Joseph Foo is a partner at Trinity Visual Communications (3nity) and Trinity Interactive, in Kuala Lumpur. The scope of 3nity's work covers corporate design and includes brand identity, print communication and interactive design. Projects tend to have a strong cultural and spiritual emphasis that comes from Foo's personal approach to his profession.
"I feel that, being both Chinese and Malaysian, I should express Asian thought and identity through my graphic design work," says Foo. "It is very possible that design and the arts can be good for the soul, fulfilling for the designer and beneficial to the audience." This conviction led to the establishment of Art for Soul, a division of 3nity that produces more altruistic work.
After studying design in San Francisco, Joseph Foo worked for a time in the United States and then in Singapore before returning to Malaysia.
His growing reputation has led to his involvement as a speaker and panelist for a number of international and local design seminars, and to his appointment as a lecturer on corporate-identity design at The One Academy just outside Kuala Lumpur.
Foo points out that graphic design in Malaysia is still at a developmental stage: "Graphic design began within the advertising agencies in the 1960s, and has been treated as the poor cousin of advertising since. Only recently have the distinctions between advertising art and graphic design been recognized, and clients are now slowly starting to understand our role. Even so, graphic design in Malaysia is still very much influenced by design from the West, and only a small number of designers are able to see the need to create our own visual identity. The influence of this new awareness is seen mainly in self-initiated projects and pro bono work for theatre and in arts-related projects."
The latest project from the Art for Soul division is 'Man & God', a compilation of thoughts on this subject from designers and artists worldwide. "'Man & God' was inspired by a conversation with my grandma," says Foo. "She asked me why I chose design as a career. What can design do? Can design feed people? Can design save lives and souls? I couldn't answer these questions then, but they provoked me. The answers lie in what we are doing now. Conveying good values through good design is a responsibility we choose to take up."
Taking up this theme, ini 2002 3nity initiated Pabit Manis ('Bittersweet'), a poster exhibition on "the duality of good and evil", which involved forty designers and was sponsored by the National Gallery of Malaysia, in Kuala Lumpur.