Learning from an Institution
After my graduation from NCA in 1998 in Graphic Design, I decided to build my career around interactive media rather than following the mainstream. Having decided that, I found it quite difficult to find inspirational and motivational work within ‘New Media’ locally and/or regionally. At that time things within digital media space were taking shape and the industry itself was without a clear identity. I had done my very first website design project a year earlier in 1997 for a Lahore based IT firm called Techlogix, this was my entry point into interactive media design. My relationship with computer graphics actually started in 1992 with Harvard Graphics, Corel Draw (that I still prefer to use over Illustrator), layer-less Photoshop (that I initially didn’t like) and when we used to run Windows 3.1 from DOS to be able to run all those graphic applications!
Back then in Pakistan the IT industry itself was very small and scattered, and was mostly around hard-core software development than anything else. Pursuing my interest abroad wasn’t an option back then so what I left with was – Internet.
Things changed around the time when dot com bubble burst but, by that time, I was on solid grounds within digital media and that’s where I owe a ‘thank you’ note to two design studios – ‘Second Story’ and ‘Terra Incognita’. Their work inspired me to keep going within interactive media when I felt creatively trapped. Both studios specialise in online storytelling and building engaging user experience within a carefully chosen segment of digital marketplace, where I hardly find any mainstream digital agency’s presence. That might be because you need to have a kind of technical and design intellectual edge over others to be able to churn out the kind of projects these studios specialise in. I indeed learnt from their online projects, half a world away, that what a ‘user experience’ is actually like – when most of the design studios at that time were busy building fancy Flash intros.
Their contribution to interactive media design is deeper than skin – away from commercial glitter, design nonsense and digital media clichés. They are those who took user interaction design to another level and pioneered online storytelling. It has been over 10 years since I first visited their websites and portfolios, but I still have the same level of respect to their work which even grows when every time I visit their new projects. These two studios formed an inspirational institution for me at a time when I was in a real need to look at something. They are like Bauhaus to me.