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Storytelling Diversity


Storytelling Diversity

Morcos Key is a New York based design studio. Their work has focused on creating visual systems that tells diverse stories.

Their first exhibition at Cooper Hewitt, was for nine months, they designed its visuals that illustrates sounds and melodies and little audio pieces that interact with the daily life. The exhibition was personified through a character called “Trash Bot” – a robot that they designed which went through the town to introduce all the sounds. 

Jon Key. Picture courtesy of Morcos Key.

Two of their exhibitions are coming to the Middle East. A visual about their story of media progression in the region and another about the Saudi heritage. 

Could you introduce yourselves to us?

Key: I’m John Key co-founder of Morcos key, which is a Brooklyn based design studio. So a lot of the work that we focus is figuring out systems in which all of these [elements] can come to life.

Morcos: Hi, my name is  Wael Morcos, I am the Morcos in the Morcos Key.

Wael Morcos. Picture courtesy of Morcos Key.

Originally from Lebanon. We’re focused mainly on branding identities, print and editorial systems. We try to be very involved with our clients and their stories. We approach branding in a holistic and systematic way. So we try to have a phase where we kind of be able to sit down and break down the story and put it back together for the clients.

How do you make sure your clients are in the kitchen of making?

Key: One of the big things of how we come to that is that we think of them as collaborators. As our main thing, like the client is the expert, and what they do, and we’re the expert in graphic design, and what we do, and so there has to be some middle point that’s reach and compromise in order for us to make something really beautiful that we love and make sure that we’re handling the client needs. But also make sure they feel like a part of the process, we like our clients to feel like, they have a say in what we are doing in terms of, conceptually, and making sure this strategy phase that we make and create, give that language back to the client. 

Morcos: Sometimes we describe it [ourselves] as being a therapist to the client, or to the brand of the client. So its discussing what the brand is, where it needs to be, what is the problem. And they can buy solutions that can answer these questions immediately.

So what if the client disagrees with you, what happens? 

Morcos: I think the work builds in an incremental way. We don’t go in our first meeting and tell them, here’s a bunch of logos so they’re going to pick from them. It is a continuous conversation, we really put a lot of time and attention to listen to them. And every single step forward we take is usually a consensus based on what we recommend and what we think is the problem. So eventually, when we get to the end of the road, it’s something that was built together, something that was really been given a lot of attention from our side.

Nike logo with “Saudi Arabia’s football team” written in Arabic on it. Picture courtesy of Morcos Key.

What sort of  challenges you face when it comes to creating diversity into your designs?

Morcos: I think there has been interest. We’re in a growing interest in hearing different voices in and incorporating these voices in the canon of graphic design history and graphic design icons and graphic design themes and ideas that’s always been dominated by the mainstream. 

Was diversity always of interest before?

Key: I mean, absolutely not. One of the things that I think it’s interesting that we have all of this kind of identity work that we do that I think is really important. And that’s all about in the need. For me, it’s amazing to be in a platform for people who want to see people look like them be graphic designers, and I think that’s really amazing. But I think also like, we do it’s so interesting that as a graphic designer, we can do so many different things. We  can have so many different types of clients, we have so many different types of stories to tell. And  sometimes it’s not necessarily, always about identity. But I think what’s really special about our studio is that we can prioritize those types of projects sometimes. And I think that’s what makes us different. 

Morcos: I think with the internet, with Instagram, with everybody possibly having a platform if they have a story to tell them then they have an audience to listen to it more or less. I think there are more people and bigger markets interested in hearing these other stories, hearing something that they have not heard about before or learning something new. So there is interest.

Picture from the Copper Hewitt exhibition. Picture courtesy of Morcos Key.

How far has storytelling changed in today’s world? 

Key: Social media has literally allowed everyone to be an actor in their own way that curated images. Tweeting out your emotions, actually making videos of yourself and then putting them on social media. So I think there is a lot of sometimes just noise, sometimes beautiful songs, sometimes its a bunch of things happening at the same time. So for our clients how do we make sure that they aren’t just participating in noises? How do we craft something that is really unique and beautiful and interesting, and that they can go and tell somebody and they’re inspired by it.

Morcos: Social media really changed a lot of the landscape because the separating line between brands and people is more blurred than ever. People are THE brand themselves and the best asset for brands are the people that represent that brand. So influencers are big currency that way. People want to hear authentic real stories. They want to see your emotions as raw as possible on your Instagram stories. 

Video does not seem to be the next big thing, as people were betting?

Key: If you think about Netflix, like Netflix is huge. Netflix, Hulu, all of these things are all in video platforms. Everyone’s streaming, everyone’s watching more TV than ever before. There’s more great TV shows than before. But then I think about it in terms of marketing, I think that video is important. I think that but that’s not the only way you can communicate with people 

Morcos: I’m inclined to find some truth in that trend. Because we interact with screens more than ever, on your phone, the card has a screen and the screen offers this idea that it’s not one printed thing that it is, what it is. You can touch it, it can change with time.

I guess that’s why one reason that people would say yes, video is much more powerful that still image perhaps. But that still image, still have the ability to catch a moment. And then freeze it and like lets you look at it over and over that you might skip it once it’s part of a moving pixel.

What are you trying to make people feel when they go through your exhibitions?

Key: Regardless of what exhibition that we are doing, we definitely want the person to feel.  The user is going to a space is to be able to get all the content in. Actually be able to understand the flow, actually feel relaxed and enjoy what they are viewing and see.

Morcos: I want them to have fun and learn something new, even if it’s just one thing. For example, the exhibition by surveying all this history of media production in the Middle East that they come out with just a bigger idea of what was happening and perhaps find where they fit within that bigger idea.

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