunities arise that could attract talented designers back to Malaysia to progress their career.
How much impact does your social media presence have on getting new clients and self-promotion in general? What works best for you?
Since social media is more targeted to an individual and direct consumer, it is good to generate awareness but doesn’t have a significant effect on new business for us yet. The typical mediums such as our company website, Behance and word-of-mouth still work best for us.
What does good design mean to LIE, and how do you see it impacting Malaysian society as a whole?
Good design isn’t just about aesthetics or design according to our own preference. We reckon good design should provide a solution to a problem that could make a positive impact on a business and do good for society.
In general, not many people in Malaysia really understand the value of graphic design. It’s actually OK that the client doesn’t understand, so long they are open-minded and willing to work alongside the designer for a better solution. Our role is to guide them through the creative process. A good design process is a collaborative effort between client and designer, not just following the brief or vice-versa.
When more and more good design is presented, we hope that Malaysian society will get to see and appreciate the values of design, and that it eventually creates an impact.
LIE's illustration for Nike Running: Shanghai Marathon 2016
In your opinion, what are the top creative agencies or design studios from Malaysia that everyone should know?
And now to our last question: How can all designers and design communities from other countries do a better job of communicating with each other? How can we become more engaged with the Malaysian design community? Are there any blogs or magazines we can follow?
Design festivals, design conferences, collaboration and community-led talks featuring local designers and visiting artists encourage the exchange of ideas. This would certainly help.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a specific or common platform in the Malaysian design community yet, but organizations such as ThinkCity, wREGA (Graphic Design Association of Malaysia) and Malaysia Design Archive endeavor to bring the local designers and resources together to help shape the design community.
Driv! Thank you for sharing your honest thoughts with us. We're inspired by your work and excited for the future of design in Malaysia with studios like LIE leading the way.