Maha Ghani

I am a Graphic Designer and general creative thinker, currently based in Scotland. Sharing what I find interesting about my creative field.

Category: Uncategorized

A ‘thing’ to do

Part of my course is a Design Enterprise module, which encourages students to think with a business-orientated mind to compliment their creative side. Within this module we need to come up with a business idea, and this post is my go at it. Or at least me defining the need I think my product can fill.

THE PROBLEM:

You’ve been hearing about how we’re all destroying the planet forever right? Well, as for most people, it had become background noise for me instead of the very serious problem it is. A younger me never took an interest in it; always nodding along, not that I didn’t care, it’s just that I never did anything about it. Always thinking that I didn’t have enough money to donate to charities, and anything I did on a regular basis surely wouldn’t make a difference to how a whole planet functions. However recently I’ve started stumbling onto some things that are making me think twice about everything I do.

Discovering Lauren Singer, a girl that lives with tiny to no waste, sparked my interest (you can check out what she’s all about on her blog), as well as watching short documentaries and reading the odd article or two over the last year has made me re-evaluate my ‘helpless’ attitude towards our environment. Most shocking to me is how our every day activates and shopping habits are creating a bigger problem then we care to think about.

e.g. how our lives revolve around plastic:

There are obviously a lot of problems surrounding environmental damage, some that I can’t even begin to comprehend, but I chose to tackle the problem I and many others suffer; not realising that there can be small changes we can make in our everyday lives that can make a difference. I noticed the attitude and education on the subject needs to be approached with fresh eyes. Ultimately it’s time for the next step, a sustainable step.

But before I go on further, I know I’m starting to sound like every other eco-warrior preaching to the converted or the uninterested. But that’s my exact point. We’ve become so used to hearing these same phrases, we tend to block it out, or just shrug it off. Information needs to be delivered in a different format to make us actually pay attention.

THE IDEA

I’m sure most people have seen the numerous ‘essential life hacks’ floating about the internet that get you excited to DIY your whole house with a packet of gum and some match sticks. However you ultimately save them in a ‘things to do’ folder that gets forgotten about, well my idea stemmed from that. What if you received everything you needed to do such ‘things’ every month or two, with simple instructions, leaving you with no excuse but to make something amazing and have a bit of crafty fun with it.

How does this have anything to do with what I was rambling on about earlier? Well what if these ‘things’ used items most people tend to have and hastily dispose of? So you’re making something new out of something old. Reusing, recycling and revamping what you would previously label as rubbish (to use the words that make us zone-out). Getting them to look at the objects they would discard and give them new life instead of letting them rot in a landfill. The ultimate aim being to encourage, and maybe even excite people to reduce their waste and live more sustainably.

However, the point would be lost if people didn’t know why they were doing this. So a small publication, explaining in digestible chunks, where their waste normally goes, what damage it does and other small things they can do to change their lives might get more people to make big differences to our environment.

THE PRODUCT

I toyed with a lot of ideas in naming such a product, but soon discovered that they all started with ‘Re-’. After looking up the definition it seemed like the simple name I was looking for.

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The direct aim of my product is to get people to reuse and therefore reduce their waste, and the bigger goal would be to (if you can bear another one) rethink their everyday lives to better our planet.

‘re’ would create parcels with one crafty ‘thing’ (or ‘project’) and one small publication with the extra digestible knowledge they need per box. Available for subscription, with a new project every month or two, or available for single purchase to try out or give as a gift.

I’m still developing this business idea so it’s bound to adapt and evolve, but to help me out you can send me feedback on what you think about ‘re’ so far. And if you’re feeling very generous, and have a few minutes to spare, you can fill out a short survey here so I can get a better idea of any potential customers!

Thanks for reading through this raw idea!

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With great power comes great responsibility

As designers we have huge power. Something I didn’t realise when I first got into the industry. I knew I wanted to do graphic design, and very quickly realised that I wanted to do what I always felt passionate about, create positive change, except now I would was picking up a tool to help me. It was only when I really dived into the design world that I understood just how much of a rich culture it holds, and powerful minds it’s encountered. I use powerful because I think it’s more important then the word genius or talented. Those things are nothing without power. And from what I understand power is gained when you use genius or talent to change something, to influence someone to do something great.

Power is the ability to do good things for others-  Brooke Astor

The idea of using design to change important things is obviously in no way a new one. But today I wanted to say that it’s not just that design can do this and does so all over the world, it’s that it should. It has a responsibility.

I starting thinking about this when Lauren Currie, a service designer part of the hugely successful partnership ‘SNOOK’ came to talk to us a few weeks ago. She was a hugely inspirational speaker, but one thing in perticual stuck with me. I was caught by the idea of designers being ‘Guilty by Association’. She claimed that if design has a bad name, it’s because there is still bad design out there and it’s our responsibility to fix it. We’re the only ones who can.

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It’s in this context that I’m talking about responsibility. Doing good doesn’t always mean fighting poverty and solving world starvation (as phenomenal as those things are) it could be as simple as designing a good app that improves someone’s quality of life somewhere. To me, right now doing good means learning what makes good design, learning to use my tool. I’ll see in a few decades time what I’ve crafted with it and what effect it has had.

Values VS Success

I always thought that going into the creative world of work, especially starting out I would have to do my share of mundane jobs, that didn’t really fulfil any purpose but to pay my bills. This thought is one of the things that made me uneasy about what’s to follow in the next few years. However over the last few months I’ve been rethinking my preconception. What if there is a way to stick to your values and start off with high standards, instead of waiting to enforce them when you’re more established?

I should state that by high standards in no way do I mean only huge corporations that pay wads of cash. My standards in no way comply with money and status, quite the opposite. I enjoy work that has purpose and value, which affects someone in a positive way rather then simply making something look desirable. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy creating beautiful things as much as the next designer but I want to do something more with my skills in the long run.

Which brings me back to my original question. Is there a way to keep those values from the start of a creative career?

Today I found my answer. Yes you can.

In the book ‘How to be a graphic designer without loosing your soul’ Adrian Shaughnessy confronted my dilemma. He claimed when he under sold his work his opinions weren’t valued, but when he saw people sticking to their guns they managed to gain respect rather then be dismissed.

In a world with no principles, people often most respect those who have principles- Adrian Shaughnessy

Later on I was fortunate enough to be part of a lecture in which we Skyped Jay Cousins, an innovative product designer currently based in Berlin. Jay was very clear about his ethics, he wanted to be involved with interesting work that wasn’t mundane or socially destructive. When questioned whether these values ever caused problems he claimed if you don’t compromise on ethics, and have a very clear idea in your head of what quality you want to sustain, then people seem to be more willing to negotiate with you until you meet an agreement.

Strive not to be a success but rather to be of value- Albert Einstein

I’m not naïve enough to think this will always be the case in encounters with all clients, but I’m hopeful that in todays world my values will be seen as an asset rather then something to be criticised, and I’ll be a part of innovation and positive change right from the start of my career.

Attaching a personality to a PDF

Being a Graphic Design student I’m no stranger to the idea of branding something, a ­­ it was this fact that caused sudden panic at the start of my new Design Enterprise module. You can brand absolutely anything… including yourself. In fact it wasn’t so much the thought that I could brand myself that was so daunting but more so that I had to, that I had already started from the moment I decided to join this industry I had started a creative footprint, firmly planted on the big bad world. Through social media, through online portfolios, through word of mouth I had started to brand ‘Maha Ghani’ as a person I had to sell.

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When branding something the process always starts with research into your client. Who are you branding? What are they all about? This was what made me so uneasy; I had been ignoring everything about myself. I don’t mean I lost all traces of a personality, just that I hadn’t further developed my interests out from my course. I had been too busy putting every moment into trying to better my portfolio. In my course everyone is well aware that portfolios are normally sent/put online/printed off via PDFs in the hope that someone somewhere will think it’s worth a look. I never thought that that someone might want to know the person behind the work, now suddenly I was faced with the challenge of backtracking through the years and seeing where I left off and develop my interests once more.

At first this was a daunting task, but what I found outside of university, unintentionally ended up breathing life back into my course, bettering my motivation. Reading what I found interesting again, doing what I wanted to without working to someone else’s deadline, really analysing what I like reminded me why I got into design in the first place. Branding myself became a less terrifying thought, and more something to take control of and openly put myself out there. I suppose this is why I’m starting this blog, to continue exploring the things I find important and sharing them as a way of attaching a personality to the PDF.