A Turkish designer travels across the world, working in design firms in various countries
Can design change the world? Is there an ideal country to design in? Are the problems of a boutique design firm different from a global agency? These are questions designer Cagri Cankaya would find answers to, when he embarked on his project Designer On The Road.
Twenty-eight-year-old Cankaya, a successful art director in Turkey, wanted to prove that he could work, design and live anywhere. On July 11, 2011, he set off on a world tour, travelling to India, Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea, Ukraine, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, United Arab Emirates, South Africa and Argentina, using his design skills to live in those countries for brief periods.
He gave up the luxury of space and the comfort of language, and culture to work in different locales, from game development studios, global advertising agencies, digital advertising companies, to start-ups and boutique design companies. While his freelancing assignments takes care of the air tickets, his accommodation and salary are paid by the host firm.
His connect with India happened through Sudhir Sharma, the head of a Pune-based design firm, whom he met at the Istanbul Design Week, more than a year ago. Sharma was the first to know about the project and invited him to work at his firm. For Cankaya, it was time to quit his job and get on the road.
Mumbai was his first halt, where he worked at Design FlyOver, a boutique design company. His first assignment was designing T-shirts and nightwear for a Jaipur-based organic textile company.
In Pune, he worked on several projects from designing showrooms to creating posters at INDI Design. He also made a brochure which lists 17 design laws. So what are the laws? “Law 17 reads Survival: Forget all other laws in order to survive,” he says, cheekily.
In Anjuna, Goa, while working with Igoa, a digital advertising agency, he had to create illustrations for a cooking academy website. Using fruits and vegetables in the illustrations, he came up with diverse themes from multi-tasking chefs to fruit-carrying pigeons.
So what were his design discoveries in India? The crowd and the clutter. Not just India’s roads, but magazines, newspapers and advertisements seemed crowded too. “The layouts have a lot going on. I think India has no place for minimalistic design right now.”
His project has exposed him to the nuances of design firms the world over. “In Thailand, I learned that an agency must be as professional as the client. Saying yes to everything that a client says doesn’t bring any success. We would unplug the office phones after 6 pm so that the client respects our working hours. I discovered that there are similarities and common problems in the design industry, no matter where you go,” he says.
Can design change the world then?
“Design can make things user-friendly, easier to understand, and make them better looking, but in the end, it is not going to change the world. But yes, some years ago, a study showed that better signage helped decrease traffic accidents. Redesigned fonts for traffic signs made them more readable from a distance,” says Cankaya.
Having travelled to 15 countries, he infers, “I think there are good and bad designs, and designers everywhere. People often ask which country has the best design environment. I don’t think it’s about countries, it’s about people.” Cankaya is currently in Sao Paulo, Brazil, working in Havas Worldwide, a marketing communications agency, for Citroen.