When was the last time we came across any piece of art that was truly stunning? How often do you have a creative block? When did the creative block go from being rare to very often? When did we hear or experience something new that changed a perception about something? Are we heading to a point where there is nothing new to discover? Are we not curious anymore? Don't we want to experiment? Curiosity is the only thing that has driven people to make art.
We go through life taking decisions battling between needs and desires, but design creativity is harnessed by the combined force of need and desire. We have easy access to any kind of information than ever before. This could also be the reason why we think it's an over-designed world and hence we lack inspiration. Because, no more than often we are given the feed that's trending, sponsored or similar to that. Also, the distraction is so high these days, trying to focus on something itself is a herculean task. Also, as Tamilians, we are living in constant fear of our identity being taken away from us. We are more conscious about everything around us, yet our evaluation about everything is almost negative. We have this constant feeling of being scammed. This is a very common feeling we get from a good chunk of our customer base. 499/- is considered too pricey. The most common response we get from a bargainer is that these t-shirts are available in Tiruppur at a very cheap price. I know for a fact that these customers will never buy the one's available at Tiruppur(even though they are Angi's knock-offs), because of the most common factor being the quality of the product. People know the difference but it's the question of understanding why 499/- is reasonable. In fact, it's so reasonable that it's highly competitive. We generally say the complications of the design is why it is priced at this. We immediately get a response saying why is this of the same price, this is not so complicated. Whereas, two Tamilians working in Singapore bought an NFT from Beeple for 69 million dollars which the whole world talked about. So, how do we value a piece of art or design? I absolutely have no idea. An artist's work is very personal to the creator him/her self. A designer's product is supposed to be personal to the consumer. My friends Prateek and Siddhatya once explained that art is an emotional creation, where as a design is a product with functionality. Since Angi is a Ready-To-Wear(RTW) mass market brand we have to focus on making designs that will have a major commercial aspect to it. I am stuck here battling between my inner conscience(the creative aspect) and learning about money making skills, and I'm still exploring the mindset of the people who buy from us. Let's take "Theethum Nandrum" as an example here, because it was one of the easiest designs I had composed, which had a little sense of satisfaction as a creative designer. The typography was very simple to make, but to give visual appeal I picked up the idea of yin & yang which is based on the concept of dualism. But I can't use the exact same symbol as yin & yang, because every design has to have a personal touch to give a very basic sense of satisfaction. At that time, the Fashion Forecast reports carried a heavy reference to glitches and pixels inspired from the 90's digital medium. So I gave a very pixilated glitch effect to the two contrasting circles. Not a great effort in the entire composition because references for everything were already available with very little knowledge I had. Turns out, the graphic design sold well. It was in fact a huge hit.
There is another design similar effort, "Thamizh". This composition had had "Thamizh" written in vertical orientation inspired from the Mandarin script with a very geometric background. This too turned out to be a huge hit.
But the setback here personally as a designer is, the typography is a complete rip-off of an already existing artwork that was available on Pinterest, because the artwork was done in absolute haste and hence I couldn't do proper research to develop an original one. But time and again, this process with "Thamizh" has proved to be very lucrative for the brand and myself as a commercial designer, but as a person I will always curse myself for not being true to my knowledge. I was not at all satisfied with the kind artworks I had developed with the similar process. But most of the personally satisfying artworks have never turned out to have even decent sales. For instance, let's take the comic cover series of Raavan, Hanuman and Raam. I would have easily spent 3 months on working on all three artworks.
Only Raavan and Hanuman were printed onto the t-shirts, neither worked for us economically. During the three months of rigorous research & designing, I had worked on "Aram Seyya Virumbu". This needs special mention because all it took me was 15 minutes of research and 5 minutes of designing. The deal here is, this particular design proved to be a very good hit for more than one year. This is one of the most dissatisfying designs ever to exist.
I'm still hitting a cul-de-sac with the customer preference. Post the Comic cover series, there are so many artworks that yet to be printed onto t-shirts and my efforts in making an artwork has considerably reduced. The big question of what I learnt at college arises. Is the curriculum not suitable for a commercial designer or have I understood the entire process the wrong way? What kind of artworks do the customers prefer? Absolutely no idea. There has been no pattern in customer behavior as far as I've seen. But in terms of colour, people prefer blues, blacks and dark greens. But another general feedback we have been getting is that, Angi has become very dark and serious in terms of colours and artworks. Aren't these the same people who wanted only safe colours. It is quite confusing to design for our people albeit it's just one garment. I'm going to make another couple of mentions before I wrap this up. A major experiment was "Tamizh A", I wanted to try out a simple change in silhouette, so made this into a long-line t-shirt. The colour was also an unusual brown with a touch of orange. Guess what, a hit! This was a major confusing point for us because this was a random experiment that gave us a huge surprise. This got my hopes high, because this was the only experiment that worked. I was thinking of expanding our product line with belts, caps and raincoats(because the monsoon was due in a few months). Before we head off to another experiment, I thought I'll give the long-line another shot before I take off. I chose the classic "Chennai Vaasi" design, classic because it has stayed the longest and sells all the time. In fact, we had a set of customers who came to us just buy Chennai Vaasi. So for the Autumn-Winter 2019 collection, I turned one Chennai Vaasi into a long-line. An utter flop! One year later, we chopped the length and made it into a regular t-shirt length, after which it got sold. Yet another confusing spot. The catch here is, Chennai Vaasi is another rip-off from Adidas. In fact, I used the same font from Adidas's design. Chennai Vaasi now is a part of Angi's core collection. Just to break away from all of this, I have been very keen on developing fresh and original artworks since the last one year. Since the lockdown, not much of a prospect in terms of sales. So, it's too early to make a statement. I'm sticking to the age old advise that our customers suggest, "Bold-on-the-face-design". Our customers seem to take pride in whatever they buy from us. The new collection rolls out in a month's time. Let's see what you guys have in store for us this time!