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ISLAMABAD: Over the past century and a half, branding has come such a long way that today, it can be used to make the world a better place and address a host of issues, such as terrorism, that are faced by the global community, American writer and design guru Debbie Millman said on Saturday.

She was speaking to participants of the National Digital Design Conference (ND2C) during her lecture, titled ‘Why We Brand’.

Ms Millman talked about how a number of brands and their logos had become a status symbols, and could now be used to change mindsets for the betterment of society.

Two-day conference brings together creative professionals from around the world

“Even though brands are created by people, they belong to the corporations,” she said, adding that: “Nowadays, social media has become one of the most important platforms for brands, because every person spends on average 500 minutes on a computer or cellphone and checks their phone around 75 times in a day,” she said.

“Now, people compare each other on social media by the number of followers they have; they have become so conscious of this that they can go to any extent to for fame, such as buying likes and followers,” she said.

Ms Millman recalled that brands, as we know them, originated in the late 19th century in Europe and America as a way to guaranty quality and consistency of products, since people were ready to pay more for better quality.

The two-day conference, which continues on Sunday, was organised by Sana Khalid, a chartered accountant by profession. She told Dawn that sessions on the first day were more about ‘design thinking’, while the talks on the second day would focus on ‘design application’.

“Unfortunately, there is very little awareness about the importance of design in Pakistan. We want to start the conversation,” she said.

The utility of design and ‘system-level thinking’ in its application to real-world problems was also a recurring theme, with several speakers emphasising the inherent link between online and offline design.

The highlight of the day was talks by three leading women from the field of design. First up was Sarah Moquim, creative director at Interflow, whose talk described the personal and emotional journey of creative individuals.

“Everyone is creative,” she declared, and extolled the importance of hard work in order to achieve success.

Shezil Malik, a young graphic artist from Lahore, then took the stage to talk about her own journey from being a Pakistani artist living aboard who was confused about her identity, to a rebellious soul who was trapped in the confines of what conservative Pakistani society deemed appropriate.

Ms Malik’s work has been featured on the music streaming site, Patari, and her most popular artwork, a pop art poster of melody queen Noor Jehan re-imagined as a member of American rock band, KISS, has been viral on social media.

Ms Malik’s presentation featuring striking work, ranging from comic books to digital paintings, garnered a lot of appreciation from the mostly young audience of design professionals and students.

Saba Zaidi of Google talked about applying design principles to real-life problems and showed how such thinking can help come up with innovative and efficient solutions for problems as simple as ‘getting from point A to point B’.

During a session about women’s inclusion, LUMS faculty member Farah Khan said the environment used to be difficult for working women, but things had started changing.

“I believe that multitasking is still the biggest hurdle for working women, because it consumes all their energy and affects their efficiency, since they have to work at the office and the home. I suggest that working women should ask their spouses to contribute to household chores,” she said to the delight of the audience.

Lahore-based freelance illustrator Hamza Salar told Dawn the event had helped him understand the importance of design and enlightened him on related issues, such as intellectual property rights.

“Though I was not very aware of copyright laws, but I now the time has come to start registering designs, because otherwise it will become difficult for people who do creative work,” he said.

Graphic designer Nida Salman, another member of the organising team, said the conference would be held every year and would feature speakers from across the globe.

Published in Dawn, September 24th, 2017