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We speak to Lisette Scheers, founder and creative director of Kuala Lumpur-based creative agency L.Inc and stationery brand, Nala Designs, on fostering braver and better design creativity in Malaysia. And how she hopes to play her part through her upcoming design academy, TH.Inc.
Lisette Scheers’ guide to a fulfilling creative life is simple enough: do your best work, make no compromises, make it real, keep it personal, never lose sight of the small details, and just make it beautiful.
But you can’t make the world beautiful without fighting for it.
Creating good, commercial design work is a process filled with many challenges. And it takes not just talent, but the right blend of curiosity, open-mindedness, and organizational and communication skills. All of which can be learnt and developed.
It’s a personal philosophy she’s had since her early days in advertising in Antwerp, Brussels and Amsterdam. After her last stint as Creative Director in Ogilvy & Mather in Amsterdam, she moved to Malaysia in 2004, setting up the Visual Communication Department at Raffles Design Institute and teaching there.
In 2006, she started up her commercial design practices in Kuala Lumpur. And now, her natural passion for teaching has led towards her developing her next project, TH.Inc.
For Lisette, Malaysians have the talent, they have the creative eye; they just need that extra help and mentorship to overcome these challenges and in the process become braver, more confident creatives.
How do you see the Malaysian design industry evolving?
I can’t really say as I’m focused on the problems and challenges now. I feel that we have a rich design heritage in Malaysia. Look at the Straits Chinese, the P. Ramlee era for example, and as long as we don’t forget this heritage, we have an amazing design platform to build on.
Where are the places to go in Malaysia to see, feel and learn about our design heritage?
Penang is obviously doing a good job and Ipoh too. The preservation of those architectural heritage sites is an important connection to Malaysian design history.
What is your vision for TH.Inc?
TH.INC is going to be a postgraduate academy for people who want to learn to become better designers and creatives. I want our graduates to be seriously good designers who are also amazing problem solvers, who are inspired to find new ideas all the time, who can take the initiative with clients and put their point of view across. I want them to be thinkers, doers and be confident about being different. I want to wake up the hunger inside them.
Why do you see a need for something like TH.Inc?
I feel that the design industry here in Malaysia could use a shake-up. We have very talented people, but it can be better. I want to encourage more opinions, more diverse points of view in local design. Being a good designer is more than just adapting from Pinterest boards and Instagram photos. It’s about understanding the context of the design, how it can solve the client’s brief, researching deeper into the meaning of the design, and then distilling it into work that’s powerful and beautiful.
Sounds like you want designers to rock the boat more.
Yes, absolutely! We need more local designers who can think, feel and create. To dare to be different, to be bold and stand out. I want them to break out of their comfort zone, to not be content with the current situation of expectation – whether it’s from clients or from social pressures. For the sake of their individual growth, our designers shouldn’t stop expressing themselves.
From the outside, being a designer seems fun and slightly frivolous. Is this a perception you hope to challenge?
Honestly, design is a profession that is seriously underappreciated. It’s an intangible process and not many people can understand the invisible efforts and the thinking that goes behind it. And sometimes, even designers don’t accept the extra mile and just go with what’s prettiest or trendy. NO. Never give up, take pride in your work and it will come through in your designs and professionalism. That’s how designers will change that perception in clients and people.
How do you manage client expectations and not compromise your best possible work?
To me, I have to explain the battlefield. I have to say these are my skills, my expectations, my view on what will solve your communications problem, and the time that will be spent on it. The education for the client will come in the working process. Some clients will learn, some won’t. The clients that learn, well, they’ll be with me for a long time.
It’s about knowing your self worth, as a design professional, isn’t it?
Definitely! That’s why with TH.Inc, I want to instill thaot understanding and confidence in designers here. By educating yourself on your worth, you will be able to educate clients to appreciate your worth. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it and you’ll be rewarded with the right client, the right brief, and then it becomes worthwhile.
How will TH.Inc function?
We’re still figuring it out. I’m working with Natalya, who’ll be the Head Coordinator of the academy and we’re still at a phase where we’re identifying the right lecturers to come lecture and mentor people. We’ll then start brainstorming on the curriculum and scheduling of classes. It’ll be a long process and we hope to be able to open admissions in mid to late 2016.
What’s happening in the meantime?
Well, we’ll be conducting workshops all-year round through our workshop initiative W.Inc That’s open to everyone and the content, I feel, will be very close to our eventual curriculum for TH.Inc.
Who can apply for TH.Inc?
As it’s a postgraduate programme, we expect at the very least people who’ve had a graduate level education or relevant work experience. It’s also not exclusively just for design graduates, but there will be a very strict admissions test for everyone who applies.
Can we apply?
(Laughs) Of course, but you’ll get in only if you pass the test!
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