Illustration and Visual Media
The summer break for me has been a time of introspection and reevaluation. Through the process of refining my portfolio, I came to the realisation that my current oeuvre as both an illustrator and visual communicator do not satisfactorily demonstrate my capacity to create meaningful and intriguing works. Additionally, my attempt at casting a wide net came at the risk of losing focus in my portfolio, resulting in something that could appear too amateur or vague to employers. In order to achieve this sense of focus and cohesion, I had to be far more deliberate in curating my works. This process was particularly difficult for me due to my lack of a specialisation, compounded by my diverse range of interests (illustration for graphic design, publication, packaging design, conceptual artworks etc.) My main challenge therefore, for both my portfolio and professional practice, is finding my niche — framing my works in a way that they can properly articulate my multidisciplinary skillset without making myself out to be a jack of all trades, master of none. My plan moving forward is to work on self-initiated projects, take part in competitions and other ad-hoc opportunities that come up (like the MA film collaboration). After building up and strengthening my portfolio through these projects, I will hopefully then secure a couple of internships for the rest of my DPS year.
Reflecting on my multidisciplinary practice raised the question of how I would like to position myself in the industry, and how might my works serve a wider function beyond the cosmetic. Design is a powerful tool for both communication and problem-solving. Brian Dougherty, creative director of the Celery Design Collaborative, breaks down the role of a designer into three levels — a manipulator of stuff, a message maker and an agent of change. In doing so, he recognises that a designer’s control can extend beyond that of the material and technical aspects of their work, but also influence brands or organisations who can then in turn effect positive change. Designers therefore have the potential, and perhaps the obligation, to become agents of change.
Having an interest in issues of sustainability and environmental conservation, I hope to be able to address these socio-environmental topics through my personal practice. In the past, I have created works that touched on issues such as pollution and species endangerment, however these were largely passive commentary. Through extending these concerns and beliefs into my professional practice, I hope to discover ways that design and illustration can play a more active role as catalysts of change. Especially within the branches of graphic or packaging design, which are commonly deemed as contributors to problems of waste and pollution, it would be interesting to subvert these negative impressions and explore how these creative fields can not only help raise awareness, but also influence behaviour.
Of course, achieving these goals will be easier said than done. More often than not, artists and designers have to compromise their ethics and ideals for more practical reasons. Still, I will strive to make sustainability the main focus of my year out in industry, and hopefully gain some insight from industry professionals. These experiences will inform my future practice and put me in a better position to effect change within my own community back home in Singapore, where sustainability and eco-consciousness are not (yet) prioritised amongst members of society.