I’ve been back in Shanghai and teaching at AIVA for a week now. Jet lag is still not waning and 4am is my (enemy of a) friend. The second semester has started well with creative energies in full force. Fantastic! As the end of the last semester felt like, in part, the students had lost sight of their artistic potential. The four pre-MA Visual Communication students I teach are currently completing a module on logo, poster and billboard design, the title of the project being ‘My City, My Logo’. They have been asked to design a logo, using it in a series of advertising posters and billboards in relation to a city of their choice. Some have chosen their hometown, others Shanghai. I’m trying to give them a diverse range of research materials to look at from artists and designers (shown in lectures), to websites and books, to films, documentaries and animations. If you know of any good websites on designs do let me know as I am compiling a list for the students.
This brings me onto ‘Logorama’, a short animation fr0m 2009, that always pops up when you start looking into logo design. It is directed and written by the French graphic design collective ‘Encore’ (François Alaux, Hervé de Crécy and Ludovic Houplain), and portrays the city of Los Angeles created completely out of corporate logos. It references the power of global brands and companies, the control of the oil industry on these, and how blissfully unaware we are of the impact of all this on our daily lives. Just look at your surroundings right now…how many brands and names can you see? I’ve counted 14 so far in the teaching office, where I am easily giving up as I’m sure there are more, more, more. I seriously forgot how great this piece of film was…
This morning, after the weekly Friday morning presentations, I showed all students the film ‘Art & Copy’ as I thought it might provide them with a little design inspiration and creative motivation. The trailer for it is shown below. One of the great things about the hooky DVD shops in Shanghai, and in China, is that you come across some of the most random documentaries, TV series, foreign and Western films. You can get virtually anything and everything for the equivalent of £1, although, they are not always of the best quality. The speed in which they produce DVDs of the most recent British TV series astounds me sometimes. Anyway…during a visit to my local DVD shop in the French Concession area of Shanghai, I came across ‘Art & Copy’ and thought it would be good material to show my Visual Communication students, well, the whole course. It is really useful getting hold of DVDs like this in China as you know they will have Chinese subtitles, which when teaching my Chinese students, is a big help. Nothing gets lost in (my poor) translation or misunderstanding.
‘Art & Copy’ reveals the work and wisdom of some of the most influential advertising creatives of our time, starting from advertising’s “creative revolution” of the 1960s, featuring George Lois, Mary Wells, Dan Wieden, Lee Clow, Hal Riney and others, who were responsible for Nike’s “Just Do It,” “I Love NY,” “Where’s the Beef?,” “Got Milk,” “Think Different,” and other unforgettable ad campaigns for Apple, Tommy Hilfiger and VW. Powerful, simple messages. I loved the fact it focused on the power of failure to drive you forward, to work harder and dream bigger – “FAIL HARDER”. Tommy Hilfiger reiterated this as he spoke of the negative reaction to his ad campaign just encouraged him to prove those people wrong and 100 times harder. They were all so determined and worked beyond their limits with such dynamic creative energy. It also made me realise how integral a good working atmosphere is, not just between staff where there must be “a love of what you do”, but also physically in the building you work in. Some of their offices were like playgrounds crossed with galleries and theatres. Places where you could never get bored, where you can use and express you energy, and breed creativity. After watching the film, it had me, and some of the students, on a complete “I can achieve anything” high…along with the reality of “we have a long way to go before we get there” (wherever “there” is). I think I’m on the right track. One step at a time, keeping the dream alive.