S P A C E | Battambang, ‘The Week the American Jumped Quarantine’ is a special issue from a team of friends of DK’s along with our founding members.
How people are coping with their situations where they are is one story, how we are finding out about things happening in the places where we have deep, dear ties, and reacting, together, in the cloud, is yet another. This is that jam.
Our conversations across the cloud centered on this remarkable piece of news:
A Cambodian-American woman ran away from a Center in Phnom Penh on the night of July 17, 2020 and was found by the police in a guesthouse in Kampong Cham on the evening of the 18th. July 2020. She arrived in Cambodia on July 15, 2020, on a flight with two US Embassy officials who were diagnosed with COVID-19 on July 16. The spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health, confirmed that this was the first case of people fleeing from quarantine. KBN
Naming, brand identity design, and showing up to make space—quality space—for the process of people who want to discover somethign new, together, is what we did for NUK Cafe. This was 2014. DK had just opened up our doors in Phnom Penh for business, and this was our first gig.
Since then, five years’ experience of living and learning here in Phnom Penh has given us a chance to flex our creative and intellectual muscles. We’ve gotten into very different kinds of projects, since moving away from typical brand identity deign. Still, I think it’s important to share the jo gurney, and how we got to where we are from where we stated. This post is part of a series of updates to our portfolio.
Discovery, networking, change, and reinvention has led us through a wide set of experiences.
Journeys that, for better or worse, taught us some important lessons. I’ll just leave it at that. It’s a long story.
A new DK portfolio
Really enjoyed the NUK project.
Sharing as I go, now, since DK’s going to open again for design commissions from February 2020. That’s a lot of stuff to anticipate, for DK, but the short story is this. We’ve done things, we’ve been places. We’ve learned. We have more to do.
The work is the work, not the pretty pixels you see at the end of hte design process. If learning by doing and seeing how we get from a blank page and zero idea of what to do towards the finished things, which almost always are a 100% co-created set of designs (yes, we hand you pencils sometimes, and get to work together!), then yeah. Get in touch. This is the place to do that.
We’re really only interested in working with business owners who have 5+ years’ experience. For those interested in solopreneurship or personal branding, perhaps try our 8-week workshop, The Mirror, instead of our heavy-hitting journey of brand identity design for DK (which is also waaaayyy more expensive.) It’s not for everyone. (Still, there are 1 out of every 100 people who ‘get’ us, our approach, and see that there’s value in doing it right the first time, even if that means going through the hard question-asking series of things that we will ask of our clients. Apply to be a part of DK’s brand identity design programs from February. Apply here.)
The original post about the story of how we came to make this design for a cafe in Phnom Penh back in 2014, is below.
Phnom Penh. DK had just arrived to Cambodia.
‘Never imagined we’d stay five years:’ DK.
Emergence, innovation, change: Inventing as we go
Design. Making meaning out of vague and abstract collections of thought. Streamling and clarifying…
Things have evolved for them quite a bit at NUK, I think they’ve moved on from our original design, but the ‘N’ is still there on the cups that DK’s Dipika Kohli drew.
Which is this:
I really like this story. Of how you start with ‘…’ and get to this design. It’s not a straight line. The creative process moves around and changes a lot, in the middle. It’s how it goes. It’s how we learn, and how we grow, too. Since DK had been doing branding work for more than a decade, it wasn’t hard. (These days we’re not doing branding work, by the way. More consulting. More experiential programs. Like these.)
Of DK’s founders hitting the road in 2013, going in search of ‘I don’t know what it even is yet’, and discovering the first team in Phnom Penh to give DK an open hand to design the way we know how to design. By asking questions. Listening. Learning. Gathering. Percolating. Generally: trusting the process. Why not? It’s worked for us for so many clients in the past.
JOIN DK and friends in HANOI for this unique conversation salon on the state of publishing.
LAST SEEN IN DURHAM, NC, when DK and bloggers, editors, photographers, and writers had gathered at Mercury Studio for a short, packed, nonlinear and very frank conversation about the state of publishing. Some of the outtakes informed how DK evolved into the zinemaking atelier that we are today. It’s remarkable to note that we still have the honest, real, and relevant conversation notes: they still hold, today. I’ve been going through this right now, as we look at our archives and get rid of most things that are no longer part of what we are doing here at this studio, but wow. The conversation salon, ‘The State of Publishing,’ was, by far, one of my favorites.
Maybe because I worked in newspapers before DK.
Or because I love community publishing.
Lately, reading and learning about how to design for the aesthetic moment. More ahead, if you are part of this online conversation that we are getting going now, in small circles, in our eZine and its attendant forums, S P A C E. More here.
Inspired by the things that are popping up now as we review our past works in salon making and the outcomes that came from those, I’m interested in convening more people gain for a conversation about publishing today. This time it’s 2019. This time it’s not Durham NC but Phnom Penh. I’m looking for people to co-host this with. Are you curious? Get in touch. This is the beginning. Let’s converse. Let’s play. I’ll personally be there to host this event. Ask me anything about vector art and image trace: I’m lately getting super into these things. Design. Zines. DIY-style publishing.
Who else finds this intriguing? Let’s find out.
S P A C E M A K I N G
It’s become clearer to me that my job is to continue to do this: to make space (ie S P A C E) for a conversation that stretched across the different disciplines, and even connected some people who never had met but who had lived in Raleigh, Durham, or Chapel Hill for decades, was great. I want to thank some of the people who were there, that night: Laura Ritchie, a curator, who was one of the most supportive of DK’s projects in Raleigh-Durham NC; Michael Faber, a designer who also came out to many of our meet ups to see what we were doing and share what he was up as well; Clarion Content’s editor Aaron Mandel, who gave us shout-outs sometimes when we least expected them, theIndependent Weekly‘s then editor Lisa Sorg for showing and and lending the voice of that paper; and Paul Deblinger for telling me to go and read R. Pirsig’s ZAMM (and insisting, and that, in the end, led to the things that came from there: journeying, the road, adventures, the rest).
Disparate voices convening in the forerunner of what’s now S P A C E: that was the point of it. That was the goal. Getting together to learn from one another. Be inspired. Share. The actual learnings, in real life, where it’s not packaged into things that go out as blips into social media feeds. Instead, it’s a conversation. Lately, reading and learning about how to design for the aesthetic moment. More ahead, if you are part of this online conversation that we are getting going now, in small circles, in our eZine and its attendant forums, S P A C E. More here.
Inspired by the things that are popping up now as we review our past works in salon making and the outcomes that came from those, I’m interested in convening more people gain for a conversation about publishing today. This time it’s 2019. This time it’s not Durham NC but Phnom Penh. I’m looking for people to co-host this with. Are you curious? Get in touch. This is the beginning. Let’s converse. Let’s play.
DK’s Dipika Kohli will host this event. ‘Ask me anything about vector art and image trace: I’m lately getting super into these things. Design. Zines. DIY-style publishing. Is this of interest? Let’s find out.’
LET’S TALK ABOUT work. How we discover, find, and make new connections for meaningful work. Let’s cover all of the ways ‘value’ is exchanged. Be it through the mutual interest that leads to the sharing of new, fresh ideas, or unexpected input that develops the shape of thinking that comes from places that might not be the ‘usual’ ones, or something else.
No more boring meetings: What are the ways we can define and realize our own best ‘work?’ How can we find a way towards better collaboration, design, and meaningful contribution-making? These are important. Let’s not waste time. Let’s make things better, together. Better and more enjoyable: that’s the key.
How do we design the S P A C E that lets fresh thinking flow?
Let’s consider. Let’s discuss.
Our first conversation salon on this topic in Phnom Penh will take place on one afternoon, only.
WHAT YOU’LL GET. DK will share:
Grice’s ‘Maxims of Conversation’, as introduced to us by Eric Chuk, who studied narrative ontology
Quick intro to ‘Six Thinking Hats’, a method of opening dialogue.
Distributed and autonomous organization, or TEAL/Holacracy organization
No application required.
This salon will be hosted by DK’s Akira Morita. He has delivered design thinking and leadership seminars in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Manila, and Hanoi, and prior to that co-founded the brand design boutique Design Kompany in Seattle. He brings a decade plus worth of experience talking passionately about the meaning of work—and relationships as the key—as a participant and a host of fringe salons alongside coworking conferences in: Austin, Bali, Raleigh, and Portland, Ore.
Meet new people. Make a zine. Share the journey of the creative process over this unique, once-off weekend conversation salon cum real life workshop. We’ll meet three times over the 3-day weekend workshop. Date, time, and place to be shared with those who are selected to take part. We’ll add the final works to our S P A C E || Cambodia collection, which has featured at the Singapore Writers Festival and the Georgetown Readers and Writers Festival, in 2017. Discover more when you apply. Apply here.
JOIN DK, DESIGN PHNOM PENH, and others in a conversation circle about:
Anyone is welcome. We are going to talk about the creative process, with a few simple exercises that you can try together with us on the day. Anyone can join. No special requirements.
We will be talking together in an open format about the idea of play. About creativity. The process of starting with nothing at all and making something interesting. What makes a thing interesting? What is art? What is design? What can we do when we build something together?
Here is a chance to talk together about these things.
Let’s *make something*. Let’s play?
S P A C E || លេង.
Free. RSVP to Design Kompany, for venue.
This Atelier S P A C E is kindly sponsored by Design Phnom Penh
‘A New Kind of Journey’ is an online programme for those whom we are meeting in real life and want to keep talking with, together in a shared online forum under protected pages at our blog. Why? To keep the dialogues moving, without degenerating into the banal that comes along when time slips away and we grow apart. Meantime, we’re also able to introduce new voices, people who are finding us and whom we are finding as we go. It’s a story of learning through chance encounters. That’s the inspiration, but you can read more about ‘A New Kind of Journey,’ at this page. Note: A real-life reception will be hosted in Phnom Penh if 2+ people join us from this city in this online programme. We can make it happen. Of course we can.
ORIGIN: ‘What is fromness?’ is inspired by ‘Ask me where I’m local’ by Taiye Selasi: ‘When someone asks you where you’re from … do you sometimes not know how to answer?’ Selasi speaks for “multi-local” people. In other words, people who feel at home in the town where they grew up, the city they live now and maybe another place or two. How can I come from a country?, she asks. How can a human being come from a concept?’
Origin: What is ‘fromness?’ Join Design Kompany in an informal setting for a conversation salon, ‘Origin.’ We’ll be talking about questions that help us all reflect on self-identity, whereness, and the notion of ‘where I am from.’ The program is light, and a slight redesign of our 2014 Origin conversation salon, also held in Phnom Penh, in which 16 people gathered for an unusual experience of talking with complete strangers about close-to-the-heart questions. We enjoyed the outdoor and informal setting, so we’ll keep that. Come to meet people from a wide mix of backgrounds. People whose paths you might not have crossed. Who are interested in taking a good, honest look at questions like: Who am I? Where am I ‘from?’ Who is my family? Where is my home? Questions that, we learned in 2014, truly open the heart. And help us learn more about one another, as well as ourselves.
‘I never imagined I’d meet so many different people.’
A VERY SAVVY team approached Design Kompany through a mutual friend and that opened the door to a fun project that tapped all of our best creative offerings. Naming, concepting, and brand identity design. That was exactly what they didn’t know they wanted, but appreciated, at the end, in the manner of clients preceding them. ‘NUK’ came about as a name idea after a series of serious conversations, and a visit to the site, which was then under construction.
Client: NUK Cafe Work: Concept, Naming, Brand identity + consulting on interior design Location: Phnom Penh Year: 2014
Naming, concepting, and brand identity design. ‘NUK’ came about as a name idea after a series of serious conversations, and a visit to the architectural site. A section towards the back of the first floor seemed well-suited to holing up with a great paperback. That’s how we found our way to the name ‘NUK,’ a play on ‘nook, but minus the visually awkward double ‘o.’
Fewer letters—heck, even just an ‘N’—made for a versatile motif that one could just take in as a total image (that’s what a logo mark is, more than ever, just an impression, not a ‘word’ to be read—who has time to think?). As soon as we presented the name idea to our clients, three people got on cell phones and called friends in Vietnam, Thailand, and even further afield via Line and WhatsApp. ‘How does that sound? Does it mean anything bad? No? Good.’ Nuk fit. Snug.
Many times designers will do what you tell them to do. But you two would not. You would say, ‘No. That’s not a good idea, and we’re not gonna do that.’ That was new. You made us think, and in the end, we got to a stronger design together. Thank you. —Kenneth Hui, NUK Cafe
NUK opened on Street 154, and our clients invited us to sample the ice cream. Last we heard, they’re gearing up to open a second store.
NORMALITY. A quality that can only exist in reference to other things – the past, other people, abstracted rules. A quality of the self-conscious ‘I’ rather than the present ‘I.’ As a substitute for balance, it’s a quality forever at war with itself.
Editor’s note: Guests of ‘N’ in Phnom Penh authored this essay, together. Read more about the project 16N here.
IN 2015, GIRLS WEAR PANTS, suits, have pixie hair, tattoos and even chase men. These are now normal.
Other normal situations are validated only when backed up by science, like what is a normal blood pressure? The rest are subjective. As Morticia Adams quoted: “Normal is an illusion.”
But… is it? Normal is something that has already been done, many times. The more something has been done, the more normal it is. Actually, there’s more. Way.
THE NORMAL DISTRIBUTION CURVE IS A GRAPH which shows the spread of random variables, or behaviours, in a population. It centres around the mean, or average, which is the sum of all expected behaviours divided by the population. 99.7% of all values are within 3 standard deviations of the mean. Like this:
When very recently I met with and tried to explain this concept of “normal” to DK, it was, um, funny. She didn’t quite know what I meant.
She had, I think, her own idea about ‘N.’ She said: “You mean, like the normal vector? Like, 90 perpendicular to the horizontal? And then when 16 voices converge, wham, on a plane, like this, see this animation? Yeah, like that, so when wham, that happens, that MOMENT, that’s when, whoo, you go UP, into SPACE, like 3D, like up the vertical that is the “NORMAL” vector!!! OMG!!!!”
Not quite, DK, but, that’s cool.
Then I thought, Morissey.
MORISSEY SANG ‘there is no such thing as normal’; a statement I believe and find comforting, in that I repeat it frequently whenever the need arises.
However, in recent years I have become more aware that a CONSTRUCT of normality exists, and if you don’t neatly fit into this, then prepare for questions!
‘We don’t have to agree’
NORMALITY IS WHAT YOUR ENVIRONMENT expected you to do or think, the referent environment mostly has referent expectation. With that in mind, here’s a thought.
We don’t have to 100% agree to someone, as long as we can find a common ground that’s acceptable to both sides. You get yourself an agreement. They said it right when they said: “Better communication skills will get a better outcome.”
May I be frank? Okay, these are my random innermost thoughts. Ready? I’ve never met a person who feels normal. Abnormal is normal. Normal for who? Dehumanizing in any culture is not normal. I don’t want a normal job or relationship. Describe life as vibrant, sticky, juicy, challenging, fluffy… my ideas about normality are negative. Is that my “normal” thinking pattern? Hm. Now I’m wondering.
Maybe it’s this, though. Normal is when we can live simply. Read books whenever we want to without being tested on. Paint because we want to, not because we’ve got something to prove. Enjoy the moment with no place to rush off to. We just want to be, boundless and infinite… Or? I’m still thinking…
P.S. Some other things that came up after the event last Sunday, as I’ve been ruminating. Normality. Like the rest. Falling within a deviation determined by cultural narratives, science and, most importantly, perception. Normal shifts based on country, decade, household… Constantly changing, ever imperfect. It is those ideas and people outside the spectrum – that are abnormal – that are often responsible for greatness.
And this one: Normality. A quality that can only exist in reference to other things – the past, other people, abstracted rules. A quality of the self-conscious ‘I’ rather than the present ‘I.’ As a substitute for balance, it’s a quality forever at war with itself.
What do you think? What’s normal? Why do we think so?