13 November 2006
Ronald Kapaz
Ronald Kapaz

TopTalent Brand Identity (c) 2001 Foco Human Resources, designed by Ronald Kapaz, Oz Design. Brand Identity for a .com service in the area of human resources and headhunting. As the service is geared for recently graduated professionals, the idea was to picture them as powerful persons, first, to encourage their hiring, and second, to give young professionals the energy and self-confidence they need in the beginning of their careers.

"The artist in me cries out for design"
Robert Frost (1874-1963), "A Masque of Reason."

What is the essence of a Designer? Why is Design the focus of attention at the leading commercial strategy study centers? Why is aesthetics replacing concepts like reengineering or downsizing as a strategic factor in the lexicon of 'businessmen'?

To answer these questions we must first address, from a historian's perspective, what we, urban men, have produced in the past century, and how this may help us view the new century's challenges.

Two industrial revolutions helped us solve two great challenges of the 20th Century: we needed industrial scale production of goods to meet the demands of a growing urban population, and we needed to produce these goods with technological competence - they had to 'work'.

Simultaneously with and directly related to these two challenges, we lived under an illuministic spell, the fruit of the growing scientific competence that we developed and that bore us to an age of 'elegy of reason'. We were charmed by our ability to explain the world in scientific terms and rule it as a result. But our focus on mastering the outside world, made us forget to pay attention to the inner world, to spirit, to our psychic dimension, to our emotions.

The outcome can be seen in the 'market'.

We live in a technologically bountiful age, earned through the competent use of our rational abilities, of the left side of our brains. At the same time, we produce huge numbers of technologically 'similar' goods, with little symbolic relevance and meaning.

As social animals, we should bear in mind that every gesture or product of ours aims at dialogue, at the exchange of views, and at the construction of the self, of subjectivity. We are in constant pursuit of our peers, even as we strive to be different inasmuch as we wish our peers to acknowledge us as unique and special.

This basic drive towards the pursuit of affection and attention, a psychological motivation, can be understood as a hunger of the spirit, as vital to us, humans, as the hunger of the body, the primitive drive of all living creatures.

It is the quenching of both that leads to subjective happiness (to use a term coined by my friend Eduardo Gianetti, economist and philosopher).

Watching a dance performance, contemplating a sunset, or enjoying Shakespeare are pleasures that feed the soul, as they connect us with our peers and foster our growth as a culture. They are 'calisthenics' for the right side of the brain, which we must resume lest we become the machines we have built to wait on us.

Adauto Novaes, in his book 'The Machine-Man', warns: "the action most celebrated by the modern world is, first and foremost, the manufacturing of things or objects, not relationships among humans." And continues: "For the Greeks, the term praxis (practice) meant reciprocal action among humans."

And where does design enter the stage? Knowing that every act of production or consumption carried out by man is meant to sate two hungers - that of the body and that of the spirit, or psyche - we become aware that we have successfully dealt with the former, through our technological competence, and now face the challenge of (re)incorporating to our goods, which already function appropriately, the expressive and symbolic dimension that will feed our souls.

Expression implies having something to express, communicating relational, ethical, social, psychological, behavioral, human values that are relevant to a given audience, to a given 'tribe'.

Take the example of Nike, which is one of today's major brands, but does not own a single shoe factory anywhere in the world. What is Nike's product, really? What does Nike 'sell'? They sell competitiveness, daring, youthfulness, modernity, a set of human values that, in order to be expressed and become tangible, are presented - designed - as sporting footwear. A set of human qualities which, incorporated to the functional dimension of the object, turn a product into the brand of a tribe and a generation.

This illustrates our current quest of understanding the subjective dimension of well-being, understanding the sociological and expressive dimension of our human condition, and incorporating this dimension, the dimension of culture, into what we produce to achieve happiness.

In a globalised scenario, the importance of the pursuit of cultural identity, expressed as the ability to transmit local values and our peculiar outlook on the world to our products, gains weight.

This is what the world now exchanges within the context of foreign trade. Therefore, the cultural domain plays a strategic, vital role as a source of national reflection on values, their production, and their contribution to the construction of a strong, relevant, unique and Brazilian national identity.

What I perceive and cheers me is the birth of a much-welcome neo-humanism. To design is to shape our spirit, so that we can express and share our world vision. Aesthetics is the visible face of spirit.

Therefore, design now moves towards its real condition as a cultural and strategic actor, evolving from a mere exercise of form into an important instrument for the expression and translation of relevant concepts and values capable of enabling 'exchange among humans'.

We may have to rethink the 'time is money' motto, the fruit of a Protestant, materialistic world vision, to reclaim subtlety and delicacy and remember that, as Mies van der Rohe put it, 'God lives in the detail'.

About Ronald Kapaz
Ronald Kapaz is Head Designer, Founder and one of the three Partners of Oz Design, a 25-year-old design company located in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Oz Design has been nominated for two consecutive years for best Brazilian Design Firm, in a survey held among leading designers of Brazil. Ronald is member of the Council for Ethics of ADG - Brazil.