Design.” The title of the book was thought-provoking. We’ve read much on how to do good designs. But it’s a first on doing good with designs. How does a graphic designer make good designs that do good? “Do Good – How Designers Can Change the World,” is a book that every graphic designer should pick up and spend some time reading. The book, authored by David B. Berman, alerts designers to the role they play in persuading audiences with their invented needs. It reminds designers of their social responsibilities in this world they have helped create.
Design matters. Designers create so much of the world we live in – the things we see, the things we use and the things we waste. In the modern information age, the impact of consumerism becomes magnified. People are being overfed with marketing messages. The digital age make the distribution of information easy. Brands are making promises that surpass your physiological needs. They ascend the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and promise to satisfy your greater yearnings. You consume more as a result.
The largest threat to humanity’s future may just be overconsumption. People are consuming more than necessary which makes the world unsustainable. It is an irony for a graphic design company to write about social responsibility, where most of our clients are commercial entities that make profit through selling. Buy! Buy! And buy more! That’s the bottomline of almost every marketing campaign of commercial clients. Are we leading humanity to destruction? Does it mean that all design companies should send their commercial clients away and wait for more worthy projects to come along? The world continues to spin even if you’ve decided to stop your design services that lead to overconsumption. Who is to judge what you’ve designed do good or bad to the society?
The responsibility to save the world from overconsumption falls on three parties. People who make designs – the designer; people who buy designs – the client; and people who consume designs – the consumer. How can everyone do good?
The Designer Who Does Good Designs
A designer who does good design may not necessarily do good for the society. Making a good design is about communicating effectively for your clients. If you are able to stop the audience, attract them to look at your design and convince them to respond to you, you’d have made a good design. Good graphic designers hold the power to encourage consumption. Uncontrolled consumption threaten’s humanity’s future.
The Designer Who Does Good
A designer who possess the persuasive skills to encourage consumption also holds the power to repair the world. The designer who does good is mindful of the impact that his or her design will bring to the society. Whether a design does good or bad lies in the message that is delivered to the audience. This is an imperfect world. While we may have good intents and seek to do good, we must recognise that design is a business and has to live by the rules of the business world. The journey to do good with design is full of challenges. Against all the odds, how does a designer go about doing good?
- Make Good Designs that Do Good – Be conscious how your design can influence the audience. What are you saying to them? What are they perceiving?
- Nudge the Clients – Remind them on the social responsibilities that they can help uphold. (See below: The Client Who Does Good)
- Rewrite Your Own Rules – Decide how you work and who you work for.
- Be Ethical – Stay true to your profession and yourself.
- Lead by Example – Teach the responsibilities of a designer. Live it, share it!
The Client Who Does Good
Clients usually have the greatest power in a design project because they are the ones who buy and pay for the design. They are the ones who endorse a design before it reaches the eyes of the audience. With great power comes great responsibility. How can clients do good for the society?
- Buy Designs that Do Good – Not all design leads to direct selling and profit-making. Designs can convey values that are beneficial to the society. (e.g. publicise your charity drive so the campaign will yield greater results that favours the beneficiary entity)
- Be Environmentally Friendly – Reduce, reuse and recycle designs. (e.g. reduce on the material consumption for your printed collaterals, use recycled paper on printed collaterals, reuse or recycle yesteryear’s marketing campaigns)
- Lead by Example – Teach the responsibilities of a client. Live it, share it!
The Consumer Who Does Good
Consumers are agents of social change. They are the recipients of marketing messages. They control the response to marketing calls. How can consumers do good?
- Consume What’s Necessary – Buy only what you need.
- Have Discernment – Know the difference between the truth and a lie. Buy products that tell the truth.
- Lead by Example – Teach the responsibilities of a consumer. Live it, share it!
If you are a graphic designer, and you happen to read this, what’s your standpoint? Do you believe in doing good with good designs?