India has a lot to write about. The amazing food, the colourful sari, the intricately detailed temples. But none of these are made of clay. I could obviously talk about the pots and the hugely important cultural significance they continue to play. But no sir, I have something much greater. Bricks!
As I travel around the city of Ahmedabad, I’ve notice every single thing I look at is interesting. Whether it’s an impossibly overgrown field of dilapidated buildings, a street merchant with a fire breathing camel or simply some store’s strange take on western culture. No matter how mundane, something weird and wonderful is happening. It’s made me think of the Internet and the constant updates, messages, content etc that are synonymous of today’s mobile world. Everything is new and constantly distracting your attention. At the end of each long digital day, we’ve managed see, read and hear so much. But I often feel like we’ve seen nothing at all, it’s all just a blur. It’s completely the same here. Overwhelming. Perhaps the digital world is much less a world than it is simply another congested city?
To really see, you need some clarity and focus. So I take pleasure in pointing out the little things amongst life’s haste – like bricks. But these bricks are more than an exercise on focus on clarity, there’s something about them that have stuck in the back of my consciousness for the past few weeks
From walls, to houses, to ten-story apartment blocks, everything here is still built the good ol’ fashion way from earthy bricks — quite literally the building block of the nation.
But that’s not what drew me to them. Until I started consciously thinking about them, I didn’t even notice they were used in every wall and every building of this city. After the completion of each building, the bricks are covered over with cement to create a nice, smooth finish. They’re only ever revealed again through time’s decay.
What embedded these bricks in my mind is that I tend to see a pile of them roughly every 50 meters throughout this ever evolving city. Repetition was the key, and what I liked about these repeating piles is that each brick of each pile has a two letter initial impressed in it. It came to my attention that this was the simplest, most elegant piece of branding in the world. And it’s something that is common throughout all of pottery. We all impress or scribe our mark in our work. Like the legendary Nike tick, or apple logo, or these branded bricks, we choose logos that are bold because simply put, that’s the only thing that’ll work.
I must confess that I have a real problem with logos that try to be too much, they try to symbolise a ‘bigger idea’ or ‘capture the essence’ of their product. If a logo is in the right environment eg. On a pot, or on an advert for a pot, then why would it need to represent the product literally or symbolically? And if it’s not in it’s environment, what is it doing there? Just adding more chaos and clutter to the world? JB on a pot is obviously going to be made by J.B. the potter, not J.B. the arborist. A tick on a sports shoe is similarly for Nike, not Adidas.
I think sometimes potters feel like they’re being left behind in the world. But I know that potters the world over have got something up on many of the thousands of the elite branding specialists around the world. In the end, aren’t we all just branding bricks?
Disclaimer: I think its worth noting that I’m talking about branding in the traditional sense of branding a cow, not the adopted holistic and strategic sense of the word. Of course the latter is complex, we know there are deep psychological reasons McDonalds use their specific red and yellow, but it doesn’t mean their logo should be similarly complex. I’m talking about identifiers, not identities.