For a very long time, I have seen graphic design purely as a tool of advertising. I was impressed by its power to manipulate, provoke emotions, influence actions and behavior. It represented a mean of persuasion — ads that make people buy stuff by creating an artificial need.
Happy world we live in one could say. Targeting a need for food, heat or security wouldn’t work. Ads are rather targeting a need for recognition — a need we strive for. Designers together with corporations created an ideal: a semi-god with trendy bag, cool shoes, newest iPhone… The more we spend, the closer we are to the appreciated ideal. Design is used as a tool to set our values. As Kalle Lasn pointed out designers helped to manufacture contemporary reality. For me, work of corporates, designers, marketers, and branding teams set the shallow values of today. But I wasn’t an innocent — I was and still am manipulated by the power of brand image. The only difference is that now I am aware of this irrationality and the responsibility I have as a consumer and as a starting designer.
The power of designers lays in their ability to create contemporary reality
Thanks to learning and exploring the past of graphic design, I have realized the power graphic design had in critical moments in the history. First, it informs and makes people aware of a situation. It also persuades, calls to action, makes people fight for their rights or, on the contrary, keep them quiet. Look at the poster from 1960s of the Communist party, which ruled in my home country, persuading people they live happily in the most powerful economy, which will take care of them forever. Or the logo of a movement which overthrew the Party in 1989. Through looking into the history of design, we see the power of designers. It lays in our ability to persuade, engage, send clear a message, and make the message easier to proceed. With such a power comes responsibility. In my opinion, this should be first thing explained to students of graphic design so that they can decide how to use it.
I see two roles of graphic design. On one end is advertising — serving corporations to create a need for consumption. On the other end is a responsibility to inform about social topics and hope our message will be louder than the one of corporations. As the First things first manifestos promote, we should spend most of our time for these activities (and thus, hope to change values of the society).
But does it makes sense to fight against ubiquitous advertisements and big corporations?
Corporations govern today’s world — this is a reality a group of designers cannot change easily. Advertisement also helps the designers to pay the bills so we kind of need it. Rather than fighting against, I suggest to try to collaborate — use the power of corporations to change contemporary values –awareness, carefulness, and help. Then, provoke a need for this kind of appreciation, create brands that communicates: I owe this so I support this group, I am aware, I donate to this community and others will acknowledge. This way designers, brands, and sellers can join and promote education, trade, culture and greater awareness of the world.
I suggest to try to collaborate – use the power of corporations to change contemporary values –awareness, carefulness, and help
Might be that this is just my utopian idea and corporate would never agree with this perhaps less lucrative promotion. Maybe they were similar ideas around before and it is too late now but it might be worth trying.