Thursday April 27, 2017

on design vs. art

“What is art?” and “what is design?” are two of the more difficult questions that generations of philosophers and creative practitioners have attempted to grapple. The recurring question of my working identity as either an artist or a designer has always been a great source of contemplation and confusion, as I have attempted to describe myself (to myself and) to others, within the framework imposed in default questions such as, “…so what do you do?” But ultimately, does it really matter if one cannot be placed so cleanly in the boxes society will tend towards? Do definitions really help to appease the ambiguity of true self identity?


A look at the semantic differentiation between the nouns ‘art’ and ‘design’ may prove useful to some, but I for one am not convinced.


From Apple Dictionary:


art 1 |ɑːt|

1 [ mass noun ] the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power: the art of the Renaissance | great art is concerned with moral imperfections | she studied art in Paris.
• works produced by human creative skill and imagination: his collection of modern art | [ as modifier ] : an art critic.
• creative activity resulting in the production of paintings, drawings, or sculpture: she’s good at art.
2 (the arts) the various branches of creative activity, such as painting, music, literature, and dance: the visual arts | [ in sing. ] : the art of photography.
3 (arts) subjects of study primarily concerned with human creativity and social life, such as languages, literature, and history (as contrasted with scientific or technical subjects): the belief that the arts and sciences were incompatible | the Faculty of Arts.
4 a skill at doing a specified thing, typically one acquired through practice: the art of conversation.



design |dɪˈzʌɪn|

1 a plan or drawing produced to show the look and function or workings of a building, garment, or other object before it is made: he has just unveiled his design for the new museum.
• [ mass noun ] the art or action of conceiving of and producing a plan or drawing of something before it is made: good design can help the reader understand complicated information.
• [ mass noun ] the arrangement of the features of an artefact, as produced from following a plan or drawing: inside, the design reverts to turn-of-the-century luxe.
2 a decorative pattern: pottery with a lovely blue and white design.
3 [ mass noun ] purpose or planning that exists behind an action, fact, or object: the appearance of design in the universe.


verb [ with obj. ]
decide upon the look and functioning of (a building, garment, or other object), by making a detailed drawing of it: a number of architectural students were designing a factory | (as adj., with submodifierdesigned) : specially designed buildings.
• do or plan (something) with a specific purpose in mind: [ with obj. and infinitive ] : the tax changes were designed to stimulate economic growth.



As nouns, I believe that both dictionary definitions can be be switched to still clearly describe stages of what constitutes art or design. Try substituting the meanings and please tell me if they cannot fit into one another.


In applying the definition of ‘designing’ (verb) a work— understood as one which looks to define an outcome that solves a set problem within a set of given constraints (a certain type of object or experience with specific predetermined qualities)—all works of art may be viewed as design works if an artefact or experience reveals the initial intention of the designer/artist whilst keeping within those predetermined parameters. By this logical yet obscure reasoning, design is art with specific intention that retains a certain proximity to its predetermined constituents; any form or experience which intends to do something specific, and does it, whilst abiding by some rules which look to predict its final form. Despite this, I am still unclear on whether I am a designer or an artist, at heart…


Let’s take a different view. Does the ‘success’ of a created object or experience change its noun status? Considering intention and judgment within this perspective reveals imposed linguistic limitations. Using the example of a ‘house’, most would determine that the form itself is a piece of design, insofar as it is a structure constructed to shelter people and is primarily created with that intent. Whether the house is successful in sheltering people or to what level this success can be measured determines how ‘good’ a house it is; how good a design it is, draws subjective processions of conclusions from its functionality, or its liveability in the case of a house, with its perceived aesthetic appeal. Apparently this may prove a house is a piece of design (noun).  However the very same house, may have been realised by a sculptor, and not an architect, with the very same material knowledge and stylistic penchant, resulting in the very same final construction. Designed by an artist. Further, the so-called greatest houses in the world, through common vernacular, may also be called “works of art”, further adding to confusion around definitions. In this way to describe a creative work as ‘art’ is then an elevation bestowed only to the finest deemed designs. 


The design of a Pandora’s Box is a work of art, set out by Pandora to achieve growing complication…


I’ll stop here for now.



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Friday January 2, 2015

disaster and the question of identity

As we wind up 2014, a string of aviation disasters mar social conscience driving ever-increasing fears of travel and the world at large. From the shooting down of Malaysian passenger airline MH17, then the vanishing of its MH370 flight, to the most recent AirAsia QZ8501 mid-sea crash, 2014 was not a year for travellers in particular to remember. Naturally, the tragic loss of lives under such circumstances is a nightmare we can only hope to never experience. In the reality of such events, family and friends of the perished will now journey the waves of extreme grief compounded by shock and the tragic circumstances.


Through all of this though, I can’t help but sense a recurring sense of deeper humanity looking to show itself. Somewhere beyond the news coverage of haunting seascape loops and wailing mothers (which, taking nothing away from the sincerity of the emotions of those poor people), the commercial media, as always, seeks to pull at the heartstrings for ratings, viewership and the ensuing financial profit. As a by-product, this sensationalism machine plays a major role in instilling a wider culture of fear, then not so coincidentally, offers ceaseless materialistic remedy through advertised products dotting the news gaps from their corporate business buddies. Advertising slots filled during marathon disaster coverage will have many a brand manager grinning, with the unforeseen spike in highly emotional viewers, a gleeful bonus for their marketing agendas. The facts actually read that 2014 is one of the safest years in history for overall aviation fatalities with 761 deaths, compared to 2,429 in 1972 or 2,331 in 1986 (Source: Aviation Safety Network). But you wouldn’t guess that, glued to the endless doomsday reel coming from the news. Most of society it seems, cannot see beyond this televised, engineered fear mongering, and fall unwillingly into the perfect consumer mindset. “But these are real events that are happening in the world!” you might shriek. Setting aside the question of just how ‘real’ all of the various harrowing stories may be, there are in fact far more really real events in our own lives, everyday that are in fact directly relevant to our existence. Yet, the ‘news’ would have you believe that these instantly relevant facts are unimportant compared to their continual horror show presented in 16,777,216 colours in high definition widescreen from the safety of your cosy lounge room. Despite all this, I am looking to spotlight a more profound and recognisable humanity away from sensationalised distortion.


Within the extreme pain of sudden loss, the undeniable reflection of our own mortality and the ever-present dilemma of our very existence tolls starkly. Few would be willing to endure the deepest sense of vulnerability of such moments to look for any positive, and yet, it is through these disasters that the human modality almost exclusively returns to a clear sense of community, operating visibly through pure compassion and a certain kindness, albeit stained with tears of desperation. For a moment it seems, all the social-media and virtual technology which subjugates modern living may just be revealed for what is: a flimsy simulacra for real, physical unity of human beings with voiced words and direct eye-contact. These disasters have a way of automatically reducing the human experience to a basis of benevolent interaction with each other. What can this reveal about our deepest sense of identity then? As humans, we are programmed to switch into autopilot, often in the most challenging of times. Beyond survival and fight or flight responses, our emotional instincts, although perceived subjectively, are shared universally. I am speaking of what it means to be a human. Even the most hardened soldier for example, conditioned into a killing tool, will hold the well of emotions to an even greater degree in the realm of repression, mostly, just out of consciousness, and therefore will be subjected to the more damaging nature of their influences, stealthily operating from the tunnel network beneath their awareness. There is similarity in this type of grooming, as mentioned earlier in the ignorant consumer mentality, conditioned to buy in moments of unease and low self-esteem for instance.


Growing consciousness of our deepest inner mechanisms is not a plight walked lightly, but in doing so, pathways to healing and empowerment can result if the taxing navigation through the murk of our own shadows can be bared. To me, it makes sense that when suffering, the ideal opportunity presents itself to peer through the otherwise hardened casing of our ‘normal’ everyday selves — not to disconnect from negative emotions, but rather to immerse ourselves wholeheartedly in such unavoidable experiences for the sake of looking for the light switch, so to speak. I acknowledge that to do so, is initially counter-intuitive to most, where an aspect of our selves looks for protection against all types of pain, and the warm, but ultimately vanishing blanket of denial, can be so inviting an option. But you can teach yourself a great lesson from the willingness to observe yourself and the natural humanity that flows from others during such challenging times, and be reminded that ultimately, acceptance of our nature is the same thing as acceptance of each other and of life and all its obscurities.



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Thursday October 30, 2014

cult of the hipster™

Ok warning… this is rant. A rant which will be highly biased, intolerant and appear as quite brutal to some people. But as all good rants, this is merely letting off some steam. If you identify yourself as a modern hipster, you’d probably want to stop reading this about, now.


In my journeys throughout the urban Melbourne space, I am bombarded with cookie-cutter design aesthetics and people-clones walking about. Now I realise this is not new by any stretch of the imagination. The majority of humans, well, have always been sheep. Of current trend for the last few years is the so-called ‘Hipster’ aesthetic fad. Since going completely commercial around the beginning of that time, things now have moved beyond absolute hip-saturation. Also now a design fad, hipster style showcases: thin, minimal fonts with a few hairlines and boxes thrown onto everything without great attention to geometric precision; with over-simplified emblems featuring crossed cutlery, arrows, razor blades, pencils; and silhouette icons of beards, moustaches, pipes, black frame glasses, swallows, diamonds and fucking triangles everywhere!


Now look, my intention is not to be cynical or out of the loop or come across as old-school — many modern hipsters are actually older than me — but I have slowly observed Melbourne, like so many big cities, ploughed by commercial media culture, become ‘hipster’ to my utter horror. It’s not that I don’t appreciate a nice beard or moustache or two, I mean, I come from a long line of Italian men with moustaches… ‘real’ men who smoked Marlboro and were cowboys in their own minds. My issue with the hipsterization* of wider culture is, {*’z’ spelling intentional, U-S-Australia,} that ultimately it is a gross perversion and rip-off of subcultures long gone. A mix of colonial/1950s/yuppy Americana style with slightly more than a splash of skin ink from a few bygone tattoo eras. Most contemporary hipsters have no idea where their look comes from at all. Most believe they are so amazingly cool and new, yet if they actually did scour the archives of twentieth century culture to reveal the history of their aesthetic guise, perhaps they wouldn’t feel so cool after all. Most modern hipsters have no idea that their very name is stolen from a non-related 1940s jazz subculture, from people who had swing and groove and generally identified as hipster because they appreciated great musical ability and open-minded attitudes of individual expression and personal freedom.


The ‘modern hipster’, born from the capitalist consumer machine, was clandestinely sold to the new clones through advertising, celebrities, commercial films, magazines and music clips, and spread like a skin-blackening disease amongst the droves who, all looking to out-cool each other, ended up as a byproduct of a purposely engineered consumer dehumanising assembly-line. The age-old marketing objective to sell them aspiration, it seems, has sold ‘cool’ to the ever-growing flock who didn’t stop to think (largely at all… but especially didn’t stop to think) what the word ‘cool’ actually means.  But of course, we live in an era when the power of corporate marketing influence is so great, that it can pervert the meaning of our very language, alongside the manipulation of mass thought, decisions and actions. Maybe I’m wrong, but I thought ‘cool’ meant NOT looking and acting like everyone else and actually doing your own thing with the attitude that, “I neither care what other people do, look like or think”. Influences from the current zeitgeist will obviously be part of any individual’s style, but for so many to ‘become [insert fad name here]’, so whole-heartedly and blindly is personal identity loss at a level that actually scares me. Scary because all this is not in essence really about ‘hipster’ at all; rather a demonstration that the masses can be unknowingly spurred to sacrifice their sense of self to a large degree, for the sake of ‘cool’, or ‘tough’, or ‘young’, or ‘hot’ or whatever other word you care to substitute for the real word: acceptance. It’s a sad world where people unknowingly seek acceptance and validation through others in place of self-knowing and self-esteem. What a dull and unsatisfiable world. But as the great Frank Zappa once said, “If you end up with a boring miserable life because you listened to your mom, your dad, your teacher, your priest, or some guy on television telling you how to do your shit, THEN YOU DESERVE IT.”


But back to the creative world, Hipster design, like all other fad graphic design, is largely propagated by mediocre computer operators who lack the innovation and ability to placard OUR physical and virtual spaces with something other than monkey-see monkey-do graphics — that is, something other, like innovative, skill and technique-based creations which communicate a message other than, “I have a beard (which gets trimmed by a barber/thief who charges 20 times the amount an actual barber would charge, but will get my money because she/he like me, has the tattoos and business cards with a pair of fucking crossed razor blades on them!!!!!!)”.


Rant over.



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Wednesday May 28, 2014

vignelli leaves us

It is with great sadness that I learn of the passing of seminal modernist designer Massimo Vignelli, who passed away in his Manhattan home at the age of 83 yesterday. Vignelli brought European design aesthetics to America and also believed that all design is one; that a great designer and creative can (and should) design anything. Thank you Massimo, your legend will remain an inspiration in the generations to come.


Massimo Vignelli


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Monday January 13, 2014

new year, new beginnings…

The story of 2014 is beginning very positively for Metafork and myself in particular. I was recently asked to contribute a chapter in the internationally published book “Success in Business”, edited by well-known English writer and editor Kizzi Nkwocha. In the chapter, I outline some insights for new business starters on seeing their new venture as an opportunity to become a life calling, and further to impact a wide audience who will become their greatest advocates.

Publications can be purchased directly through the publishers website here and will soon be available through

An excerpt from my chapter:

Connecting to your business, then connecting to the world

The following chapter is, put directly, about Brands and Branding in this instance, the B words. This is not a traditional marketing rant by normal standards. Despite the fact that I run a brand design business in the marketing industry, I am generally resentful of mainstream marketing and the way it has influenced modern mankind. My approach is to consciously work from within an often-exploitative system, against the grain, to transform each of my clients’ views of their brand and business, to one of two-way purpose and social responsibility. The real point of this perspective you are reading is more about considering your business as a vehicle to contribute something profound to your life and the life of others – to open your eyes to the way the system works, to then utilise it in a respectful manner through your business, understanding your responsibilities as a contributor to modern culture and an influencer of people. It operates to open your awareness to an often-unknown area of commercial practice and draw your attention to the importance of connection and self-awareness – to look beyond business as only money. Let me explain an existing issue with the B words in detail. ‘Branding’ or ‘brand’ are amongst the most misused and misunderstood terms in the commercial realm, and shamefully even, in marketing, communication and design spheres. Hordes of marketers, advertising executives and graphic designers perhaps in misguided attempts to explain their work to uninterested, confused people, have likely propagated the B misnomer. Many of the so-called professionals here have some serious competency questions to answer for in this regard. Cryptic and often unintelligible explanations on company websites and at business seminars attempt to explain the elusive ‘brand’ through nineteen-odd diagrams composed of more arrows than you’ll find in 15th century Sherwood Forest. And most general encyclopaedias or dictionaries won’t help you get it either. There is mass-confusion and misunderstanding around the B words, so this chapter will seek to make this topic as easy to comprehend as possible…


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Thursday December 5, 2013

international musings on identity / 日本

The spirit of profound, collective identity is perhaps best witnessed through travel to foreign countries. Through outsider observation or comparison to one’s own culture, ‘another way of being and doing’ is only really understood when abroad. The old cliché of being a traveller and not a tourist, is well-realised through cultural reflection both on where you are and where you’ve come from. The differences allow insights into the very notion of identity.

Nations with traditions of isolation, when accessed today, offer outsiders observations of uniqueness in identity and some historical perspectives frozen in time. In an ever-globalising world, Japan embodies a rich history of unique spiritual idealism and practical perfectionism, now, strangely underpinning the ultra-embracement of Westernism and consumer excess. From a country that just over a century ago was closed to the outside world, the eagerness of the Japanese to (at least on the surface), personify with the ways of the west is indeed baffling to a casual observer. This bizarre marriage of supposedly conflicting methodologies, is surely part of the reason why so many visitors have such strong opinions of Japan.

Japan: Tokyo New Fire Truck / Imperial Palace Gate

The uniqueness in the Japanese way has developed over many centuries, but at the root is a heritage of fierce individualism which until relatively recently, resisted much external influence. A mentality which favours hard work, and selfless dedication to any task, has produced an intricacy to the façade of a culture based on aesthetic excellence. Even the most mundane tasks, the Japanese seem to transform into artform. Service is hence amongst the highest in the world; even at late-night convenience stores from awkwardly gangly teenagers who would surely rather be playing computer games behind closed shoji screens.

For those interested in deeply understanding what makes a people tick, there are some ardent lessons to be learnt from Japan. There is no question of cultural identity inconsistency. For anyone interested in how a nation can forge such a distinct identity through its unique character and communicate it with unwavering certainty, the Japanese are amongst the greatest teachers. Their style is perhaps one of the most easily recognisable and at times also one of the simplest. A culture which deeply understands and displays beauty — often mysterious, understated and intricately encased — can be a great inspiration against the bombardment of others, shouting, exploding and forcibly blaring their way to you attention. But of course, Japan also has these in-your-face manifestations, in case you need some amplified exaggeration to remind you of what you’re missing from the TV.


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Saturday August 10, 2013

wise words from a wise man.

Massimo Vignelli is a great visionary of design who through persistent focus on timeless messages, presented through his classic modernist style, has greatly influenced Metafork’s ethos on what it does. His vision is shared with Metafork which works towards cultural responsibility and creating messages and functional symbols for society to incorporate into every day life. The role of the designer should be above all, the ability to create functional objects and messages which have the power to teach society something valuable about itself and to empower it to see and do remarkable things. This is the opposite of the marketing-driven consumer world, which greedily propagates ignorance to keep society in the vicious cycle of buy-use-consume-need-buy.

Watch Massimo Vignelli


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Monday February 4, 2013

ebook online now… the revolution is here!

There’s something Metafork would like to share with you. For a limited time, the new publication ‘The Revolution Starts Now.’ will be available for free download in a digital form through the Metafork website. This is a chance to self-reflect on where your business or project is really going, through a different set of eyes. Metafork is looking to grow and with our growth, we bring new partners towards a path of their growth. We are starting a revolution!

Check out the eBook, and please share with friends, family and colleagues while it’s still available for download free:

The Revolution Starts Now. eBook Download


comment received Thursday September 19, 2013

I wanted to pass on a very little observation to thank you so much again for the breathtaking secrets you’ve featured in this eBook. It is surprisingly open-handed from someone like you, in giving unhampered just what most people could possibly have to help make money from their own end, especially given that you might well have done it to make money yourself if you desired. The strategies provide a great way to understand a good deal more concerning the situation around branding for any business. I am sure there are thousands of more pleasant experiences for people who look in detail through your site. Thank you!

- Evelyn

comment received Sunday August 11, 2013

This is a really valuable read. Thanks a lot! It has changed the way I’m looking at my business from the inside.I was really unaware of this perspective and it is a way to view where the flaws currently lie and what might be done to get things going again.

- Russell M.

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Monday January 14, 2013

a new year begins.

So, the world did not end! What does this mean for you and your main focus for this year? At Metafork we’re taking the spirit of revolution into our approach to 2013. It’s time for upheaval in the way things are done, with no time for old ways. Stay tuned for a free guide into a radical way to view your business. Is this finally the time for some big changes for you?


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Thursday December 27, 2012

hello world!

A very warm welcome to everyone. It has been quite some time in the making, but the Metafork website is finally here! As I turn my gaze with great conviction to the future, I know there will be many exciting and remarkable pathways presenting themselves, with many great new and reborn brands just waiting to pop into existence! I look forward to sharing many profound experiences with partners, past, present and future.


comment received Saturday December 29, 2012

Great to see your website is finally up!
Looking forward to seeing some exciting new projects soon!

- Margaret Knears

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