April 06, 2005
Back to the Ho-tel
Returned last evening to Ho Chi Minh City, luckily. Having already missed one flight in the last week, I almost got bumped in Bangkok for having a "used" stamp on my multiple entry visa for Vietnam.
Anyhow, there's something about this city that I always love returning to. I'm not sure what it is, only that after a couple months I always feel the need to escape it. The motorcyle congestion, dust and never-ceasing activity. A world away from say, Chiang Mai, or even Bangkok. It is about the differences between two regional neighbors that has my focus today. I just polished off a reply to a friend in the US, a designer now working in ceramics, about the state of design in Vietnam.
Both design and education in Vietnam are in desperate need of reform. We are seeing a commercial interest developing in design education, for example, schools that specialize in graphic, video and web software training. But for a handful of exceptions, the conceptual and creative development is seriously compromised, which more often than not, defaults to ripping off ideas and visual styles from more established design trends. How many "matrix" inspired tv commercials can one see in a 5 minute block on VTV? I have counted 3. I have recently returned from a creative junket in Thailand (well, not technically a junket, since everything came out of my own pocket). It is interesting to observe the disparity in the design sophistication among the two countries.
Vietnam can and must move forward in the creative sector. But improvements must be made around the board from education, to commerce, and even to cultural criticism. Can somebody please redesign a comfortable and cheap plastic stool for sidewalk eating? Stackable yet ergonomic (that is, ergonomic for Vietnamese people who can maintain a position with bended knees for hours). On a more positive upnote, some Vietnamese designers are taking the challenge seriously, such as FontViet, who have redesigned some of the finest typefaces to work with Vietnamese diacritical marks properly. Careful attention here is paid to the unusual design challenges of the extended baselines and cap heights.
I brought back some interesting design magazines, such as Art4D, to share with my colleagues. I believe that condition will improve here. But it's going to be a long haul. It remains to be seen if Cambodia will surpass Vietnam in the process.
Footnote: Back to the Hotel, an old-school 90's hip hop track from the Bay Area's N2Deep. How appropriate.
Posted by rst at April 6, 2005 10:45 PM
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