by Rea Gierran
adobo magazine paid a trip to Quezon City to check up on what Vgrafiks is brewing
There was no pompous signage to tell you where the kooky design company is. My only clue was the quirky people outside, looking at me intently, as if waiting for me to ask where Vgrafiks is. It’s a four-storey apartment where the first two floors are occupied by the employees and interns, a.k.a 'Kids of Vigi’.
It’s their last day of internship, and their final task is to bring stuff they deem useless for an auction. The task is aligned with Vgrafiks’s Unlovely campaign. Their press release describes it as a movement that is ‘celebrating the unloved: horrible bosses, cockroaches, and math. The things nobody appreciates, but should’. Lying on the table were a pair of neon yellow sandals, a slightly used baby pink wallet, and what looks like, a small, male genitalia-shaped paperweight. I was marveling at an old metal art bicycle when a sprightly young man, tapped my back, asking if I was interested of buying his Kefir milk, a yogurt-like drink where he claims to have over 40 strains of probiotics. The structure may not look normal, but believe it or not, it’s already an upgrade from their first setup, which used to be a small cubicle at the parking lot of Hotel Sogo.
I went around talking to the Kids of Vigi, trying to understand what lured them into this quirky side of aesthetic. “We like that we’re asked to do client work, but at the same time, we’re being given the freedom to go beyond the trend and step out of our comfort zone,” a third year, Atenean student taking Information Design course, said.
As I made my way to the second floor where Project Manager, Azel Gorne, and the Owner/Designer, Russell Vergara await, a Pomeranian adorned with a ribbon clip named Kikay greeted me. I perched myself on a huge, bouncy yoga ball as they shared how the 8-year-old design studio started out as an accident. “Vigi was originally just a school project. One day, I got a call from Unilever, asking me to present it. So I went off to buy a long sleeved polo and driveled my way through the presentation. That’s where it all started.”
I was ready to go on full journalist mode when friends went up and showed us boxes, of all things, sex toys, for merchandise. In Vgrafiks, there’s definitely no room for judgment. It’s a place where you can come as you are.
Right now, the design studio subsists with 10 employees. Russell said the largest they ever got was fifteen, plus ten interns. “So imagine twenty five people sharing 2mbps worth of Internet!” he chuckles. “It was the turning point because ironic as it may sound, we may have reached the peak in terms of sales, but we weren’t at our happiest,” So the design studio transitioned, and the operations became smaller. They felt like it was the time for them to take the next step towards the next phase of their business.
And that next step is Better, a school they plan to establish, that will help young creatives ‘become the new wave of designers, artists, entrepreneurs, and leaders’. “We want to give these kids, the option to build a future for themselves,” Vergara said. This platform hopes to untwine young people who are stuck in a snarl trying to figure out where to go right after they graduate. The program will include editorial output, talks and workshops, portfolio developments, and more.
At first I thought that Better was quite ambitious, but then again, I realized that it has always been Vigi’s thrust, to break away from the usual. Take for example their upgrade to 2.0. They describe it as a ‘bold and hopefully impactful beyond its intention movement’ to escape from the lair where boring, timeworn yet in-demand projects await. We’re talking about branding, design, even write-ups here which follows a strict, clean template.
It happens most of the time. You are given a brief; you get excited about it, you find yourself so engrossed. You made sure it’s smart and unique, truly a cut above the rest, and finally when you present it, it gets rejected. Reason being, “people wont get it”.
Vgrafiks recognizes this problem. Their solution is to work only with people who are brave, and willing to go beyond the usual. The concept of 2.0 challenges you to discover what you’re capable of when you’re not cuffed. Better will save the lives of artists who are for a time, will get stuck in a job just to build a portfolio. It will guide those who are clueless where to go once they graduate.
“There will still be Vgrafiks, it’s just about us finally pursuing what we originally wanted,” Vergara said. “Right now, we’re looking for people who will make things happen, people who could give us a grant for the school to push through. We call it Better because we believe that it would be such a waste once a person stops learning and improving himself.”
Vgrafiks is currently at the stage of concreting the program, making sure that every nook and cranny is seen and managed. If you think you can contribute to make Better happen, or just curious to know about the project, visit their website at www.vgrafiks.com