Anybody else been way too busy gearing up for the holidays? I hate to play that card, but it’s the truth, man.
Anyway, I’ve been chatting a bunch with a great friend who’s in Cambodia working, researching and generally being an awesome globetrotter for the year. She’s mainly studying the floods in Phnom Penh, the lesser known of the tragic and constant flooding in Southeast Asia. Check out her work here.
But here’s the deal: my question for her as an architect and student of design is “does Southeast Asia have the same love of Danish style that the US does?” And, what does it mean to have American designers in all their post-Modern glory out there teaching Asian kids about design? And is there any movement to preserve Asian cultural design icons and go “modern” through a different route? Roots of Asian and European graphic and structural design are vastly different from that of the US, and I’m really just wondering how much influence the western techniques have had on the natural evolution of design in Southeast Asia. Or maybe it IS natural to be influenced by the West.
So I did some research. Not a ton of our commonly known graphic designers are from Southeast Asia. But in doing some digging, I found some nice information on established and up-and-coming designers in the region. A pretty good article here at 1st Web Designer about designers from Thailand and the Philippines, among other often overlooked countries.
My immediate reaction to the Asian pieces highlighted was that they LOVE color. Bold, lots of gradients, traditional in content for a lot of the pieces and definitely full of character and detail. After a trip through the 800-person-popular “Cambodia Graphic Design” facebook page, I see that the overly rainbow-ed approach is a popular one among young designers. And a quick Google of “Cambodia Graphic Design” turned up a bunch of cookie cutter advertising companies that could have been from Ohio, for all I know. The West is definitely a big influence there.
So I went to Behance and did some locality searches and found that the layers and layers of beautiful colors and gradients are really a big trend in SE Asia. I’m loving the bright and overblown hues. Some designers of note: The Acid House (Philippines, pretty abstract), Phanith Hak (Cambodia, and a much more “usable” fashion), and Son Dang (Viet Nam, beautifully commercial).
If you check these few cases studies out, you can see that they hold many traditional icons, color schemes and patterns. I love that they seem to have integrated many Western ideas of design with more traditionally Asian style. And they aren’t afraid to use the non-Helvetica typefaces.
The the short answer to my questions would be that SE Asia is on the move and modern in their own right, but definitely not sticking to the Western simplicity model. I am happy to see that there is definitely a separate aesthetic and that all design has not been homogenized with the convenience of web browsing.