Cian McKenna

The Personality of Irish Design

10th January 2018
by Cian McKenna

Cover image: Cian McKenna

Cian McKenna is a freelance motion designer and art director hailing from the Visual Communications BA in DIT. After interning in the 3x3 programme Cian worked in a number of Irish design studios such as Detail. Design Studio and Image Now before joining Windmill Lane Pictures as Motion Design Lead. Now freelance, Cian works for a wide variety of international and domestic clients on commercial and non-commercial moving content projects.    

Do you feel that Irish design has its own personality? What attributes make it unique?
No, but then again I’m very wary of the entire concept of nationalism so that may give you some clues as to where this interview is headed. I’m even less comfortable with the idea of broadly ascribing a national persona, which to me suggests some sort of nebulous aesthetic hive mind that we all collectively access and channel via a complex network of wacom pens and magic mice. The Borg were great lads for this kind of craic and look how it ended up for them…

A very quick glance over the Archive is enough to demonstrate the futility of stating that the national style, or the national persona = x; the breadth of aesthetic and conceptual approaches / executions, and importantly content types is vast and way beyond some glib oversimplification. 

Is ‘Irishness’ important in our work, or to our designers?
So I feel the need to preface this by saying that I can only speak for myself here, I’d be very nervous in presuming if a sense of ‘Irishness’ was broadly important to our community or not. So from my own perspective again it’s a no for me, I’m generally too consumed with trying to do the best job possible within the available constraints to stop and think where said work fits within the national canon.  

Do you think it matters if Irish design is recognised as Irish design?
…is it going to get really boring if I keep saying no?! Because no… I’d rather see my peers succeed and garner international recognition for being excellent practitioners in their own right. The fact that they are Irish by birth, or by dint of practising here or abroad is very much secondary.

If this naturally builds to a critical mass where people abroad stand back in view of a large collection of quality work and can say to themselves “hey, there’s some really great work emanating from here.” then that’s great, but it’s definitely secondary.

When you think of ‘Irish design’, what designers/agencies come to mind and why?
… this is the kind of question that designers the world over read with baited breath hoping for a mention so to avoid disappointing any of my peers I’m going to pass. To state the obvious I work as a designer in Dublin, I’m acutely aware of the professional landscape in which I work and of its history. All of this could rightly be said to be representative of 'Irish Design' again by virtue of little more than geography or birth. To be honest when I’m asked what designers/agencies I think of as being associated with 'Irish Design' my first thought is of the heaving sartorial mass that is to be found overflowing from the Ferry Man ten minutes after the last speaker on day two of Offset… 

In the past 10 years with the arrival of platforms like Offset and the 100 Archive, is Irish design more recognised on the international stage?
I'm going to rephrase the question: 'With the arrival of plaforms like Offset and the 100 Archive, is the Irish design community more recognised on the international stage?', within that context both Offset and the Archive are hugely important platforms for designers to be engaged by and engage with the international design community. 

Purely anecdotally it would seem obvious that Offset has done a great deal to convince our friends across the water and around Europe that the community here is vibrant, current and thoroughly capable of hosting an event that far exceeds the quality of many other international conferences. It could be safely assumed then that a healthy domestic design community would have an output to match and this is where the Archive really comes into its own as a medium to inspire both native and international designers alike.

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