August 19, 2016

Just imagine: Yangon Redesigned

Alec James Wilmot

Example poster from the event – a graphic illustration of traditional Myanmar dishes.
Example poster from the event – a graphic illustration of traditional Myanmar dishes.

“First impressions are formed in a fraction of a second,” said Ms Monika Traikov, Creative Director of NEX Labs Yangon, during her presentation on Yangon business design and advertising on Wednesday night.
Ms Traikov was addressing a collection of journalists, design industry professionals and marketing team members present at the invitation of Yangon Redesigned, a project that falls under the umbrella of NEX Labs Yangon. Ms Traikov the start-up creative endeavour pushes itself as a way forward for Myanmar businesses wishing to bring a fresh and exciting new look to their businesses and promotional materials.
“Walking around the streets of Yangon, you see beautiful examples of historic architecture, luscious textiles, incredibly intricate trinkets and toys: but graphic design has been left in the dark,” Ms Traikov said.

A creative interpretation of the Myanmar alphabet.
A creative interpretation of the Myanmar alphabet.

Wednesday night’s event was intended to highlight the benefits of bringing fresh eyes to a brand logo. The early work of rebranding local companies was successful, however more recent efforts have been complicated by local business owners who are afraid to embrace change – sometimes for the basic reason that aesthetic change is thought of as risky, almost alienating. There is a definite unwillingness to break away from the herd.
More complicated, though, is bridging the cultural gap between traditional aesthetics, which are rooted in strong local customs and ancient Myanmar lore, and modern design principals. Ms Traikov said that some of her team’s design pitches have been rejected on the grounds that they did not appeal enough to traditional sensibilities.
Such considerations are to be expected in Myanmar, they admit, yet it seems to the creative team that the rejections speak more to local businesses ignoring the innate power of fresh and bold design and branding than it does to any encroaching threat of cultural dullness or loss of tradition.

Members of the Yangon Redesigned team with NEX’s CEO, U Ye Myat Min (centre left)
Members of the Yangon Redesigned team with NEX’s CEO, U Ye Myat Min (centre left)

“We now focus more on designs that highlight and celebrate Yangon and Myanmar culture, while still putting an emphasis on how to create good design,” she explained.
The reaction of Yangon Redesigned is to approach the market with a more sensitive and inclusive mindset – they recently ran a social-media based design marketing campaign themed around thanaka, which invited Yangonites to offer their own creative interpretations of the traditional face paint cum sunscreen. The team’s new line is that embracing modern marketing design and aesthetics doesn’t necessarily mean leaving the past behind – and this was the purpose of Ms Traikov’s presentation.
The re-branders are re-branding themselves to be better suited to meet the needs of potential customers. The event proved not only that Yangon Redesigned is dynamic, soaking up feedback and ideas to implement change within their own organisation but that they are willing to harness their own brand power and public presence to demonstrate exactly what it is they can do for their clients. First impressions may be formed within a fraction of a second, but a memorable design will stick in your memory for life.


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