The word design is associated in many fields. Whether it is product, architecture, fashion or graphic, design has become a way of thinking to solve a problem. As to full fill the purpose of this article, design will be referred in the context of visual communication. Can design actually make a difference? Yes. Design already has a huge impact on our lives. Whether it is a teapot or a traffic signage, we already coexisting with design in our everyday life. So how can design be used to make a social impact?
It started back in college coming up with an independent project for the final year of my B.A. Coming from a culturally divers background (Sri Lanka) it was never really defined as to what its innate design identity or if there were one. Every theory was prone to controversy of originality that “it was brought here, not born here”. Therefore the sole purpose of this project was to find and create what is it that Sri Lankan style?.
Any nation to build its own visual style its history of arts and crafts has a huge influence. Therefore carefully looking back and studying its cultural roots and influences seemed to be the obvious answer, the problem with it was that Sri Lanka is being a multicultural country. Therefore the first and biggest challenge was to create a visual style that can be related by all its people.
As the solution, instead of rediscovering the roots, it was decided to create one graphic element with the incorporation of design elements from traditional arts and crafts representing all 4 major religions in Sri Lanka. Such as Kolam design from Hinduism, Lotus flower form Buddhist motifs, interlacing star from Islamic art and stained glass from Christian church architecture. And use that element as a guide in creating the logo and developing the visual language.
The second big challenge was to present this idea. Even though the purpose was to find and create a visual language that can be associated with people from many cultural backgrounds, at the end of the day the project has to be within a medium that can be used to communicate the idea simply and creatively. Therefore I chose an occasion – hypothetically – that this type of a project would come in handy. Olympics! The event that gets attention of all 7 continents and the opportunity to parade the distinctiveness and the identity of a nation. What if Sri Lanka were to host Olympics for 2024? The concept was presented in the context of branding and visual identity design for Olympic Games in Colombo 2024. You can read the complete case study here.
The reason this particular project was brought up to concern is to take a second and see how design can be used for greater good. Even though there are many other better examples, the difference starts with a thought. A thought for greater good. So this is one of many ways of making a social impact. Therefore this project sets an example for cultural harmony through design. Whether it is for a cause or commission as designers there is a huge responsibility of what we put out into the world. So how can we make a difference? What can we do to make an impact? If you have an idea to make a difference make it happen, get assistance, it doesn’t always take much resources. It starts with taking a good look around us.