Can Asia Become the New Centre for Graphic Design? It’s Up to Us

The world came very close to its worst recession this century but thanks to largely vibrant and strong Asian economies, it narrowly averted that fate. What a change from a decade ago when the IMF had to bail out some of the Asian tigers and China and India were still emerging economies then. But unlike before, the Asian governments got their act together and moved as one responsible region. Before the ripples of crisis could reach our shores, governments from China to Singapore unleashed bold stimulus packages. The newly minted wealthy middle-class from Mumbai to Shanghai is also fueling some of the fastest growing demand for high-end luxury goods. No wonder the IMF is now being asked to recognise this reality by admitting China and India into its board. The winds of change have also hit the elite G8 club. President Hu’s sudden departure from the recent summit in Italy nearly paralyzed it. We are now finally witnessing what others have already predicted, the dawn of the Asian Century. But while economic strength or hard power has clearly shifted east, soft power which encompasses ideas, culture and design has remained firmly entrenched in the West. While it’s true that Asians are rising in wealth, they have continued to buy into Western concepts and way of living. Western brands of almost all categories except low-end or value-based continue to be preferred by Asians. And our consumers are not to be blamed because while our region has raced ahead in terms of purchasing power, our attraction power has remained untapped. Graphic design which is a strong visual representation of the presence of soft power is still very much undervalued in this part of the world. So what will it take to shift Asia from being the world’s producer to its centre of creative thinking?

For a long time, Asia’s economic rise has been largely linked to supporting the Western economic model and Western consumption. Therefore graphic design as an industry is not considered high priority in many Asian countries since many major brands still conceptualize their graphical direction in the US or Europe. With the exception of Japan, Korea and perhaps Hong Kong, graphic design is still seen as a commodity and not in terms of value-add. Because of this mindset, many designers take on non-creative work so as to put food on the table. As graphic design is virtually a low-entry barrier discipline, many designers start their own graphic design studios. But as competition increases, given the scarcity of good jobs, many designers resort to lower pricing and free-pitching. The luckier few who manage to serve those who understand the value of design are able to avoid this fate.

If this mindset persists then even if Asia were to race ahead, it will not be served by an equally creative industry that is confident enough to do the work which reflects the vibrant Asian identity. And given the fact that few clients appreciate the purpose of meaningful and good work, many design companies believe that this is almost utopian. So as an industry we are producing a generation of graphic designers who are still conditioned by Western benchmarks and constrained by resources to produce Asian-inspired work.

In another 10 to 15 years time, we will have a rich and large critical mass of affluent middle-class. The world is also increasingly looking towards Asia for ideas. The dazzling Olympic opening in Beijing last year and the fascination with Slumdog Millionaire shows there is a viable market for Asian creativity. But to fill up this vacuum, we need content, creative stars in order to influence the market and see the value of Asian graphic design.

So we need good work to show this and this is why I applaud the efforts of the team who put this book together. Many works featured within this Asia Pacific Design shows what the world can expect from a confident Asia. I am optimistic despite the challenges; pockets of designers are doing their part to inspire the world. The works featured here also show an encouraging trend that clients are beginning to embrace the notion of an Asian identity. But more can be done.

Perhaps it’s time to start a pan Asian graphic design fraternity. Currently design associations are nation-based, maybe it’s time for an Asian body to promote graphic design. Publications like Asia Pacific are extremely important because it helps us discover the richness of ideas that exist among us. If we choose to work together, much more can be achieved. Perhaps this fraternity could be a partnership between design firms and publishers. In this way we have a guaranteed channel to promote good design. We should also have a pan-Asian graphic design index to track the progress of the industry across the continent. If we want others to believe in our work then we have to start now. We need to change mindsets and help shape a more confident Asia. Because that is ultimately the mission of designers, it is a profession in which its work is able to influence societal norms. As many young designers enter the market, hopefully They will find more peers proud of their Asian heritage and 10 years from now, hopefully our vision for graphic design will match up to our economic ambitions. This is a good start and now it’s up to us to continue its inspiration.

A Visit to Rebel – Held Area in Asia

We started our journey towards Kilinochchi and reached the Omanthai Military Check Point, the Northernmost Frontier of the Sri Lanka Army in the mainland and stopped for clearance.

Dr. Jayalath Jayawardene spoke to the Military Officials and we were cleared after a few procedures and set on our journey towards North. In a few minutes’ time by passing the No Man Zone, we reached the LTTE Check Point. I spoke to an LTTE member who questioned me about our mission. I explained our mission and introduced the German team and others there. I told we had already informed the Political wing of the LTTE about our mission.

They were highly concerned about our mission as we were about to visit the Mulaitivu region which is an LTTE stronghold. The German Television crew had come with satellite equipment for direct transmission of disaster immediately from the spot. We thought whether we would be facing any difficulties because of the security issues. But we had been cleared and were on our way to Kilinochchi.

While we were traveling we found both sides of the highway were a blend of dense forests and the paddy lands created a lot of excitement within me. Peacocks were everywhere, busily foraging in the paddy lands.

After two hours of our journey we reached Murukandy, a stopover for passengers where a small Hindu temple is found. It has become a tradition for passengers to stop there and worship the God, which was enshrined in that small temple especially if they were Hindus. Others too used to stop there as a pastime and buy a variety of foodstuff available there. We too stopped for a while but not very long, as we were already late according to our schedule to reach Kilinochchi. We had to arrange accommodation for more than twenty-five persons. I was highly worried as there were fifteen German nationals, and they would expect reasonable accommodation for the night. When we reached Kilinochchi it was early night.

We went to meet LTTE’s media spokesman who was coordinating our mission in the LTTE-controlled areas. He was startled at the number of people on our mission. He asked his subordinates to look around for places to accommodate us. Visiting NGO members and the media people had already occupied the available places. We were stalled for a couple of hours.

The German T.V. crew and the German Praktikum (Internship) students were in their vans for hours and it was sad to see their situation. Some of the youths who came with us from a local T.V. channel started to scold me, as I was the coordinator in those areas. But I had to pacify them saying after all it’s a relief mission, and we were prepared to bear the hardships.

Some how or other the LTTE’s Political Wing found accommodation and I had to take some of the German students to the lodgings, which had been arranged for them. My responsibility had been narrowed down. The German Television crew had also been assigned a place.

Some of the students were asking whether their rooms were equipped with mosquito nets. I had to find rooms with mosquito nets for them. But one room with nets, I had to reserve for a Sinhalese couple as promised. I had taken some extra care that they should not feel that they had been discriminated in a Tamil area. I had told the students I had to keep that room for the couple. All the students got rooms with mosquito nets in that complex except two students. Then I went to the LTTE’s Political Wing office to check what was happening there.

AGSEP’s Director Dietmar Doering said he would be staying where the female students and some of the AGSEP staff were staying for their safety and went with them. The young Sinhalese couple got a room at the LTTE’s Political Wing office. The incident might be as surprising as an Israelit couple taking night shelter at the office of the Palestinian rebels.

I returned to one of the lodgings, where the students were staying and got into the room, which had a mosquito net, which became available, as the couple had found room at the Political Wing. I was a little worried staying in my room because of my German friends. Would they have any misgivings about me? So, I knocked at their room doors, but got no response from them.

The exhausting day-long journey had overcome them with deep slumber.

The DISH Network International Channels Guide

DISH Network has more foreign language channels than either DirecTV or any of the cable TV companies. Here’s a guide to DISH Network International channels.

DISH Network International Channels

DISH Network offers 135 international channels with satellite TV programs and music broadcast in 20 languages – Arabic, Armenian, Chinese, Filipino, German, Greek, Israeli, Italian, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Ukrainian, Urdu, and Vietnamese.

The most popular international channels include:

Arabic (15 channels) – Mini-series, dramas, news, sports, the latest movies, classical movies, talk shows, and sports featuring the Egyptian Soccer League. Channels include Abu Dhabi, Al Jazeera, Dubai Sports, Al Arabiya, LBS, and NBM.

Chinese (19 channels) – The latest cultural and current events plus dramas, movies, talk shows, news, current affairs, and children’s shows. Channels include CCTV, Fijian Straits TV, Hunan Satellite TV, Phoenix Chinese Channel, Beijing TV, China Movie Channel, Dragon TV, and Phoenix InfoNews.

Russian (5 channels) – The latest news, movies, sports, game shows, documentaries, talk shows, sports, and children’s entertainment. Channels include EuroNews, NTV America, TVCI, and RTVI.

South Asian (27 channels) – Movies, up-to-date news, serials, music videos, family entertainment, lifestyle programs, cricket matches, sports, and variety shows. Channels include B4U Movies, Headlines Today, Zee Cinema, Sahara One, TV Asia, ATN Bangla, NTV Bangla, RTV, Gemini TV, and Teja TV.

Spanish (45 channels) – Variety shows, dramas, movies, talk shows, current affairs, news, sports, and music. Channels include Alma Vision Hispanic Network, Azteca America, De Pelicula, The Discovery Channel, ESPN Deportes, Fox Sports, Galavision, Telefutura, Telemundo, TV Columbia, Univision, and World Cinema.

International Channel Programming Prices

DISH Network international channels are sold a-la-carte (as single channels), or as packages of two or more channels. Prices start at $9.99 a month.