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Mercedes Sadique on the Invisibility of Good Designers

Design is no longer a word that only refers to products and architecture. Today, design is an important aspect of every facet of a brand, a product, and a company as a whole. The general public has become increasingly aware and cognizant of what good design means for them. A company can’t just have a solid commodity; it also needs to communicate what the company stands for, the principles that their products represent.

With that said, it’s impressive that the best designers can do all that and more without leaving a trace of their own, instead inhabiting the message behind a brand.

Mercedes Sadique handles graphic design for big-name clients in a variety of industries. She’s currently based in the UK, but her work spans the globe. Lately, she’s turned her attention to commercial trucking companies, and in 2016 even designed and published a book on the subject (which we’ll get into more later).

We spoke with Sadique to do a deep dive into her innovative design methods and her intricate understanding of client needs, as well as to learn a little more about that elusive, ghost-like presence that skilled designers can reach, but, again, more on that later.

To start, we asked about where it all starts: the beginnings of a campaign and setting initial goals for the work, goals which may have to be tweaked over the campaign creation process.

“My role is to take a multi-million dollar company with hundreds of employees and work out how to represent that through pen strokes and pixels. This can mean that someone’s life work must be visually represented in a way that works on a business card. It’s an obligation I take very seriously. And in terms of online marketing, this is even more important. The entire reputation of a business can go from local to global overnight.”

Some of Sadique’s most successful work has been for Biffa, a UK waste management company, one of the largest in the country. This brings us back around to the book. Its goal? To make the history of waste management vehicles interesting and readable for the Average Joe who probably hasn’t given much thought to it before. The result is a fascinating journey through a company’s history of collection trucks, right up to their contemporary models that greatly reduce emissions, making the whole fleet a lot cleaner.

“I designed and produced Biffa: A Pictorial History of Biffa Waste Services Dry And Liquid Waste Collection Vehicles in partnership with Timothy Byrne, who is one of the leading voices in waste management. My role was to take all this imagery and make it as interesting as possible for people that do not have the same passion for collection vehicles as Timothy or myself do.”

So why trucks? There was a time when Sadique had no special knowledge of the industry or its history, but that all changed fairly quickly. To put it simply, Sadique saw the work not only as incredibly interesting, but also as a significant challenge, one that she was more than ready to meet.

“My background in design has its roots in fashion and film, and yet my specialty these days is trucks. How do industrial vehicles appeal to a girl who loves a beautiful Chanel bag? Well, that’s an interesting question. As one of the industry’s leading graphic designers and creative artists, it’s a very specific niche to have fallen into. Working in trucking, which is a bit of a boy’s club, means that my designs have to be bold, brave, and ballsy.”

From there, we had to delve even deeper: why design work at all? It’s a highly competitive field, especially in the digital age, and it requires more than just software proficiencies. It takes a very individualistic design sensibility, ideally one that can reshape itself and reform to suit any number of discreet campaigns.

And while Sadique has both of those traits in good supply, she also has the unique ability to sculpt a company’s mission statement, its values, its history, into images and concise taglines that communicate all that and more as cleanly as possible, aimed at an audience with tremendous breadth.

“I see my work as translating the work of hundreds of people into a signature that carries them everywhere, one that people can see a mile down the road and recognize. Part of that is making sure a design is as simple as it needs to be, but no simpler.”

But these skills and sensibilities don’t just come out of thin air, beamed into the brain overnight. Not at all. They’re the result of plain old hard work and dedication to a craft. In an attempt to better understand Sadique’s journey to a heightened level of expertise, and to try and apply some of the same methods to our own pursuits and passions, we asked after her core values, the principles she keeps in mind at all times. We asked how she would describe her work to someone who might never have seen it before. What makes it tick?

“I’ll put it this way: I like to think of my work as a home that’s been so skillfully and beautifully renovated that you can’t imagine it ever looking any other way. This sort of design is deceptively difficult, and, if you do it right, your design is invisible.”

Sadique was also happy to name some names, of some individuals who have contributed to her understanding of what design should be at its best, the first of which was the German industrial designer Dieter Rams.

“Dieter Rams and his work for Braun is so timeless that you can see its influence today, especially in Jonathan Ives’ work for Apple. Rams’ 10 Rules for Design are even more true today than when he wrote them in the 1970s. His ideas of sustainable development and of obsolescence as a crime could not be more relevant.”

The inevitable question for anyone who has mastered their line of work is, now what? The best of us are the ones who don’t get caught up in the victories and failings of the past, but just keep moving forward, following the next great idea, keeping both eyes on trends and innovations that have yet to be adapted to other industries.

Sadique has recently been looking into some of the most fascinating technologies of our time, with the goal of using their models and accomplishments to inform design and brand presence in a time of shamefully short attention spans.

“I’m fascinated by emerging technologies. That’s what drew me to electric commercial vehicles and the use of blockchain to help encourage sustainability. Seeing how these new industries are growing and evolving has made me realize that my own line of work can evolve in any direction. Ten years ago, people talked about physical design and web design as though they were different. I think we’ve moved well past that now.”

The fun part of capping off this article is that we don’t need to push you to look up her work. Don’t get us wrong, if you have any interest in design and want to know what successful brand campaigning looks like, we highly recommend checking out her portfolio. But there’s a good chance you may have already seen some of her work. And as Sadique says, one of the traits of successful design isthat you won’t even take notice of the process behind creating it. Skillful design stands on its own, coming off as effortless and easygoing. Deep down, that’s what we want, and Mercedes Sadique is ready to supply it, over and over again.

by Giorgio Chang

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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