Arief ‘Ayip’ Budiman is a key figure of graphic design and marketing communication in Indonesia. Ayip started marking his territory since 1991 via Matamera in Bali, he embraced many cultural areas: publishing his “I See Indonesia” book in 2008, initiating Bali Creative Community, being a judge for many prestigious international and national scaled graphic design and communication competition (British Council’s International Young Creative Entrepreneur, to name one), co-founding Bali Creative Festival in 2010 and 2011, being the Chairman of Indonesian Graphic Designers Association 2010-2012, and a whole lot more.
You are the first guy in Bali who started a graphic design company. You are the pioneer. Is that urban legend or a fact? When and how did it start?
It all began because I fell in love with Bali. Then I decided to make Bali my new home and built Matamera in 1991 with a few crazy buddies. It truly wasn’t easy in the beginning, but I was kind of ready to face any logical consequences that came up as long as I could stay in Bali. Our first project was an exhibition event of WAKA in Legian in 1991. It was quite a challenge to open up the horizons of our clients about designs at that time. Oh well, we had to start somewhere, right?
It must’ve been tough doing graphic design back in those primitive days. Any interesting experience you’d like to share?
Those days, we worked with transfer lettering first, then it evolved to PC 286 DX later on. I don’t want to sound arrogant, doing design is actually easy, at least I think I know what I’m doing—and I like what I’m doing. The hardest part is handling clients and the business. The clients usually want something very personal and tend to direct, I should say dictate, what colour, fonts, even size they prefer. They tend to forget that the design is for their clients, for the market, not for themselves.
The technology today, it gets even more sophisticated. Is this a good thing or bad?
For me, all software, flashy Mac computers, they are all just tools to make transforming our ideas into designs, it saves us lots of time in building designs. But technology is not everything. The most important thing in doing design is the understanding between content and context. What designers should be aware of more is how to combine technology and creativity. Creativity comes first. Technology comes second, to support creativity. Creativity can survive, more or less, without technology. While technology won’t mean much without creativity.
Some old school graphic designers cynically said that every kid now can be a graphic designer as long as you know how to use Photoshop program and all that. Any comment?
True that. Now everyone is a designer. In many occasions I always tell junior designers to change the mind set of being designers. It’s how to enlarge responsibility in the profession. Designers are not just doing layouts, choosing colours and fonts or beautifying things. The real process of design always starts with study plus research, then put it in a design mentalitiy.
This process is in the fundamental phase, it’s reason we are designing. Beyond technical skill and taste, designers also should understand basic business and good communications and the ability to value their profession.
It seems like you expand in not only doing graphic design, but wider, more complex works. Is this evolution or a way to generate more income?
For me, this is not expanding; it’s just a matter of choice. After 20 years in this industry we now move to creative communications services, meaning visual design has become a small component. We are now doing more to help our partners strengthen their strategy in business by activating communications to all their stakeholders. The form can be in brand development or marketing communications. Our team now is not only made up of designers but also researchers, author and writers, cultural observers, NGOs, architects, interior designers and many others, depending on what subject in their projects.
What do you think about the graphic design/communication phenomenon in Bali, is it as good as other places in Indonesia? As the international melting pot, isn’t it supposed to make Bali having more chances to go global?
Indeed, Bali is a gateway, we have much more of a chance compared to other places in Indonesia to go global. But going there is not easy. A lot of us failed in mapping the potential and opportunity. After 20 years observing, I see there are lots of possibilities to create value, collaborations and co-creations.
What’s the biggest acknowledgement you have received so far?
Hmm… Never really been my concern about how much people like me. But responsibility wise, I feel honored to be chosen as the chairman for the Indonesian Graphic Designers Association.
This is personal, I bet you listen to music a lot too while working. Name three of your all-time favourite albums and why.
I can’t mention just three. For me music and visual art are like a couple. When I like the album, I usually respect the artwork as well. I enjoy listening to Liquid Tension Experiment (a musical project by Dream Theatre’s ex-drummer, Mike Portnoy), Bitches Brew by Miles Davis, Foxtrot by Genesis, Three Men Acoustical Jam by Tesla, …Tot Licht! by Discus.
Three of your all-time favourite movies and why.
Giant Leap by Jamie Catto and Duncan Bridgeman. Mindblowing universality.
The Godfather series by Francis Ford Coppola. Learning about passion and brotherhood.
Pulp Fiction by Quentin Tarantino. Rich dialogues and unique vocabulary.
Any last words to the industry players out there?
I have none, thanks. As The Who puts it: the kids are alright. You, me, them, us, let the passion do the talking.
• This interview was firstly published on The Beat (Bali)# 306, Mar 02-15, 2012