Not surprisingly, we actually found Gideon upon a random search about a printing process called Risograph, where he documented his time at a workshop by Push—Press.
Throughout this feature, we saw how he values publications, recognizes the importance of how they are constructed and the varying types of print mediums. He also made it more evident by having his portrait styled as a publication cover.
- Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?
- Gideon (G): I am a graphic designer by profession but am also involved in a range of things related to teaching and research in design. In graphic design practice, I try to be involved in mainly print-based projects with content that I share a personal concern and interest in, at least to a certain extent. I have also embarked on initial stages of research and writing in areas related to design practice/history, artistic research, and practice-based methods of inquiry. These ideas are sometimes also explored through irregular workshops with students and educators/researchers.
- Your works seem to mainly consist of publications, is that your area of interest/expertise?
- G: I definitely have an interest in designing books and other printed objects. I also see it as a really practical tool, for one to have both the technical and artistic ability in giving form to (one’s) ideas and explorations, on top of its value in other commercial applications. In a way, the works are really just materialised outcomes of my other activities beyond graphic design. Although these works are often first seen as ‘portfolio’ pieces, they act as visual representations of an extended practice and broader interests explored through writing, workshops, and other personal ventures. I am interested in both the designed outcome and the content and ideas it embodies.
- Can you bring us through your process of designing a publication?
- G: If it is self-initiated, everything falls into place almost intuitively and immediately. If it is for someone else, a commercial client or organisation, it becomes a lot more complicated. The process is most of the time interrupted by many other uncontrollable factors like budget, timeline, personal preferences, personalities of people involved, expectations, nature of client’s interest, and many other intangible factors. Of course, to manage, work, and adapt according to these limitations is believed to be the professional responsibility of the general designer.
- G: In general, I like to start with understanding the content of the work (if given the luxury of time) and then figure out suitable elements for the work (typeface, format, medium, etc.), then exploring possible iterations (typography, layout, sequences, working with a rough system/grid, etc.), and finally refining a selected direction (defining the grid, taking note of typographic details, finalising physical details and materials, etc.) before proceeding to production. Of course, this might not work for all types of work, and many things in the later stages could also be worked into the earlier stages whenever appropriate.
- It has been ‘taught’ in design schools that publications should stay readable in one orientation. For ‘Workshop 4 Document, Leaflet’ you play with both portrait and landscape readability. Was it a play on the concept of ‘Re(Construction)’?
- G: Publication or books can be what anyone wants them to be as long as they are informed and intentional decisions. For that particular work, because of its format—the way it unfolds into different ‘pages’ or views—it allows for content to be arranged in multiple orientations, as visual devices that guide the reader to approach each layer of the pamphlet in the ‘suggested’ orientation.
- Is there a particular publication you want readers to know about? And why?
- G: I don’t think there is any particular publication that deserves that much of an attention!
Perhaps if I can put it this way, instead of suggesting a specific book, I hope we can all really get to know more about the printed publications we have access to around us, whether it is our favourite stash of novels, past instruction manuals, back magazine issues, or the ones we can easily find in a library. We can look closer into both the design and construction of them—looking into their history, the way they are physically made and visually designed. This will really help in developing the awareness of books in general and help create a better understanding of such printed objects. It is really sad to say that someone I know spent $70 on her lecturer’s required academic textbook only to see the pages falling apart from the spine only after a few months use (not even yet mentioning its design). This is a clear indicator of the lack of general knowledge about (or perceived importance of) the design/construction of books.
- Do you have any advice or tips for designers who are going to do a publication?
- G: This is also directed at me:
I guess the best advice is to get started on it right away. If it is not an urgent task then take time off, make something else (draw, paint, write, think) instead of a publication, if you are one of those that is crazy about publications.
And for a start, get interested in books and in reading, get interested in content (not necessarily textual) and the many ways content can be communicated through the physical form of a book. Understand and get familiar with the activity of reading. It will be really weird if one does not read yet design objects meant for reading.
- G: And if possible, the large bulk of us should not just be interested in designing ‘exciting’ or ’trendy’ publications (whatever that is), but know that there are many other types of printed materials. Dictionaries, atlases, textbooks, academic materials, pamphlets, printed guidelines, instruction manuals, etc., are just some of the other equally important, if not more important printed objects. They are also sometimes much more challenging and complex in nature.
- Takeaway message for readers?
- G: At least for me, the satisfaction of completing a good book/project (to the best of my understanding of what good design is) can never match up to the payment I receive for working on it. There is value to that, to strive for an interest in design practice beyond—not independent of—what can be measured by the market, economy, clients, and whatever systems that frame the (commercial) practice. It is just like how some good books are, where its price can never equal the value of its contents.
Read on for more about Gideon!
Kong Wen Da, Gideon
26 | Maybe Virgo
Creative Approach // To always think about and question your own creative approach / philosophy.
Fact // I am me.
Message // I can never separate it (creative work) from myself no matter how objective I am about it.
FUSSY // About fussiness.