We visit AGI Open 2018 in Mex­ico to learn more about the in­dus­try’s new up­com­ing de­sign trends

Ju­lia Sa­gar vis­its sunny Mex­ico to ex­plore new per­spec­tives at AGI Open 2018

Computer Arts - - Contents - EVENT RE­PORT

Mex­ico City’s fash­ion­able Polanco neigh­bour­hood played host to this year’s AGI Open in Septem­ber. The an­nual con­fer­ence – run by elite de­sign as­so­ci­a­tion Al­liance Graphique In­ter­na­tionale – is driven by the core be­lief that graphic de­sign is fun­da­men­tal to how we com­mu­ni­cate, educate and in­form. And true to form, the event’s un­wa­ver­ing theme this year was ‘El otro lado’, or ‘the other side’.

Aside from a few di­rect ref­er­ences to the po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion be­tween Mex­ico and Amer­ica, each speaker in­ter­preted the theme dif­fer­ently. Pen­ta­gram part­ner Paula Scher pro­vided a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive on nine well-known projects in which she thought she had con­trol of a cer­tain as­pect – and ac­tu­ally didn't.

“Ev­ery­thing you de­sign, al­ways in­volves other peo­ple; cities, busi­ness, cul­tural or­gan­i­sa­tions,” she be­gan. “It's the no­tion that when we make things, we have au­di­ences. The au­di­ences are the peo­ple we're de­sign­ing for – and when we for­get that, we're ac­tu­ally mak­ing things that aren't at all use­ful.”

Scher's brand­ing with High Line, for ex­am­ple, was even­tu­ally so suc­cess­ful that the el­e­vated park be­came New York's big­gest tourist at­trac­tion. But this led to low-in­come peo­ple in the neigh­bour­hood be­ing pushed out. “There can be un­ex­pected out­comes with your best in­ten­tions, some­times. And that's scary,” said Scher, adding that she's been work­ing con­tin­u­ally with High Line to ad­dress the un­for­tu­nate is­sue.

Scher also dis­cussed the neg­a­tive kick-back to her con­tro­ver­sial The New School brand­ing. "When we launched, ev­ery­one hated it,” she said. “The school had me in to an­swer mean tweets. But it dis­si­pated very quickly – those se­nior stu­dents had grad­u­ated. And I re­alised that I wasn't de­sign­ing for them: I was de­sign­ing for the new stu­dents."

How­ever with Scher's The Li­brary of Congress brand­ing, the crit­i­cism was more pub­lic, po­lit­i­cal and se­ri­ous – both from de­sign­ers and non-de­sign­ers alike – re­sult­ing in an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into how much Scher was paid. “I'd done the job for very lit­tle money, so we had noth­ing to fear,” she ex­plained, “but this stuff is dan­ger­ous. Mostly it's arm­chair crit­i­cism... But a lot of graphic de­sign­ers can get de­stroyed that way. We need to work to­gether bet­ter as a com­mu­nity: if we de­rail each other, we de­rail progress."

Mel­bourne and New York-based cre­ative prac­tice Tin & Ed also touched on the idea of com­mu­nity and in­clu­sive­ness dur­ing its talk. Much of the prac­tice is ex­per­i­men­tal, with the team of two

reg­u­larly ven­tur­ing into new me­dia and ar­eas they're not fa­mil­iar with. “Aliens are the ul­ti­mate out­siders, so we use them a lot in our work,” said Tin Nguyen. “I guess we feel like that our­selves some­times.”

But do­ing things they haven't done be­fore has led to progress, and the pair ad­vise tak­ing an open ap­proach to new chal­lenges – as well as new peo­ple. “Em­brace the fu­ture," ad­vised Ed­ward Cut­ting. "We all have the power to cre­ate it. And em­brace each other, be­cause the only way forward is to­gether.”

For il­lus­tra­tor and de­signer Christoph Nie­mann – like all the speak­ers at AGI Open – the path forward must be a re­spon­si­ble one. Echo­ing Scher, he dis­cussed the un­ex­pected wider im­pacts of de­sign, us­ing a New Yorker il­lus­tra­tion about per­sonal fi­nance – in which a man de­posits a coin into the wrong end of a piggy bank – as an ex­am­ple.

“In the US, I think there are sta­tis­ti­cally more women than men – so in the­ory, to rep­re­sent the av­er­age per­son, I should draw a woman,” he re­flected. “But if I drew a woman, would it still say: ‘Peo­ple are bad at mak­ing fi­nan­cial de­ci­sions'? Or does it all of a sud­den say: ‘Women are bad at mak­ing fi­nan­cial de­ci­sions'?”

He con­tin­ued: “I don't want to ap­pear to be mak­ing fun of women, so I end up draw­ing a man. But that draw­ing is pub­lished a mil­lion times, so it ce­ments the idea of ‘some­body' be­ing a man.”

For Nie­mann, it's a reg­u­lar strug­gle – and he hasn't found a so­lu­tion. "I don't think de­sign­ing a poster that says 'peace' will cre­ate peace, but we are po­lit­i­cal, whether we want it or not," he in­sisted. “As de­sign­ers, we have to be aware that we don't only re­act to re­al­i­ties, but we are re­spon­si­ble for cre­at­ing them also.” www.agi-open.com

Clock­wise from left page: Paula Scher open­ing AGI Open 2018; this year’s speak­ers; Jorge Alderete; and Christoph Nie­mann shar­ing in­dus­try tricks and tips.

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