October 2010 Archives

When one tugs at a single thing in nature, we find it attached to the rest of the world. - John Muir

The earth's energy is something we think that we can dig up, destroy, and take. Ever since the industrial revolution we have been mining the earth at an ever growing excessive rate. It has been happening for so long that it is now the standard and completely acceptable to continue doing so in today's society. Yet we have been tugging away the earth's resources for so long that we are impacting our earth's behaviors. Yet there is hope!

I came across a couple different websites of designed homes and communities that base not only their designs but their entire lifestyles on natural and sustaining elements. They are beautifully designed homes, eco-villages, and communities that are inspirational, natural, energy efficient, and sustainable.

As a graphic designer in school, being energy efficient and natural is something that is always on my mind, but gets lost and put aside often. This is because often these options are not affordable or available. A lot of it, which in my opinion should be the obvious and easy answer, is often not the answer in our culture/society. I as a designer am really inspired that there are communities that are designing eco-villages. These communities are encompassing sustainable development in most all aspects of life. It gives me hope that the energy and materials we consume is being thought about in these communities to an extent where it is a shift in a lifestyle instead of just a few minor areas!

In a similar respect, there are designers out there who are looking at other objects that are more common, and seeing how we can use them to harness efficient energy. I found this inspiration artist, David Edward, who builds sculptures that generate solar and wind power. It is so refreshing to see people start to ideate and who make things aesthetically beautiful and for a good purpose. Check out this flower sculpture that harnesses solar and wind power.


Check out the eco-villages and eco energy efficient homes. Not only are the sustainable and energy efficient but they are designed in a beautiful manner, and built using resourceful materials.






Site for designers with an emphasis on industrial design. For all of you interested in expanding on environmentalism and sustainability in design (major theme in a lot of posts) this site has a lot of "green" articles. Also, under the discussion section there are a large number of topics on ecodesign and sustainability, have a look if you haven't seen this yet!

Biodegradable and the Environment: Molly Andrews


Products made from the cheapest materials tend to be favorable amongst the people paying for the product, both to produce and to purchase. Most people know, or at least believe that plastic lasts forever. Even though most people know or believe that developed nations are filling landfills too quickly with materials that will not biodegrade. Some choose to solve this dilemma by supporting production materials that do biodegrade to rival the materials that are cheaper that do not break down. Some companies tries to sell to consumers caught up in the green movement by making false claims about the biodegradability of their products. But very few people are pushing for the large scale move towards commercial composting facilities in all major cities, which is what I believe would be the most environmentally responsible act.

The Biodegradable Products Institute promotes products that are compostable and biodegradable. It is my belief that the BPI knows not to trust companies to be honest about how biodegradable their products are, since BPI does its own testing of products to certify that they are indeed biodegradable. BPI also provides information to consumers about composting as well as a directory of certified compostable products. The BPI is trying to help consumers help themselves, through education and tutorials as to how to purchase the products made from the best materials and how to set up their own compost at home.

The reason why there is such a distinction between compostable and biodegradable at the BPI is a matter of fine print. The ASTM International standards for compostable products define the rate at which materials must biodegrade, it is specified that the materials must biodegrade in a commercial composting facility within 180 days. The definition for biodegradable materials is much more hazy, since there is no set standards or time lines.

There are many nuances to composting, and it takes time and effort. Few people who live in a city have the space to set up a proper compost. Many people don't want to deal with the smell that naturally comes with the break down of organic matter. If compost was one more of the dumpsters lining the alleys of the city, then there is little more hassle involved right? Wrong, people would need to know what can be composted, and it would have to be easy for them to separate it out from what cannot be composted. For example, if a plastic cup made from biodegradable materials can be composted, then the lid and straw that comes with it must also be made from biodegradable materials.

I think if cities started adding composting to their waste management and recycling facilities the public would be hungry for the information that would point them to buying the right products and following the right procedures. I am not the first person to think this, as the city of St. Paul began a pilot composting program for residential neighborhoods. They began research in 2001 and launched the pilot in summer of 2010.


I believe as humans, we have a natural tendency to try and justify what we do or make ourselves feel better about what we do. I think as designers, we're probably struggling to do this everyday. This feeling might arise in us when having a conversation at a dinner party when you're standing in a group of people talking about what you all do for a living or are studying.

Guest #1: "I'm studying the effects of global warming on coastal farming communities in Central America."
Guest #2: "I'm in medschool. What do you do?"
You: "Im a graphic designer."
Guest #2: "Oh wow, that sounds fun!"

Fun...well yes, what we do is incredibly fun, but is also can have a positive impact on the rest of the world. Right?

Yes, I believe it can! We yeild the power and the outlet to convey positive or influencial messages to the public and promote causes and individuals who are striving for good. And yes, we can do our part to promote environmentally responsible practices and cut down pollution!..but unless we get hired by the EPA to promote clean air acts, how do we do this?

This brings us back to my original point that "we're always trying to make ourselves feel better about what we do." Since we're graphic designers who work in a lot of print, we probably feel bad about the amount of paper we use and end up wasting in the process. What's the solution to this bad feeling? Start using recycled paper! Instantly we feel better, but do we really know that recycled paper is that much better for the environment? According to the National Association of Paper Merchants,"There can be no definitive statement on which uses more energy because each forest, producer, vehicle, mill and so on will have its own way of working, and the different types of energy-use also have different environmental impacts. Broadly the reprocessed fibre in recycled grades is more efficient in energy terms."So maybe, it's a better decision, but maybe recycled paper isn't in that particular case. What do we do?

I think in order to truly make the right decisions when it comes to what we do sustainably as designers, we need to do the research rather than just accept the hype, even if it's just sitting there right in front of us, waiting to make us feel better. I think we can also spread this influence when working commercially by encouraging tthe compaines or firms we're working with to put an equal amount of thought into what they do rather than just printing "eco-friendly" on a product that deep down, might not be.

Distribution -- Financial Agenda -- Sarah Even

Distribution and the Financial Agenda-
By Sarah Even

In my last post, I quoted Dictionary.com for the definition of distribution as, "the delivery or giving out of an item or items to the intended recipients, (such) as mail or newspapers," and "the marketing, transporting, merchandising, and selling of any item." I think this definition can be broken down further into the delivery of information to a recipient. This is one of the biggest concerns of businesses. They always ask the question, "how do we tell people about our service or product?" Unfortunately, we are often limited to the variety of ways we can achieve this distribution of information because of financial issues.

Especially in this slower economy, we have to always be on our toes for cheaper, reliable ways to get ideas out there. One way of doing this is to use a company like Outbrain who has started a tool called OutLoud. OutLoud charges the company $10 a month to post their article, blog post, or information on relevant sites to increase traffic to their website/blog. The company says it is perfect for, "the social media director, trying to build community by exposing larger audiences to a company blog, or to conversations happening on other sites about their products (and) the excited marketer wanting to drive word-of-mouth by amplifying positive reviews and articles about their company." So, for only $10 a month, they could be increasing their sales dramatically.

Yes, this is a way to distribute ideas, but essentially it can improve sales, and therefore benefits the business. A smaller industrial design firm in Eden Prairie, MN, Whiteboard Solutions, could get their name out there a lot cheaper using OutLoud. They have a blog, (http://www.whiteboardps.blogspot.com/), that could be posted all over other design blogs and design related sites to gain interest in their company. For smaller companies like this, it is so much cheaper and easier to pay a small fee per month than to have someone on the inside post links all over the internet every day.

Now, if you take the definition of distribution literally, you can still come back to the idea of the internet being an easy and cheap place for it to take place. Consider iTunes, the sale, delivery, and storage of music is all done digitally. iTunes (or Apple) doesn't have to foot the cost of shipping and handling, or the cost of producing CD packaging. Online books do the same thing. Companies are really taking advantage of the possibilities for distributing their ideas and products through the internet. As designers we really need to get creative and think of all the possible ways we can get many different types of people looking at our work.

Noff, Ayelet. "OutLoud: A New Way to Distribute Your Content." Socialmedia.biz. Nov. 2009. Web. 22 Oct. 2010. .

WhiteBoard Product Solutions. Web. 22 Oct. 2010. .

An old Shaker adage once read, "Don't make something unless it is both necessary and useful, but if it is, don't hesitate to make it beautiful." I firmly believe this simple statement concisely sums up our roles as designers in respect to usability. I've always considered myself a champion of functionality, design that serves a purpose and does so in a way that fuses its purpose with its surrounding environment to transform and improve the experience of those involved. Thus said, I've always been a bit cynical towards certain types of design, writing them off as purely cosmetic and the reason designers aren't taken seriously. However, after reading a critical essay by one of my favorite designers, Michael Bierut, my perspectives have begun to evolve. Bierut states, "What makes dog-biscuit packaging an unworthy object of our attention, as opposed to say, a museum catalog or some other cultural project? Don't daschund owners deserve the same measure of beauty, wit or intelligence in their lives?" As designers, we have the ability to simplify the complicated, and find beauty in truth, for at the heart of it all, the purpose of design is to communicate, and who are we to decide which products or causes will receive a voice and which one's will not? Furthermore, Bierut makes a valid point by claiming that while we may applaud the courage and drive of designers who make pro bono posters, we are unlikely to award someone for designing an F.D.A. Nutrition Label, the "most useful and widely reproduced piece of graphic design of the last century." Think about it. Nutrition labels often go under the radar but they are a true demonstration of how design can communicate on a powerful, even universal level.

As soon-to-be emerging designers, with the thrill of graduation approaching and the excitement of taking on the industry--it seems normal to get reservations about the type of work we will or will not do. Many of us will leave with an overwhelming desire to 'change our surroundings', to use design as a mechanism through which we address social issues and problems in our neighborhoods. The desire to have our work serve a purpose, to mean something (for us and for those who encounter it) and to truly matter may seem overtly idealistic or cliché to some, but understanding the implications of the design we create how it affects us on a personal level is crucial in determining our niche within the industry.

David Stairs once wrote, "It's so terribly trendy to care about the poor, the environment, and every form of 'betterment' that I begin to assume we must be selling more design by fetishizing social relevance." This skeptical statement, other than halting my humanitarian design dreams (momentarily) made me stop and contemplate my goals and question where I saw myself fitting within the realm of design. In an excellent article by Andy Chen of Design Observer, the author discusses the desire for designers to create meaningful projects and the reality of these dreams. He uses the (RED) campaign as an excellent example of how a seemingly positive collective cause can actually skew perceptions and hinder social justice. The idea that people can save a child in need for one Starbucks latte, or help eliminate AIDS in Africa by purchasing a specially branded t-shirt from GAP fuels what Chen describes as "feel-good consumerism." People trust these social justice campaigns and give them money, but rarely do they truly understand where they're money goes and what it's actually doing--somehow these fundamental details get lost. More importantly, these campaigns fuel geographical stereotypes suggesting that AIDS is to Africa as peanut butter is to jelly. While the intention of these campaigns is honest and beneficial, the oversimplification of such vast and complicated issues threatens to undermine their importance. Suddenly, seeing well-known figures promoting these products jeopardizes the legitimacy of the entire cause by spreading the idea that these issues are can be solved by purchasing a hot beverage of your choice. As designers, we have control over this and it is (or should be) our moral obligation to ensure that we are communicating these issues in the best way possible.


Works Cited

Bierut, Michael. Looking Closer Four: Critical Writings on Graphic Design. Allworth Press, New York (2002).

Chen, Andy. The Value of Empathy. (2009). Retrieved from http://www.designobserver.com/changeobserver/entry.html?entry=11347

James Cosper: Minimalism and the Environmental Agenda


Water is a commodity that is in short supply. While most of the world is made of water, much of it is of limited utility for essential functions, like drinking. We live in the Great Lakes region and have one of the world's largest supplies of fresh water so we may not think about it often. However, Sara Elliott notes on the How Stuff Works website that the EPA estimates by 2013 thirty-six states in the US will have significant water shortages. Contemporary water shortages of the southwest states and Mexico should give us incentive when considering ways to implement a minimalist ethos to reduce or eliminate water use with tasks normally associated with water.

The EPA WaterSense page opens with Pac-Man-esque Flash game to test awareness of water issues facing residential users. A warnin¬g: the questions are not phrased well.

Water use in bathrooms sheds a lot of waste. Every time we flush the toilet we use between 2-5 gallons of water (EPA). There are some ways to reduce this. An important note: while I have installed the toilet in my house I am not a plumber and you should research this stuff on your own before implementation!

Also, a lot of this only applies to older toilets since modern cisterns are designed for reduced water usage. The 1994 National Energy Policy Act limits new toilets sold in the US to 1.6 gallons of water (Elliott). If your cistern doesn't list the volume it is easy to determine by emptying the cistern and bracing the lever with the floating bulb so it doesn't refill. Get a gallon bucket or a pitcher and refill the tank, noting how many containers it takes to reach capacity.

The lowest of low-tech solutions is "if its yellow let it mellow," the behavior of not flushing when the waste is just urine. I don't suggest this. Though Tyler Durden assures us that urine is sterile that is actually only until it starts the path out of the body. After that it may hit the "normal flora" and can become contaminated with bacteria from the body. The attraction of this is the cost: free. The downside, besides possible bacterial growth leading to a bar bathroom odor, is the surprise for visitors.

The low tech solution places a brick or two in the cistern as a way to limit water use. The bricks displace water volume in the cistern and thus less water is used when the toilet is flushed. This solution shows ingenuity, and though it seems like a little bit of water, over the course of a year ads up. In the United Kingdom there is a product called Hippo the Water Saver which appears to be a plastic bag with dimensions similar to a small brown paper bag. It is placed in the cistern with the open portion on top so that it stops water from flowing and acting as a displacer like the brick. The Hippo costs about $5 but some water suppliers give them out for free. The website records estimated savings for average homes in the UK as about $60 per year. The downside here is that it may not flush as fully as desired which results in a second flush. This conflict is at the heart of implementing minimalism in designs: can we do it but still achieve results that satisfy the user? If the end user isn't happy and won't use the product it doesn't matter how much water it could save.

The high tech solution is the dual flush toilet. Elliott explains this design uses a different shape for the bowl, less water in general, and two flush settings so the user can regulate water use. This design minimizes water use while giving the user the choice of which setting to use, though both settings use less water, only 1 gallon, than a 5-8 gallon old fashioned toilet or a new regulation 1.6 gallon cistern. This solution is more expensive than the previous entries but is the direction of the future. Here minimalism is in the reduced waste through a somewhat more complex design.

Works Cited:

Elliott, S. (Unknown). How dual flush toilets work. Retrieved from

EPA. (Unknown). WaterSense. Retrieved from

Hippo UK. (Unknown). Hippo the water saver. Retrieved from

Linson, A. (Producer), & Fincher, D. (Director). (1999). Fight Club [Motion picture]. USA: 20th Century Fox.

The Third Age- Environmental (Mo Becker)


The concept of the third age is similar to that of the concept of the 7th generation. The idea of designing with the 7th generation in mind is to design and create so that there are no negative environmental effects for at least 7 generations in the future.

Recently, there has been a huge wave of green design and green products. In the blog, Inhabit, they feature innovative new ideas for green products, architecture, interiors, technology, energy, transport, fashion and art. There are several creative solutions for enhancing sustainability, efficiency, and interactivity. Inhabitat emphasizes ways to recycle everyday items as well. In this example, they show how to make a xylophone made from beer bottles. Sure, having a xylophone made from beer bottles may not be exactly what you are looking for, but you get my drift. There are many simple ways to reduce our own personal carbon footprint.

As designers, it is our responsibility to design a product that is not only green, but is also made in a way that is also not hurtful to the environment or wasteful of our resources. One example is the ethanol gas made from corn that came out a few years ago. Although the gas itself greatly reduced the amount of carbon monoxide emissions from the vehicles, it was not a sustainable solution. Corn does not grow at a fast enough rate to sustain the amount of gas we consume. An example of an underutilized resource is bamboo. The popularity of bamboo has grown in the past few years; however, the complete versatility of bamboo has yet to be taken advantage of. This article goes over the many uses to bamboo including hardwood floors, to fabric.

My overall point is that it may be difficult to look at the big picture of design and sustainability and ask ourselves what kind of impact will our designs have 100 years from now, but if we each do our part in small pieces, the results will be enormous.

Feasibility | Environmental | Cindy Sargent

| 1 Comment

With environmental issues coming to a forefront in society lately, it is becoming more and more important to be "green," even in design. But is it really feasible to be environmentally friendly in design, or any other field for that matter? As we were discussing the first blog posts in class last week, a number of people who had topics in the Environmental category or who wrote about their topic with regards to the Environmental Agenda found through their research that recycling was actually more expensive--both financially AND environmentally, as it were--than simply using raw materials. So this process that was intended to be less expensive financially and environmentally is actually more expensive in those respects. That seems quite ironic.

Financially speaking, "the amount of money actually saved through recycling depends on the efficiency of the recycling program used to do it," ("Recycling," n.d.). Unfortunately, however, many recycling programs are not efficient enough to actually save money. Environmentally speaking, "there is controversy on just how much energy is saved through recycling...Critics often argue that in the overall processes, it can take more energy to produce recycled products than it does to dispose of them in traditional landfill methods," ("Recycling," n.d.). Not only that but, "in many cases, the cost of recyclable materials also exceeds the cost of raw materials," ("Recycling," n.d.). So if it costs more money and resources to create recycled materials and then those recycled items cost more to buy, how is it feasible to be "green"?

Even if these questions as to whether or not recycling is actually cost-efficient were not present, there would still be the issue of whether or not it is feasible for us as designers to get our clients to adopt environmentally friendly materials and processes of production and distribution. A friend of mine, Kristian Bjornard, was a graduate student at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) where he did his masters thesis on sustainable graphic design. As part of his thesis, he was working with a client who was having him design a catalog or menu or something like that to print. To make his design more sustainable, he was trying to convince this client to use the color ink and paper that was already on the printer, which in turn would also save his client money. Despite this, he was still hard-pressed to convince his client to do this. The interesting part about it was that when he asked his client if he had a particular color of ink or paper in mind for the project, his client did NOT. So any decision regarding color of ink or paper would in effect be arbitrary anyway, so why did it matter? I don't know how that story ended, but it poses the question of even when actual "green" materials and processes are available, can we as designers actually get our clients to adopt them and how?

Recycling. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recycling

Bjornard, Kristian. (n.d.) Retrieved from http://kristian.bjornard.com/

Fun and the Social Agenda | Jonathan Glatfelter


Over the past decade, retail companies have developed ways for consumers to become more involved in the design realm of each company. I believe that a big reason as to why design has become much more mainstream is because of the promotion and respect that many companies have publically displayed. Two of these companies to do this are Threadless, a graphic apparel company, and Puma, an athletic shoe company.

Threadless is a company that mass-produces graphic apparel. Designers submit their own designs, people vote on their favorites, and the top voted designs are printed and manufactured. For people who don't have any knowledge in design, or even for people who do have knowledge in design, it's fun for them to vote on designers' work and to see them succeed. Threadless seems to be a company that not only gets working and inspiring designers some exposure (and cash, if successful), but it also gets consumers and non-designers some inspiration! It can be quite compelling for someone outside of the design world to see what these designers, many in which are young in the work force, succeed with the work they're doing.


Puma has come out with their "Mongolian Shoe BBQ." They have created a way for consumers to be the designers and to create their own shoe. Shoppers are able to select a shoe style of their choice and then are able to act as a designer and select from a variety of colors to create a shoe to their liking. This web feature is different from Threadless (where actual, inspired designers are implementing the designs) in that customers are the designers. Sure, it may be a simple process, but it is design nonetheless! This not only gives consumers a chance to be creative, but it also lets consumers feel good and proud about what they're wearing on their feet.

Threadless and Puma are not the only ones to incorporate the consumer into the design process. Many companies these days push for the appreciation for design. Could this be bad for us designers? Could it come to the point that designers lose the value that they have? Honestly, I don't think so. But it definitely is something to consider.

Threadless. Retrieved October 20, 2010, from http://www.threadless.com.

Puma: Special Mongolian Shoe BBQ. Retrieved October 21, 2010, from http://www.mongolianshoebbq.puma.com.

Note: Puma's Mongolian Shoe BBQ is down for construction, but the service will be back up and running in early 2011.

Innovation | Environment | Caitlin Cave

| 1 Comment

Communication | Social | Lindsey Ostby


In a fast-paced and driven society, companies are constantly having to move forward, forcing them to focus on where they need/want to be in the future. This kind of mentality is almost necessary in order to stay competitive in any market. For some companies, there comes a time when the solution to moving forward is rebranding themselves. This ranges from designing a new logo to completely changing the company's mission in order to communicate a modern and progressive approach to their consumers. We have noticed this trend quite frequently in the past years, especially among larger, well- known companies such as Wal-Mart or FedEx. Usually, rebranding a company can be a positive thing from a social standpoint. Society tends to react favorably when they like the new change. With the Internet and social media, individuals are able to communicate to the rest of the world just how much they like these changes.

In recent weeks, we have noticed that sometimes this is not always the case. Gap felt that they also needed a change. They had had the same logo for over 20 years and, silently, decided to post a new logo onto their website with the idea that it would communicate a more streamlined and refreshed look and feel. Socially, this logo was not received well and was greatly criticized by the public. Some came up with creative ways to backlash at Gap's new logo. One that I found interesting was a logo generator, aimed at showing the public how easy it was to create a bad logo. Others chose to attack the logo on social media networks, such as Facebook and Twitter. A parody Twitter account was created with tweet updates like:

@superboxmonkey - "New Gap logo "looks as if it were done in Microsoft Word"
@spydergrrl - "Seen new Gap logo yet? I think it definitely captures essence of this generation, that is: "meh"

Gap also received much hype on their company's Facebook page. Because of such a widely negative response, Gap decided to ask the public for ideas. This is a somewhat new term we call crowd sourcing, which in some's opinion, was the whole ploy behind launching a mediocre logo. Most likely though, Gap had to do some damage control and used crowd sourcing as a way to cover up a poorly designed logo. Through blogs and other sources of communication, individuals also decided to create new Gap logo ideas or just make fun of the current one. In a timeframe of no more than a week of launching their new logo, Gap announced that they would be going back to their old logo, based upon feedback from the public.

The whole point behind this case study is the power of the social context of communication. With the rapid growth in social media, blogs, etc., individuals have more freedom to communicate what they want, to whomever they want. Almost like saying, "what the public wants, the public gets." Social communication can be so important to the reputation or likability of a company. In the case of Gap, when their logo didn't communicate to the public what they had intended, they were forced to listen to their retailers and get rid of it.

Jones, Nate. "New Gap Logo: Start of a Crowdsourcing Contest? - TIME NewsFeed." TIME NewsFeed - Breaking News and Updates. Web. 22 Oct. 2010. .

"New Gap Logo Hated by Many, Company Turns to Crowdsourcing Tactics - Velocity - Remaking Personal Technology - Forbes." Forbes. 7 Oct. 2010. Web. 22 Oct. 2010. .

Parr, Ben. "Gap Reverts to Original Logo After Social Media Backlash." Social Media News and Web Tips - Mashable - The Social Media Guide. Web. 22 Oct. 2010. .

As a soon-to-graduate graphic design student with loans that will last me for longer than is desirable, I find myself--unfortunately--falling into the group of people who job search based on its accompanying paycheck. I always tell myself that I will one day be able to afford to get a job doing something that really makes a difference, but that that day is just not today. But what if I'm going about this all wrong? What if I take the opposite approach and seek to make a difference before worrying about weather I can "afford it" or not? Stanford's Entrepreneurial Design for Extreme Affordability class does just that.
Their vision states:

"Lots of individual want to help the poor, but we believe that problems like poverty, disease, and hunger are so big and complicated that no single kind of person has all the necessary tools. The really innovative solutions are discovered-and implemented-through radical collaboration between diverse individuals from different backgrounds, disciplines, and cultures. We help these innovators rally around a common design process, appreciate cultural contexts, develop deep empathy, prototype and iterate ideas rapidly, and sometimes reframe the problem entirely. It's not long before unexpected ideas begin to take shape."

That sounds awesome to me! Upon further research I found out more about this idea/project/class (I wasn't sure what it was at first) and it works something like this: you apply as a graduate student from almost any discipline. They actually want a diverse group of applicants in order to formulate diverse teams in order to design more holistically. Once you are on a team, you work alongside with a partnership, usually a non-governmental organization, in order to collaborate on a project for a poor country. Some examples of projects include affordable lighting, human-powered irrigation pumps, premature infant incubators, asthma treatment for children, water storage, and the list goes on. The idea? Take a need and create a solution that can be purchased and/or produced as cheaply, efficiently, and resourcefully as possible. It's brilliant.

So why doesn't everyone do it? Why can't everyone be a social designer and give their talents back to the world for the good of all? Well because we're selfish for one. We don't have (or don't think we have) the resources for two. And for three we don't even think about it because we're too worried about our immediate financial needs to take the time and energy to seek out opportunities such as this until we're required to write a blog post that involves researching a word on a list in relation to our field. Ok so maybe I speak for myself on that last one. So when I came across this website I was skeptical and had a lot of questions.

Are these teams being paid to come up with these brilliant solutions? If so, how much? And if so, WHO is paying them and where is that money coming from? If not, how can they afford to take the time to do it? Upon further research I learned that in fact it is a class for credit. Which to me means that not only are these students NOT getting paid, but they're payING to do it. So are their student services fees/lab fees covering all the costs of research, prototyping, trips/housing/living abroad in order to truly be immersed in the culture and community they're designing for? And what happens if they come up with a brilliant solution? Then what? It goes into their portfolio for future job prospects with a big paycheck?

Part of that is answered by the partnerships. A large aspect of the partnership is the immersion factor. These partnerships are international organizations that offer the cultural input on-site. They communicate the needs of the community with the creative minds of the team. If a brilliant solution is found, these non-governmental organizations provide the funds and the resources to make those ideas happen NOW. They say,

"We are committed to helping students pursue their passions. A large, informal community of designers, industry experts, investors, legal counselors, and advocates has formed around the class, and has proved invaluable in helping students push their projects toward final implementation."
So that's pretty amazing, and pretty motivational as a team-member.

So if that's true, then my question should shift from "how?" to "what?". If in fact there are opportunities out there to make a difference in the world and be able to afford doing it, then maybe I can change my worry pants for life-changing overalls. Maybe instead of thinking about how I'm going to pay off my loans I should be thinking of what I can do to make an impact.

Does all this enlightenment erase my student loans? The Lindsay of a week ago would have said no. But the Lindsay of today is trying to say "who knows!" They say you should do what you love and that the money will follow you there. On Tuesday Dan shared his story about going to New York with barely enough money in the bank to get him through a couple weeks. His attitude was that he would figure it out when he got there. Hearing his testimony and now reading things like this big-picture designing, I have a feeling that "they" might know what they're talking about.

And if all else fails, there's always deferment right?


Needs vs. Wants


Awareness, Social Agenda

Objectively designing for others is nearly impossible. Our own personal preferences always enter into our designs. Even so, the ability to create a successful campaign for a product, brand or idea is what keeps us in jobs whether we can create it objectively or not. Clients also cannot submit an idea objectively. They have their own thoughts on what is going to sell and what they want to see. Design shouldn't be about making designs that purely please the client. Our job should be to create what they need, not what they want. Unfortunately, in a world where the customer is always right, we become diplomats trying to steer our charges into making the decision we want them to make. Being aware that there is a really delicate balance between what we want, what the client wants, and what is needed, is imperative.

As many of us will soon be entering the "real world" workforce, it's important to face reality. We're not always going to like what projects we are given or the clients we work with. Not only that, but until we prove ourselves with amazing portfolio work and beautiful designs we created for established clients, our opinion isn't going to mean much. I agree with Matt Ward when he writes:

"It doesn't matter if you are the most naturally gifted designer, or the most brilliant thinker, if you don't have a body of proven work, you're just going to have to grind it out like everyone else...you need to show the proper level of respect for your client (or boss), possibly even to the point of just doing what you're told".

This pretty harsh to think about, and something I have experienced personally at my job. This is something you will encounter and maybe it's just common sense, but if you do have to deal with it, try to make it a positive experience. Learn as much as you can from it, and above all maintain respect for the people you're working with and for. Circling back to how difficult it is to uphold objectivity, people all have their own way of doing things. We as designers need to be aware of our clients needs, and that sometimes their wants overrule what should be the correct design solution.

If we can't be objective one hundred percent of the time, we should instead force ourselves to break through our comfort zone. We should try new and crazy things, maybe of our own invention or a client's even. If we get too stuck into one area or one style, we're just limiting ourselves. If your client makes you create the most heinous piece of design you've ever seen in your life, turn it into a positive. Go quietly off on your own and redesign it how you would do it, or burn it. Whatever makes you feel better. The point is, being aware of what our clients want and need and being able to interpret it into a strong design concept is one of the most essential parts to being a designer.


Marketability is all about being able to successfully send a message to an audience. The key word here is successfully. In order to truly communicate with an audience, a company or individual needs to speak the same language and utilize frames of reference that are specific to that audience. This can be difficult, since these factors change and evolve over time and can vary drastically from one geographic area to another (and even within the same geographic area). For this reason, marketability itself also changes and is relative to the social environment of a particular time and place.

One way to look at how marketability is relative is to examine how it can change over time. During the first half of the twentieth century, one trope of marketing was the emotional, weak, and submissive housewife, which made advertisements like these common. When looking at these kinds of advertisements today, many people are shocked; but when you think about it, these kinds of messages are still all around us. Sexism in advertising today is simply a different kind--a kind that usually portrays women as sex objects and men as sports/beer/sex-obsessed caricatures. I'm hesitant to say that this is really an upgrade from the housewife/working man personas of the past, and it definitely says as much about our current social environment as ads from the 50s say about the time period they are from.

In addition to time, another important factor in marketability is place. There are many instances where something that is socially acceptable to one geographic audience is completely unacceptable to another. To look at one case, we can examine a Microsoft fiasco that occurred about a year ago. In this example, Microsoft took an image it used for its U.S. website and altered it for use on its Polish website. By "alter" I mean to say that they digitally replaced the face of a black man with that of a white man. Now, before getting up at arms about the "political correctness" of this move, think about Poland's ethnic demographics. According to the CIA's World Factbook, Poland is (or was in 2002) 96.7% Polish, 0.4% German, 0.1% Belarusian, 0.1% Ukranian, and 2.7% other/unspecified. Because of this, many people have argued that Microsoft was simply employing targeted marketing by attempting to accurately represent Polish culture. This situation gives something new to think about in terms of targeted marketing and considering the social environment of the audience.

Quality and the financial agenda -- Know the hidden costs


In my post from last week, Richelle responded and posed the question to me: "How do we get back to quality?" One answer I thought of brought me into the financial agenda, in that cost always plays a factor in purchasing. This reminded me of an important discussion on the status of our food system in the United States. I have always been health-conscious, but watching two eye-opening documentaries, King Corn and Food, Inc., greatly impacted my perspective. The problem as framed in each of these movies is simply that the quality of our food is extremely poor, as discussed in King Corn.

As Walter Willet says in that video, "most of what we've done in agricultural (so-called) improvements and in food processing have actually degraded our food supply from a nutritional standpoint." In a different section of King Corn, one farmer even says "We're not growing quality, we're growing crap!" Even if you choose to eat "healthier," you're often still eating modified foods that have been changed to grow bigger and more quickly than their natural counterparts, leading to a tradeoff. That tradeoff is the nutritional value of the food itself. In this, you can see that a decision has been made to place quantity as superior to quality.

So why is this happening and why is it being perpetuated? Food, Inc. offers part of the explanation.

I think this video shows that consumer choice plays a significant role. American culture is highly value-driven. Average Americans don't want to pay more than they have to, and this is especially the case for low-income families. As Mrs. Gonzalez says in Food, Inc., "when you have only a dollar to spend and you have two kids to feed, either you go to the market and try to find something that's cheap, or just go straight through a drive-through and get two small hamburgers for them ... sometimes you look at a vegetable and say 'OK, well we can get two hamburgers over here for the same amount of price.'" With a prevalence of low-quality, flavorful foods that are cheaper than less enticing high-quality foods, it's no surprise that things like fresh produce are losing out. However, Americans' perception of value in this situation is being distorted by practices in the food industry. The reason that all of the junk food is so cheap is because the corn used in them is heavily subsidized. This means that the actual price is not reflected.

In this I find a key point on how to get back to quality. In order to make good decisions, I believe consumers need to know the actual cost. A cheeseburger at McDonalds costs one dollar, but what are the hidden costs? What about the cost of staying in shape? What about the health costs that could be incurred if you develop diabetes? What about the health costs of fighting increasingly stronger strains of e-coli because of the cattle are being fed antibiotics? Perhaps these questions seem a bit alarmist, but trends show that problems such as obesity, diabetes, and resistant strains of bacteria are on the rise. Once you examine the hidden costs it doesn't seem to be very high quality anymore. As designers, we can try to reveal hidden costs by creating packaging that's not deceiving and is as clear as possible about the actual quality of the item. We can also choose to work for and support causes that raise awareness on issues such as these. On an individual level, we need to be more outspoken about hidden costs. Consumers today have a vast audience available to them through the internet, so if we know of a concern with a product we should make sure others know too. Once consumers know the accurate costs, they will be able to make better decisions on quality.

Another important factor in getting back to quality is removing obstacles that distort costs. In the example I've given, the subsidization of corn plays a large role in the success of nutrition-deficient foods. However, if corn was not subsidized, prices would change drastically. For example, sodas would become much more expensive as they adjusted to the actual costs of producing corn syrup or switching to sugar. This would help to level the playing field. Additionally, removing subsidies could then cause farmers to look at growing other crops, which would then lower the cost of fresh produce items. In order to combat such distortion, we as individuals need to use our voting power. In some cases, this may mean choosing lawmakers that oppose distorting factors such as subsidization, and by actively letting them know what we want. Additionally, we can place a vote every time we purchase by choosing to buy a certain quality product. If there is enough demand, new competitors will attempt to fill the gap that others aren't. Although this may not be as applicable in all product areas, I do think it's important to be on the lookout for factors that can distort individuals' perception on quality.

'Status' and the Social Agenda

| 1 Comment

Two things came to mind when thinking about 'status' and the social agenda, and while they are in no way related, I think they're both worth talking about. So for lack of smooth and easy transition, let's consider them one at a time.

1. There's been a lot of talk in class about moral obligations of a designer - should we work for companies that bulldoze the rain forest or employ 8 year olds or slaughter kittens in an inhumane fashion, etc etc etc. I think it's important to be aware of who you work for and what social implications that may have; however, I also think that ideals are a lot easier to talk about than live by, and that we need to consider that looking to the future. In all honesty, it would take a single search on google to find reasons to hate almost any major company out there, major companies we all use on a day to day basis.
Endevil.com has their own 'blacklist,' including Nestle, Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Walmart, and Shell, among many others, each of which owns several sub companies - Coca-Cola alone makes or licenses hundreds of products beyond soft drinks. Does being a socially conscious designer mean rejecting work from all of these companies? If Coca-Cola asked me to redsign the Sprite can for a million dollars, there wouldn't be any kind of decision to make - beyond the money up front, that is a serious client and a serious piece of work under my belt, both of which are crucial to garner new clients and promote my own work. Charges made against Coke include militant suppression of union workers, racial discrimination and stealing creative work. I would still accept that job, without thought or question.
I'm not suggesting we all close our eyes and whore ourselves out as designers to the highest bidder, regardless of who that is or what they do. I think it's important for us to keep an eye out, and take that moral stand when we have to - and take that moral sit when we have to, too. My point is that there is a spot somewhere in the middle of these two ideas, idealistic and absolute evil, that, like it or not, most of us are going to end up having to be a part of if we want to be employed. I remember one day in lecture several questions were posed about purchasing goods for cheap, and the externalization of costs to keep those low prices. I am guilty of buying those goods. Maybe I'm speaking for myself and myself alone, but I will be guilty of accepting those jobs as well (except for the really really evil ones).

2. This is less an observation of social right and wrong and more of the social community of design, but I still find it relevant and interesting. We had an interesting guest speaker this evening in portfolio, and she talked about all of the beautiful work posted on daily design blogs, how creative and awesome the design was - and how that represents 1% of what graphic designers create. I think this happens in all fields, but ours is particularly susceptible to the romanticized perception of work and rewards. The graphic design that gets the attention, gets the awards, gets the 'status' as awesome design is just a drop in the bucket of work to go around.

"Coca-Cola Products"

"End Evil Blacklist: Evil Companies and Multinationals"

Charles West | Security-Personal Agenda

| 1 Comment

We Designers create with our own artistic visions and purposes based on our own personal agenda. Unfortunately, our agendas do not always coincide with those of our peers, who may request that we change our design to fit their needs. In other words, once we present our ideas to others, we risk compromising the security of our personal agenda because our peers are free to tear our ideas apart as they see fit. This happens frequently in the professional world, and in order to satisfy our superiors, we must find a way to suit their needs while maintaining our creativity throughout. In order to do this, both the designer and the client must come to an understanding and find ways to integrate each other's personal agenda into the design.
Obviously, we must take to our clients' demands into account if we wish to make them happy. A problem that often arises, however, is clients not taking into consideration how they want a design to give their brand attention from consumers. They just know that they want the designer to create something that will give their brand more attention. The Working Group blog states that it is more helpful to tell a designer that "customers arriving on our page don't know us, and our brand is being overwhelm[ed]," rather than "make the logo bigger." (The Working Group, 2010) Part of a client's personal agenda is making their company look attractive, which is why they hire us designers in the first place. If clients do not present design problems to us clearly, they are compromising their agendas, as well as ours. Satisfying our clients is part of our personal agenda as well; if our designs are successful, we will see financial gain; having a successful brand will earn money for our clients, and clients usually pay us for what we do. Having more money will create financial security, which has always been a part of the personal agenda.
We must not forget we have our own ideas, and that the client must show respect for us. The YouTheDesigner blog states that one of the most common problems designers face when working with clients is that clients are too controlling. (20 Horrible Habits, 2007) I am currently designing a logo for an express barber supply delivery service, and the client has made it clear that he wants the logo to be a barber pole on wheels; this is his personal agenda. Unfortunately, every time I try to sketch this logo, the pole on wheels ends up looking phallic. This goes against my personal agenda, as I do not want to create this kind of material for this client. Furthermore, my design friends and I all agreed that a pole on wheels seems too simple and corny. Designers like to present information in a more imaginative way, and this pole-on-wheels idea is simply too obvious and mundane. If this logo were to be publicized, my ability to secure future clients would be hindered, thus hurting my future job security. Once again, financial security is at stake.
The designer/client experience should be a team effort. While the goal is to satisfy the client, we must not compromise our design skills and ingenuity. Our rationales for our design must be made clear to our clients such that we can persuade them that our personal agenda (to design as best we can) proves beneficial to their own personal agenda (to sell their product[s]). We cannot be afraid to put our own agenda out there, because while there is no "I" in "team," there is an "I" in "creativity" (as a matter of fact, there are two). We should be open to the ideas of others, but we must not allow our own agendas to be completely pushed aside.

Works Cited
Author Unknown .Nov. 30, 2007 You The Designer Blog. Retrieved from
http://www.youthedesigner.com/2007/11/30/20-horrible-habits-of-clients/ (2010, October 3). 20 Horrible Habits of Clients
Last name unknown, Vivian. Feb 16, 2010, Good Clients Make Good Design. Retrieved from
http://blog.twg.ca/tag/designer-vs-client/ (October 20, 2010)

Profit | The Social Agenda | Kirk Steineck

What is "the social agenda." The social agenda, applied to design, refers to whether or not a specific design contributes to the greater good of society. An example: designing for a public health campaign that educates parents about medical resources would benefit society. Designing for the 3rd Reich, not beneficial.

Leni Riefenstahl made this mistake. She was blamed after the fall of Nazi Germany for "seducing" the German people with flattering depictions of the regime. From then on she had to fight the association. (Hardt)

What is "profit." Most of the time we define profit as income above cost. This simple concept can be what determines what we choose to do as designers. Sure the tobacco company shamelessly advertises, when it is proven that their product kills people, but they pay their designers. On the other hand, the non-profit that educates low-income parents probably doesn't pay anything. I know what most of us, young designers, would have to choose at this point in our careers.

So does money make unethical design ok? Well in my opinion it depends on how unethical. Supporting Hitler, a bit to far. But designing packaging for sugary children's cereal, marketed to kids might pass the moral evaluation.

It is not always the designers that are responsible for lack of social consciousness, most of the time it is the it is whoever is in charge of the money.

"Ten years ago, a project to reduce the use of plastic by adding renewable ingredients produced fascinating new materials with extreme good aging qualities. The idea was simple and innovative. Grass cut from the garden or fibers of old blue jeans were mixed with plastic granulates. But the marketing department stopped this project with the argument that a. it did not look shiny and b. it would last too long." (Hardt)

As I see it there is an inverse relationship between being socially responsible and making profit. Today it seems as if the more harmful to society something is the more money it is going to make.

In Search of Ethics in Graphic Design


Design & Ethics: Good, bad, innocent or ignorant?


Kate Carlson | Health_Finance

| 1 Comment

What does financial health mean to you as a designer? Does it mean you need to get a job when you graduate in order to pay off your student loans, create widely seen campaigns, design junk in order to make enough money to buy your hopes and dreams, or focus on smaller that make you happy but pay less? This is a very big question we all must ask ourselves, as we are soon to be graduating graphic designers!

I was curious about the average salary of a graphic designer in today's economy, so I did a little research and came up with a few statistics that "On average, entry level designers can expect to earn $30k-$35k. Graduates with competence and worthy portfolios can expect to earn around $40k-$45k, with potential to earn closer to$75k with experience. If you become a creative director of a firm, you are more likely to earn $85k-$100k." (wiki.answers.com) This is what I basically expected, but the question comes to mind what if we don't want to work for a corporate company or firm? And if we want to choose the path of designing things we enjoy for less, how on earth are we supposed to pay back those large amounts of loans that we took out in the first?? These big questions and concerns can weigh heavily on our stress levels and ultimately influence us on our overall career path decisions. Do I take my dream job and not be able to pay back my loans? Or do I take a job I fear I wont love and suffer through it in order to pay that money back??

Well I think it all comes down to what we think success means. Ellen Lupton wrote a very interesting blog on AIGA website titled "What is Success?" she writes:

"Success is more than going to work everyday and getting paid. Success means finding personal satisfaction in your work and loving what you do. And it means engaging with a social world: a world of clients and employers, but also of readers, users and other designers. It is those things that make us rich."

I full heartedly agree with this statement, I just hope that by working hard and trying to do things I love I'll be able to achieve success in my personal point of view.



Poverty | Environmental | Nahil Khalife

According to Jeffrey Sachs, "The world's problems are man-made; therefore they can be solved by man." So we must not think that putting an end to poverty is impossible. Poverty is an issue that has been going on for the longest time. It is hard to solve it completely but taking baby steps surely helps the people who are suffering from it. Also poverty leads to health issues and causes environmental problems as well.

Amy Smith shares her knowledge on Ted.com as she talks about her projects. She researched poverty and health issues in 3rd world countries like Haiti and India. She creatively found the right natural resources to design solutions. According to Smith, the number 1 health issue that causes death of children under 5 is breathing the smoke from indoor cooking fires, which leads to 2 million deaths over a year.

This is related to poverty because the average person makes $400 a year and they have no access to fossil fuels or technology that can help them get better cooking stations. Therefore, Smith and her students designed a product, which is a low-cost press to produce charcoal from wastes that is cleaner than the original charcoals. This design solution brought health, environmental and economic benefits to the poor countries. Finally the people can use this product to increase their income by generating charcoals and selling them in the market. It also saved the environment by not cutting down the trees anymore, because 30 million trees are being cut down a year in Haiti.

Another important man who challenges design to help decrease poverty is Jeffrey Sach. When he was asked how design can fight this global issue, he responded: "Designers are the key to showing how to mobilize cutting-edge technologies, new materials, and new approaches to older materials and technologies, in order to solve problems such as clean water, safe cook stoves, low-cost housing, internet connectivity for the poor, safe methods of delivery of medicines and vaccines (such as safe syringes), and much more." (Design21).


One of his effective design solutions is to prevent malaria from spreading is by designing a bed net that is treated with insecticide that can last for 5 years. The above image shows the distribution of Malaria globally. Design and Engineering together creatively solved the mystery of malaria by learning how to put the insecticide into the resin that produces the nets. As designers we are trained to research, find the problem and creatively come up with an effective solution. We can use the same process to target poverty and save our environment.

TED: Ideas worth Spreading. Web. 22 Oct. 2010.

Lodaya, By Arvind. "Designing An End to Poverty - Features." DESIGN 21: Social Design Network. Web. 21 Oct. 2010. http://www.design21sdn.com/feature/930

Copyright| Social | Kelly Grahn

| 1 Comment

If we're going to talk about copyright and the social world, let's talk about Spiderman.

Spiderman is a creation owned by Marvel comics. In their own words, "All Marvel characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are Trademarks & Copyright © 1941-2010 Marvel Characters, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED" (Wikipedia). It is pretty clear what that means. While facts and ideas cannot be copyrighted, original works "including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture" (copyright.gov).

If copyright is violated, the violator can be sued for damages. For example, if a comic book company comes out with a character called Midersan, who wears the same outfit and wields the same powers as Spiderman, that company will end up paying Marvel a lot of money when Marvel sues them. That's fair, I think, but let's look at it from a different perspective.

Let's say there's a guy named Al, who really, really likes Spiderman. He owns all the comics and has walls covered with Spiderman posters. In his free time, he draws pictures of his favorite superhero.
spiderman.jpgThis is actual Spiderman. Spiderman_Fanart_Rain_by_cantas78.jpg This is Spiderman fanart.

This fictional Al isn't making any money on his drawing of Spiderman, but he is infringing on Marvel's copyright. Should he be sued in the same way as someone making money on the infringement? There are many social spaces online where people violate copyright in the way Al does. How about Spiderman fanfiction, where people write their own stories about the hero? Or, how about a Spiderman roleplay community, where fans pretend to be characters in the Spiderman world?
These fan communities are usually not pursued by copyright holders, and I believe this it the correct course of action. Fan works are copyright violations, but they usually help to promote the source material.

"Copyright in General (FAQ)." U.S. Copyright Office. Web. 22 Oct. 2010.
"Template:Marvel-Comics-trademark-copyright." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 22 Oct. 2010. .
"Spider-Man FanFiction Archive - FanFiction.Net." Unleash Your Imagination - FanFiction.Net. Web. 22 Oct. 2010. .
"Spiderman Comic « Napping at Red Lights." Napping at Red Lights. Web. 22 Oct. 2010. .
"Spiderman Fanart Rain by ~cantas78 on DeviantART." Cantas78 on DeviantART. Web. 22 Oct. 2010. .

You Don't Have to Work in a Design Firm - Pleasure/Financial

| 1 Comment

After hearing about Dan's career path on Tuesday, I was really inspired by how flexible he was when trying to find a job. He really made it seem like it was completely normal (and more financially stable) to take on a variety of jobs that are of interest to you that still somehow relate to what you learned in school. I feel that a lot of what we are learning in our major tends to prepare us for a career at an advertising firm, design firm, or in-house department. Fortunately, there are many of other outlets for designers. Each of us must think about the price of pleasure and how we want to live of our lives, from uber-glam to sweet and simple, and consider what type of career will be financially able to support that lifestyle.

The beauty of learning graphic design is that we are trained to create imagery, learn how to work with type, and work in business settings with business-related goals in mind. Some related jobs that are more image-related include: photographer, illustrator, animator, floral designer, textile designer, and storefront window display designer. Some jobs that focus on type include: publication/layout artist, sign painter, letterpress entrepreneur and information graphics designer. Some more business-focused jobs include art director, marketing strategy and design manager. There are even jobs out there that haven't been created yet, so it is up to us to seek those in need of our unique experiences and talents.

Designing freelance is also another viable option, both full or part-time. I met with my mentor last weekend who is a freelance designer, and I was asking her all sorts of questions about the pros and cons of working independently. Similar to Dan's job-finding experience, she says that the work just comes to her from the connections she has made over the years. One thing that stood out is that there are cycles each year where she knows there will be more or less work. She is able to stay afloat financially by predicting timelines of different projects and how she bills them, and relying on the fact that there is little to no work to be found in January, and taking that as an opportunity for a vacation or break.

As far salaries and personal finances go, I was able to find a very vague statistic on a very vague group of designers. According to the AIGA salary calculator a Minneapolis designer working in an organization of 10-99 employees with a local and national client-base will make between $42,000 and $60,000/year, not considering the type of organization. As you can imagine, those numbers can change drastically depending on the organization, city, size of the firm and client-base. If you are interested in calculating your potential salary, you can find the calculator here.


i(want)Everything | Quang Dao

| 1 Comment

Appeal | Personal

How do most people make their decisions on purchasing a particular item? Their personal preference on whether a product is appealing to them or not. The effect of the product's appeal on our decision of purchasing is undeniable. The mentality that companies try to instill in the consumer's mind about their brand also contributes to their personal preference towards a product. Companies constantly come up with new strategies to target their main group of consumers, to fill in the gap of needs, based on age, sex, income, etc. Consumers usually become loyal to a specific brand name after years of using products. Hence, consumer loyalty is the top concern for high-profited companies, as well as for young, emerging companies. How to get the consumers to keep going back for more is the big question for them to solve. Bloemer and Kasper stated in the article "The complex relationship between consumer satisfaction and brand loyalty" from the Journal of Economic Psychology "... repeat purchasing behavior is the actual rebuying of a brand. Only the behavior of rebuying is important, regardless of the consumer's degree of commitment to the brand. However, brand loyalty not only concerns the behavior of rebuying, but also takes into account that actual behavior's antecedents." Companies always try to "walk in the consumers' shoes" to see how they feel toward a product and what concerns them the most when they make their purchase. It's in the hands of the consumers that help companies keep up their profits and revenues. Hence, companies must find what appeals to a certain group of people, based on various categories, and from there, develop their marketing plans and production line based on the statistic and preference of a specific group of consumers.

Satisfaction is always the cause that drives consumers back to buy more. In consumerism, MORE IS GOOD for both sides, more revenues for the companies, and more usage/satisfaction for the consumers. Appeal alone only wins a product the entrance pass, for it to meet the consumers' expectation, the product must offer the consumer a sense of quality, reliably and desire for more. Bloemer and Kasper again said in their article, "Manifest satisfaction is directly and unequivocally related to true brand loyalty because manifest satisfaction means the explicit evaluation of the brand which (in the case of a positive evaluation) leads to commitment to the brand. As stated, commitment to the brand is a necessary condition for true brand loyalty. So, manifest satisfaction will be positively related to true brand loyalty." It is so true that appeal and satisfaction will guarantee the company a higher chance to survive in the harsh competitive market.

In our design world, Apple did a phenomenal job in marketing their products. They have both strong appeal and trustworthy quality, which are the key to their drastic break through in the past decade. Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apples once claimed, "We're the last company left that can bet the company on a new idea." (Jackson, 1988, Times) Jobs quickly realized the fastest-growing segment of the market, buyers looking for a cheap machine for the home, was still open and had no rivalry. Thus, "Jobs halted production and cut the line to just two categories: consumer and professional. Then he ordered his technicians to come up with one desktop and one portable computer for each." (Jackson, 1988, Times). Jobs saw an opportunity in making Apple a household brand in America by putting the appeal factor in the design of MAC products and also in what the company stands for. since then, Apple has created a craze in the design world and a revolution in technology. Many buy Apple products because of its appeal, as well as of the quality and easy-to-use system. Apple really knows what their customers need and try to fill it as much as they possible can. And that's also how they make us never feel ever so satisfied, KEEP COMING UP WITH NEW STUFF. "Apple desperately needs a new model that will retain the company's loyal users in the education market as well as appeal to all those first-time buyers looking for an easy way to get on the Internet." (Jackson, 1988, Times). Slim, sleek, multifunctional and easy-to-access Internet are Apple's leading products. It's irresistible not to want, say, an iMac, a Macbook, or an iPhone, when you pass by an Apple store. They just look so much fun to play with and so appealing to the eyes. BIG SIGH.


1) Bloemer, José. Kasper, Hans. (1995). The complex relationship between consumer satisfaction and brand loyalty. Journal of Economic Psychology 16.
2) Jackson, David. (1998). Apple's New Crop. Times, NY.

Trends & Tragedy | Inspiration | Matt Pabich

| 1 Comment

The time has come for another inspirational blog post. Today I am going to discuss how the environmental agenda and inspiration come together. There are two topics that came to mind immediately, trends and tragedy. Both of which I will be discussing in further detail.

Trends seemed to be a good spot to start. Currently our society is going through a "green" phase. "Now how does this relate to inspiration?" you may be wondering, well, it is simple. People, more specifically designers, are looking at green design as inspiration. Perhaps it is for the couple that wants to remodel their home, instead of going right for the plastics they may want to look to nature. And now we have the ability to literally bring our inspiration from nature into our house/design. Before slate or granite tiles, copper sinks, doors made from recycled boxes, the list goes on. I think the biggest inspiration from the green trend can be seen at any grocery store or large retail store that has jumped on the ol' bandwagon. Check out this link here to see bags by clicking "Look Good: Our Product." It is interesting to see if this is truly a trend or if people are really being inspired by nature. Perhaps I am a cynic, but I think that like the neon colors of the 80s this trend too will fade. But only time will tell.

The other topic of environmentalism and inspiration occurs just after a tragedy. Recall the months after the gulf oil spill. Clearly this was an extremely tragic event and had a major effect on the environment. It was also an event that spurred many designs. The fundraiser t-shirt popped up everywhere.

In case you forgot:



It is interesting to see how an event such as this looks to design for relief. People could simply donate 20 bucks to a relief program, but a t-shirt as an incentive (inspiration) gets people excited. It also has the ability to raise awareness among others.

So now I am opening the table to you; agree/disagree, add/subtract, let me know what
you think.


1 Bag at a Time



Waste | Personal | Tarin Gessert


Designers are always coming up with new ideas for trends, and often times they are asked to address the latest trends, whether they think it's a good idea or not. The coffee industry is part of a large trend right now. People love their coffee, and on any given day you can walk down the street and see people toting their to-go order in hand. These cups are made from cardboard, which is much better than Styrofoam, but still aren't recycled after their use. One of the best ways that we can eliminate waste is by reusing things.

Reusable travel coffee mugs and water bottles have been around for a while. As consumers' interests change, so do the designs of these products. The "I Am Not a Paper Cup" created by James Burgess took a unique take on a reusable product by making it look like the original, disposable one.


This cup is described as an eco-friendly alternative to disposable cups made from double-walled porcelain with a pliable silicone lid that keeps beverages hot and doesn't burn your hand that is also is dishwasher and microwave-safe. It's sold all over the place... at Target, department stores, coffee shops, etc.

Many coffee shops, like Starbucks, sell their coffee as an experience. People enjoy going into the store, purchasing their coffee, and walking out with a disposable to-go cup. Some simply enjoy the coffee, others enjoy the way they look with their coffee mug in hand. This whole experience that was created opened up a market for the products associated with the experience. Now, you have to look twice to see if someone is carrying a to-go cup, or a porcelain look-alike. Designers stepped in and created a product that coexists with this total coffee experience. Many other travel mugs exist, and have existed for a while. But, when you go into a coffee shop, the to-go cup that you are given doesn't look like the reusable mugs you have at home.

So how does this relate to waste on a personal level? Well, graphic designers are often asked to address the latest trends -- and this is a perfect example of that. In this case, it's not necessarily a bad thing! Yes, in the end, you are still creating waste. But, by marketing to those people who enjoy their coffee shop experience, you may have eliminated waste by creating a product that fits in with that experience.


Something designers need to keep in mind when creating these reusable products is their end destination. The product may last 5 years or even longer, but eventually it will be tossed out. When Nalgene (and other plastic) water bottles were found to have BPA in them, a new market was created for safer reusable bottles. Now, you can find steel ones lining shelves. These work great and have no known side effects like BPA. They come in different shapes, colors, and styles. However, they aren't easily recycled. Because they are steel, they can't be compressed with the rest of your recycling. So in order to dispose of these when you're done, you need to take them to a special metal recycling location. Designers market these bottles to all types of people--male and female, adults and children. And similar to the coffee cup example, this trend that is occurring is great, because in the end we are saving resources by reusing these products.

In this case, I would hope that designers would enjoy working on a project involving these products. On a personal level, the trend that they are asked to address is a good one!

Porcelain Cup
A short description of the cup.

The official site for I Am Not a Paper Cup.

Buy at Target

Recycling a metal water bottle
Read about this issue here

Quantity-Financial-Michelle Haga

How does quantity affect financials? In today's society people expect more for less. We are greedy people because we are cheap. As John Ruskin (1819-1900) said, "There is nothing in the world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and he who considers price only is that man's lawful prey." Ruskin stated this over a century ago, how do you think we have changed as a society? I would say that since cheap goods have been around for at least a century, we have been conditioned to expect cheap. Martin T, a political and economic consultant said it best, "our general culture over here values lowest price more than it values quality and consequently we live everywhere with shoddy workmanship, poor materials, unsafe installations and things that simply don't work. But many [. . .] are fine with that as long as it was cheap."

As a society that expects cheap, companies are now competing to be the "cheapest" only to further the idea of the availability of cheap goods. However, as Rodney Fitch of the Design Advisory Board said, "Only one company can be the cheapest, the others have to use design." That goes to say that only the generic brand can own the base price, the others have to create good design and user experiences to own the top of their category. For example, anyone can put together a generic computer using PC parts, however Macs are quite unique. Only Apple's operating systems work on Macs. But that's not why people are so enticed to buy them; users buy Apple because of the experience and feeling they get. It's not that Apple has the best products, because Nokia's smart phones have a lot more capabilities than the iPhone. But Apple will always win, so it's best for their competition to try and win at something else.

We tend to make purchases based on two things, price and feelings. If price is the main factor when shopping, then there is no competition. But when a brand does an awesome job and gets the customer to feel something it may drive them to purchase the product. For example, I like to buy the cheapest because I cannot afford quality. However, sometimes I get tricked! I went to the store to buy some groceries, when I was checking out something caught my eye. It was a well-designed chocolate bar that I had to try. Now, ever since then I buy that brand because it's quality is much greater than the cheap one. With that said, I believe young adults lack brand loyalty on a day-to-day basis because they are still finding their preferences. There may be some products that they purchase to do routine, like Crest toothpaste because that's what their parents bought growing up, but they may still be deciding what brand of ranch dressing they like. And as we earn more money and move into the real world we may consider splurging on brands with higher quality. I know I would like to one day.


Emerging Economics | The Financial Agenda | Angie Miller

| 1 Comment

Financially, I'll state the obvious: in the United States we're much more privileged than emerging economies. We can look at emerging economies and finances in two ways: how can we help them, and how can they help us?

First, how can we and how should we help them? Commonly, our financial relations with emerging markets are well-meaning efforts to combat poverty. We want to help, and we know that our excess money can in some way help those in need. How do we help, though? What do children in developing countries, for example, really need? One well-meaning, highly-critiqued project decided technology was the answer:

Another ... project that missed the point was the $100 laptop. Nicholas Negroponte, founder of the Media Laboratory at MIT, launched his project at the World Economic Forum in Davos. To the delegates in Davos, $100 probably sounded cheap; many were paying $1000 an hour to be there. But in Mali, where 90 percent of the population lives on $2 a day, this cheap laptop would cost people two or three months' earnings. (www.designobserver.com)

This struck me - 90 percent of their population lives on $2 a day, and I complain when I can't pay my $450/month rent with cash to spare. Maybe our efforts, if we are even making any, are missing the point. Other education-oriented non-profit organizations such as Room to Read (http://www.roomtoread.org/) can reach thousands more through less "technological" means and a lower cost. On the other hand, emerging economies will never compete with us if they cannot catch up in technology. In our self-absorbed culture, we don't even consider how many people could be taught to read at the cost of the new iPhone we buy for ourselves. Maybe we need to just be reminded of a little worldwide perspective. As designers, we have a large role in speaking to the general public. We can choose to make our community aware of the rest of the world, and we can choose to publicize ways to help.

Picture 4.png
The $100 laptops distributed through the famous education-promoting project in emerging economies.

Second, how can we learn financially from emerging markets? The Wall Street Journal argues that in our current economic hard times, we can look to emerging economies for wisdom. Struggling with too little money is the norm in emerging markets. Marketing and advertising approaches that have been proven to work in emerging markets can apply to our own country in hard economic times. For example, the Wall Street Journal cites focusing on current customers instead of trying to win new ones and focusing on consumers' core values have proven to be good marketing strategies in financial hard times. Overall, the article stresses, we can strive to be optimistic.

I'd also argue that we can learn from emerging economies financially, as I said earlier, by gaining some perspective. Our financial world is so utterly different than most of the world. If we honestly want to make a difference, we can; we just can't ignore the big picture.


Room to read: world change starts with educated children. (2009). < http://www.roomtoread.org/>

Roth, Martin. (2009, March 23). Surviving the downturn: lessons from emerging markets. The Wall Street Journal.

Thackara, John. "We are all emerging economies now." Observatory: Design observer. 06052008. Web. 21 Oct 2010.

For the purpose of this blog entry, I am considering the "environmental" category not in the traditional sense, but in the realm of the design environment. When I saw the harsh effects of the recession, I thought to myself, "Well, there goes my career." In today's design environment and in a time when people aren't willing to spend money on things they once considered a necessity, I assumed they definitely wouldn't be willing to spend on aesthetics. But my observations prove otherwise; there is just as much, if not more, effective design happening in the country today than in the past. I believe this is because the role of a designer has expanded in every direction. We are no longer simply "commercial artists." We have complex roles and are often involved in the entire marketing process, from conception of ideas to implementation in a tangible form. Because we have become so versatile and the definition of a designer so malleable, designers will always have a role in society. Thus, we are empowered by our creativity and skills to be constantly productive and very, very necessary in the current environment.

I recently saw the film "Art & Copy" in my GD4 class. While I hadn't considered it, designers are often pushed into one category: the group or individual that churns out the aesthetic of a physical product. However, there is much more to the process of creating than it's aesthetic component. Everything starts with an idea, and in the past I have found a distinct separation between the 'idea people' and the 'designers.' "Art & Copy" deliberately blurs the line between the two, and presents ad campaigns that discuss all parts of the design process (film). This is a refreshing reminder that we are not limited to our technical skills; our creativity is needed in concepting, editing, critiquing, and finally, implementing ideas. This is why we will always be around! We are simply too interspersed in the communication process to be excluded.

If you need further proof of our necessity, take a look at any t.v. commercial, print or web advertisement, public service announcement, or even household object. Even in a recession new campaigns appear constantly, meaning designers are still considered necessary to the marketing process, and continue to be hired for their skill and ideas. Here is a recent ad in which the design is clearly evident:

This commercial is not only sleek and engaging, but also employs a creative team's concept to create an image of what Jeep means to America. The concepted image puts emphasis on American manufacturing and shows the value of the product, even in our economy, by reassuring the audience of the quality of production and viability of Jeep. "The Things We Make Make Us" couldn't be more appropriate as the slogan for this example of design.

Fear not, classmates. We will always have a place in the world, thanks to our exceptional flexibility and capability, and our ever-changing roles as empowered designers.

(2010, July 12) 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee Manifesto Commerical from DCH Chrysler Jeep Dodge of Temecula. Retrieved from http://carcommercialfan.com/2010/07/2011-jeep-grand-cherokee-manifesto-commercial-from-dch-chrysler-jeep-dodge-of-temecula/

Greenway, J. and Nadeau, M. (Producer), & Pray, D. (Director). (2009). Art & Copy [Motion picture]. United States: The One Club.

Social Awareness & Design Education // Pat Groessel


John Thackara (I know, I know) stated in his book, In the Bubble, "designing is what human beings do." He means all of them. Some are arguably more adept. Color, shape, format, message. We design-types understand how to use these things to desired effect. Yet, as a group, we are baffled at the general ignorance about design by the general public. We've discussed it many times in class: how marketing messages can manipulate audiences/sheep, how packaging decisions affect the environment, how recycled paper is probably b.s., and how most of our shirts are made by hungry toddlers in Viet Nam. It's disturbing to some, and just noise to others. But assuming as a group we actually care and stop eating McChickens, buying undies labored over by kids, and turn away the sweaty salesman selling shoddy a/c units, are we, as the smart sheep, still responsible for creating a demand for good design? If so, where do we start? Explicit promotion (Trust us, this Eames chair is super well-designed!)? Message manipulation (eating local vegetables will make you last longer in bed)? Sit there and hope people start noticing how tight our grids are?

A good place to start may be how we, the communicators, are educated. In a blog review of Steven Heller's Citizen Designer: Perspectives on Design Responsbility, the writer cites essays in the book that place the source of "apathy and a-politicism" in design schools and design education. He quotes an essay stating that design students are "sealed off from the world at large," locked into a "visual laboratory" that has been passed down from the Bauhaus and classic Basel school projects. Okay. So to correct this, we stop calling them computer "labs," because we're not scientists, and we start printing on the back of stuff, right? Yup. And Anne Bush, one of the essayists, has another idea. She has her students study the contrast between "intended meaning and response" in existing designs. From this, students may "recognize that meaning is always the result of a range of cultural and social negotiations and the designer is not the sole determinant, but rather a participant in these dialogues." (emphasis added).

Many others will cite a rigorous degree from a liberal education school, like the U of M, as the solution to raising designers' awareness. As students, we know that can be up for debate, considering it largely depends on how much effort we can and do put into these non-design classes. As a design community, we can take the responsibility upon ourselves - in classes, conversation, promotion - and become as fully aware of our impact as possible. Once we see where we fit into the big picture, we can better determine how to work our manipulation magic for some greater good. Compare the actual trajectory of our designs to our intended one, and see if we can't aim a little farther. Along the way, we can eat our vegetables and keep those grids sharp.

Disability | The Social Agenda | Christine Yakshe

| 1 Comment

Does disability design benefit society as a whole? That depends on what kind of disability design we are talking about. While things such as ramps and elevators have been helpful to those with physical disabilities, are they helpful for those of us without disabilities? Are there better ways to design for the physically disabled that don't include these old and tired designs that in some cases do more harm than good? I've noticed many times at places such as the Mall of America that when you walk past the elevator, there is a line and those who really need it have to wait. Those of us physically able to walk up and down the stairs do not need to use the elevator and yet sometimes we do because maybe it is more convenient. This however, is not convenient to those who need the elevator to transport them from one floor to another. Could elevators also be contributing to the obesity epidemic? I think it's possible. A lot of people choose to take the elevator instead of the stairs simply because it's there.

The other thing is that some design for disability may not directly benefit those who are not disabled in some way but indirectly it benefits society as a whole. "Investing in the tools that make a job easier for a disabled worker could actually save employers money through increased productivity in both the disabled and able-bodied worker, as well as through decreased workers compensation claims" (Croasmun, 2004). So not only does disability design help those who need it but it can also benefit others. If no one ever designed wheelchairs or hearing aids, how productive would we be?

There is also the issue of designing for what is already designed. Take wheelchairs for instance. Wheelchairs have been a great way for those who are immobile to get to where they need to go. One issue thus far with wheelchairs is incorporating that mobile device with another mobile device, the car. So far vans have been the best option for those with wheelchairs while incorporating a ramp. This is great for the family and friends of the person with the disability because they know that their loved one can get to where they need to go safely and can be independent if they so choose. The issue with ramps and other devices to allow wheelchair users to get in cars is that the cars are originally designed for those who don't have disabilities.

Now here is a design that is even better for those with wheelchairs. This design makes it easier for the disabled while also making it easier for their families. Innovations such as this benefit society by benefiting the user, their family, their friends, and those around them.

Cohen, A. (2006, December 10). The wheelchair car. The New York Times, Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/10/magazine/10section4.t-7.html?_r=1

Croasmun, J. (2004). Designs for the disabled often better for the able, too. Ergonomics Today, Retrieved from http://www.ergoweb.com/news/detail.cfm?id=869

Kenguru: the cruiser. (2010). Retrieved from http://www.kenguru-car.com/

Utility | The Social Agenda | Andrea Leesley

Utility refers to the ability of a product to perform a certain task. The more tasks it is able to perform, the more utility it has. Although most people would think something with high utility would always satisfy and benefit, this is not the case. This article from The New Yorker discusses the 'feature creep' and how more features doesn't always mean better. For example, a beautiful spiral staircase in a building without an elevator may offer high utility and be aesthetically pleasing to the eye, however, it has low usability for someone who has to carry large objects to the top floor, or for someone who is in a wheel chair.

In today's society, designs are constantly being improved and changed based on previous designs. Designers talk to other designers, and observe how society reacts to designs in order to create a moor satisfying experiences and designs for the user. Every new product, or website is influenced or inspired by a design that previously existed. Features are constantly being improved and added to products and websites based on how society reacts to them. However, society does not always accept improvements or upgrades if is has low usability. Designer's can learn from this and use it to their advantage to create better designs. If society does not like a design or a certain element of of a design, it probably won't show up in the future. Here is an interesting article I found on how packaging influences society.

When something is created, it has the potential to impact society and inspire designers to create designs with higher utility. But it is always important for designers to recognize when to draw the line, because sometimes utility can compromise usability and likability.

Returnability (reusability) | Social | Lisa Hocraffer


Looking at the vast array of products and designs available today, it is easy to tell whether the designers considered how their finished product would benefit society as a whole. How a design will benefit society is a question that should be in the forefront of every designers mind, particularly in relation to reusability. One need look no further than the piles of garbage in third world countries to see that a dramatic social upheaval needs to take place in regard to how we view reusability. Video on technology waste in Ghana.

Image of plastic bottle waste in the Phillippines.

© J.Tanodra / UNEP / Peter Arnold Inc.

Society today is ruled by one-use, disposable products that promise the instant gratification consumer-oriented societies demand. Designers are creating more and more products that make life easier today, but do not consider the future. Consider paper towels and the Swiffer® Sweeper. Consumers would rather use these one-use products than wash the kitchen rag or rinse out the mop. Did the designer of the Swiffer consider how this product would benefit society? Possibly, but it's likely his or her main concern was making a profitable product for the company. Designers need to focus on ways to make reusability profitable. One consumer who values reusable products invented a way to make the Swiffer Sweeper more environmentally friendly. She used old t-shirts and wool blankets to make reusable cleaning pads. This reusable cleaning pad combines the convenience of the Swiffer, and the ability to simply throw the dirty cleaning pad in the laundry.

To promote reusability, designers need to change the way American society views products. Consider the way Europeans view clothing. Rather than owning closets full of clothing, they buy three or four quality outfits that they mix and match, wearing them until they are worn out. Compare this with they way we view clothing in the US. We buy closets full of clothes that we don't wear, many of which are poor quality and don't last very long. The same phenomena can be seen in the way we view furniture and technology. Consumers need to stop buying cheap furniture that can only survive one or two moves. We need to demand that cell phones are made to last more than two years, and are designed using less harmful chemicals. We need to look to the Iroquois for advice and start considering the next seven generations when we make decisions.

To change the way products are made, designers and consumers must work together. Designers need to create more reusable products, and consumers have to pressure companies to use environmentally friendly practices and to create green products.

Works Cited


Greenpeace. (Producer). (2008). Electronic waste in Ghana. [Web]. Retrieved from


Howard, B.C. (n.d.). Message in a bottle: despite the hype, bottled water is neither

cleaner norgreener than tap water. Emagazine, Retrieved from



Kibblesnknits. (n.d.). Swiffer mop pad (a reusable one!). Retrieved from



MadRazorRay. (Producer). (2007). (part 2) indigenous native american prophecy

(elders speakpart 2) . [Web]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com


Competitiveness | Environmental Agenda | Allison Hall


So this "Green" movement is kind of a big deal. The nature of our job as graphic designers gives us opportunities to be a part of it. But it's not as simple as "being a part of it." In order to stay competitive, sometimes the environmental factor isn't the first priority.

Although much of what designers do is now online, print is still very much alive. Go Green Graphic Design is an organization that encourages graphic designers and design companies to be eco-friendly, and gives them tips on how to do that. In one of their blog posts from this year, they comment on print design's decrease in popularity, but affirm that, "...print is not dead, it has evolved." The blog post, titled 5 Creative Ways to Go Green and Save Money is a good example of them carrying out their mission. Although the article kind of states the obvious in terms of being environmentally aware, the examples given were realistic. It was enlightening to learn that being sustainable in the design world is not only do-able, but also not as complicated as it may seem.

What's key in the post is that it doesn't just give you ways to "go green;" it gives you ways to do it without increased spending. It's difficult to stay competitive in a society that puts a lot of emphasis on being sustainable. It often costs more to use recyclable and professional looking, eco-friendly materials. If you don't have the money for that option and you go too minimalist with materials, although you may still be eco-friendly, your product may look cheap and your competitiveness in the market may decrease.

So where's the line? How does a company stay competitive, eco-friendly and not spend a fortune? The answer, of course, is it depends. One of the examples in the blog post seemed a little far-fetched: a company created business cards out of a recycled cereal box. It made me think, 'Sure, it's creative and sustainable, but would that keep the company competitive?' Maybe. Maybe this will stand out as new and different against the rest of the paper business cards. Maybe this will make the company more competitive because they're raising the bar, actually putting environmental awareness into action. On the other hand, maybe clients will see the business card and label the company "amateur" or "unprofessional" next to their competitors, who have sleek and shiny cards on thick cardstock paper. All of a sudden, an effort to be "green" could lower the company's value and thus decrease their competitiveness.

What about the competitiveness of actually being a "green" company? With the hype that surrounds the "green movement" right now, it has become a trend to keep up with. This article titled "Freelancers Survival Kit: How to Continue Being a Competitive Freelaner" touches on this trend in one of its tips. It suggests that you can support it by simply cutting down on the amount of paper used and wasted by doing more things digitally. In turn, we will save money and help the environment.

Sounds pretty simple, right? Well, what happens when you do need to use paper for communications? Like the first article said, print is not dead. Trying to be environmentally friendly through the use of recyclable paper or otherwise sometimes costs a company more money. It can then become difficult to keep up with the "green" trend and be competitive for consumers' attention. Many people are now basing their purchasing decisions on if the product is "green" or not. Companies have to respond to this in some way; they need to keep up with the world somehow and stay competitive in their market. The Go Green Graphic Design blog post gives designers some simple things to think about and simple ideas on how to be "green." A lot of the time, it's simply about planning ahead.

As up-and-coming designers, we are forced to think outside the box. Being environmentally friendly is just one of the contexts for that. This blog post is a great place to start, because what will be most valuable is figuring out how to be "green" in a cost-effective way. We have to get creative.

Recyclability - Social Agenda | Barbara Hicks


It seems to me that the social agenda and the economic agenda for recyclability are intricately intertwined. You can hardly talk about one agenda without talking about the other, but I'll give it a shot.

Recently, I've run across a lot of seriously conflicting information about the pros and cons of recycling. I'm not utterly convinced in either direction, but the one thing that I feel I can say about recycling as a social issue is that it makes people feel like they're better people when they do it. The biggest problem with recycling, as I see it, is that most people are really very uninformed about the big picture of recycling. Organizations of all sizes and kinds then respond to the uninformed public's idea of what recycling looks like, wasting time, money and energy on useless 'green' campaigns and juvenile 'reduce, reuse, recycle' mantras to appear environmentally friendly and concerned about the health of the planet. In fact, for many organizations, this is only paying lip service. The same companies that brag about their recycling practices are often producing mass quantities of non-biodegradable waste in manufacturing and packaging. According to an article in the Boston Globe, many companies are not as green as they claim to be. The article says that "Marketers, some environmentalists and marketing specialists say, are merely tapping into people's desire to feel like they're saving the earth - but not sacrificing their lifestyle." (http://www.boston.com/lifestyle/green/articles/2008/05/14/not_as_green_as_they_claim_to_be/)

Studies have shown that the more people know about recycling, the more likely they are to participate, and the most important knowledge affecting their recycling behavior is what can items be recycled and how those items have to be prepared for recycling. But, although there is abundant information about recycling available to the public, many people are still unaware. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) has a great website with all the information a person could want about recycling, as well as numerous resources for businesses and municipalities (http://www.mass.gov/dep/recycle/), but that doesn't mean people are reading it. According to a study funded by MassDEP, it is by "combining the effective communication of information with behavior change tools such as prompts, commitment techniques, incentives and the development of community norms, communities can improve the chances that recycling information will be absorbed and acted upon." (http://www.acetiassociates.com/pubs/curbside.pdf)

Reducing and reusing are less controversial subjects (until you get into the economic agenda) and actually have more of a social impact. Recycling, as most Americans practice it, is relatively painless, and doesn't require a tremendous amount of commitment or any significant change in lifestyle. Reducing and reusing take a little more gumption and a willingness to make changes. This article has some good ideas about how to begin thinking differently and forming new habits that will be more beneficial than throwing your junk into the recycling bin (http://www.bostonmagazine.com/articles/graduating_from_recycling_to_reducing_and_reusing/).

New York Times article about the sorry state of the recycling industry: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/08/business/08recycle.html?_r=1&hp

Cost Effectiveness: The Social Agenda

Are companies sacrificing budgets for poor design? It depends on who you ask, and if you equate a professional, well-done product with an expensive price tag. We could all probably tick off a few nonprofit organizations' logos (animal shelters, churches, community groups, or anything that involves hand prints or dancing stick people) that provide ample evidence for a small budget's impact on design. And companies with clean, Gestalt-friendly branding (and a massive budget) often go hand-in-hand with unethical (or at least less than favorable) practices, like Wal-Mart, Nike, and McDonalds. So what else can be concluded about design and ethics?

The fact is, these big companies don't just pay for the finished logo. They pay for the creative team, visual research, marketing research, presentations, revisions, and ad campaigns. Here's a basic overview of what goes into branding: Building Your Brand. It seems that if a business wants to be successful, it needs to consider all aspects of its brand, and the logo is just a small cog in the wheel. Unfortunately, this means that small companies with a) tiny budgets and b) little funding naturally need to cut costs without detrimentally affecting their services.

Or do they? Perhaps they can survive with the help of solicitations and commitment. In the article "Nonprofits in jeopardy: Can better branding help?" Hayes Roth talks about how essential it is, especially in a financial climate such as ours, to rely even more heavily on the importance of branding (found here). One way that nonprofits can finance their campaigns is to seek help from innovative junior designers--i.e., recent grads and former interns--while maintaining a senior consultant. Voila! More experience for the design peons, more recognition for the company, and fewer costs to worry about. Roth admits that there is no amazingly free solution for nonprofits, but sometimes motivation and a strong moral character are nearly as effective as piles of money.

Sources Used:



communication-social agenda-amy maleson

The social agenda deals with what and how a designer decides to communicate their ideas and whether it is right or wrong in terms of society. Designs and ideas affect society and vice-versa. In my opinion, a designer has two choices; one being to work for what they believe in and the other is to work for their company. In some cases the two beliefs will overlap, but in most situations, a designer has to decide what it is they truly want to convey with their work.

One of the most known events in recent history was the destruction of the world trade center. After much time of grief, ideas for the redesign began to form. Society and communication played a large role in this design, because it was such a unique space that touched people around the world. There are many visuals that can be seen for the design of that space. The link below shows a video of what will be in the space where the twin towers had been standing.


There was a team of architects working on this project. All of whom had to decide what it was that they were trying to communicate to the world and also the significance of what had been in that space and the significance of what was to be. This particular design was to benefit to society as a whole. All designers onboard communicated together as a team as well as with society in order to have a space that could only be created by working together with such great minds. "The goal of bringing everyone together in one studio was to create a degree of interaction and synergy that couldn't possibly exist if they were in their separate domains," (Silverstein, Towers 2,3, and 4 developer).

Communication and the social agenda are very important pieces to design. In order to create something that will benefit society, a designer has to research and listen to societies needs. This may not always be something that a designer agrees with, but as a designer you have to make the decisions of what you want you work to convey. The designers of the space of the world trade center decided to make a space for society to remember and honor those who had died. There are many different pieces to the space that come together as a whole to remember and reflect upon what was.


"YouTube - The New World Trade Center - 9/7/2010." YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. Web. 18 Oct. 2010.

World Trade Center. Design and technology by blenderbox. © 2010 Silverstein Properties, Inc.

Ownership and the Social Agenda in Design - Jenny Zanatta


When I hear the word "ownership" in the sense of a social agenda, my definition of it switches slightly from physical claim over something, to responsibility of something. In design specifically, understanding who "owns" a design (the firm, the designer, or the client?) can be complicated. This confusion, though, reaches a whole new level when controversial projects come up, and conflicts of personal moral values clash with "a designers job." As designers, we ultimately have to please a client, but where do we draw the line? And when you realize your mistakes and how they may have affected society, do you own up to them? Or do you just say, "Oh well, it won't happen next time?"


As in an independent designer, freelancer, or inventor, it is much easier to accept blame for the social consequences of your design, and "own" up to your regrets. In a 206 article in the San Diego Union-Tribune Mikhail Kalashnikov, the original designer of the AK-47, explains his regrets of the social implications of his design. In 1941 Kalashnikov started designing a gun to fend off the German invasion of the Soviet Union. Kalashnikov was hospitalized from a German attack, and while recuperating realized that the Soviet Union was at a disadvantage by not having an automatic weapon. Today though, he "laments its transformation into the worldwide weapon of choice for terrorists and gangsters." At the time, he was excited about his contribution to defending his country, and does not regret that aspect. What he does regret, is how his invention "mushroomed uncontrollably across the globe," and explained, "Whenever I look at TV and I see the weapon I invented to defend my motherland in the hands of these bin Ladens, I ask myself the same question: 'How did it get into their hands?'"


Though many may think that it is obvious to regret the social implications of designing a weapon, what about regretting a loveable puppy, designer to help those who are both visually impaired and have allergies? The famous designer dog, the Labradoodle, was first bred in the late 1980s. While working at the Royal Guide Dog Association of Australia, Wally Conran was contracted to help a visually impaired woman whose husband was allergic to dogs. Conran crossbred a well trainable Poodle (that is hypoallergenic), with a Labrador (the guide dog of choice). Three puppies were born, one of which the husband's allergies were able to stand. To make conversation of the new guide dogs easier, Conran stopped using the word "crossbreed" and coined the term "Labradoodle." Soon the name caught on and turned fashionable, and popularity of the Labradoodle soared. This made Conran nervous, "Were breeders bothering to check their sires and bitches for hereditary faults, or were they simply caught up in delivering to hungry customers the next status symbol?" Even a design so pure, innocent, and loveable managed to turn into regret for the original designer. Conran is now taking "ownership" of his design, his regrets, and the social implications of both the breed and the name he designed.

Both of these examples of taking "ownership" over the designs that have in some way hurt society came from independent designers. But what about when working at a firm? I have found it very difficult to find examples of socially "bad" designs, and how the individual designers at the firm felt about it. It made me wonder, is it easier to ignore the social affects of your design when you have a firm to hide behind? When working at a firm, and presented with a project that goes against your own personal morals, is it easier to suck it up and do it anyways because "its your job," "its not your fault," or "you didn't choose to, you were assigned?" I think as designers if you work at a firm, take a second each time you are presented with a project, and think about whether or not you would accept it if you were a freelancer, and didn't have the firm to hide behind.

Being a designer and "owning" up to your responsibilities is a complex issue. At times what starts as good can turn regrettable, at others you may be assigned a job you don't agree with and regret it from the start, or you may have the opportunity to stand your ground and say no. No matter the situation you must always own your designs, know where you draw the line, and accept responsibility.

AK-47 article:

Labradoodle article:

Convenience - Financial Agenda - Manon Ibes

In my previous blog post I wrote about how convenience relates to the social sphere and how designers should always be aware of what level of convenience they are affording their intended users. In looking through the financial lens, I found financial justification for providing that convenience to users (enhancing your client's financial agenda) and tips on how to provide convenience to clients (enhancing your financial agenda).

LG has proven that providing convenience to a product, over what your competitors offer, can lead to better sales and adaptation of that product. Kimchi is a Korean fermented-cabbage dish with a strong taste and smell that quickly taints other food in a regular refrigerator. In the 1990s, LG released a refrigerator with a special kimchi compartment in it to isolate the odor and to provide proper maturation of the kimchi. By 2005, kimchi refrigerators became a fixture in 65% of Koren homes, and despite growing competition, LG remained the top-selling manufacturer (Esfahani, 2005). LG's Middle East marketing director, Hamad Malik says "Gone are the days where you could just roll out one product for the global market, we speak to consumer individually" (Daft & Marcic, 2008).

What LG has found is that by providing consumers with products that are convenient to their needs and life-styles, rather than a mass-produced product makes the customers happy and provides them with increased sales and success in the market.
LG has applied this technique in several markets over the past years. In India, LG has produced a variety of different appliances, including refrigerators with larger vegetable compartments offered in bright colors that reflect local preferences, dark-colored microwaves to hide masala stains , and a television with extra loud sound to play music on. Household appliances have always stood for increased convenience in the household, but by playing on specific needs in the area, LG is able to gain a substantial advantage above competitors. In 2005, LG's share of the Indian market was 29.4 percent in refrigerators, 26.5 percent in color TVs, 35.8 percent in washing machines, and a crushing 38.0 percent in microwave ovens (Kim, 2005). This performance encouraged LG to set a revenue target of $10 billion by 2010 (five times their revenues in the country in 2005).

Product design is not the only place that added convenience can provide a financial advantage to an organization. How many times have you been turned off from online shopping on a site that has a poorly designed and inconvenient catalogue? Amazon has proven to be an incredibly powerful shopping resource because of the convenience it offers shoppers in both the ease of shopping and the market data they offer to consumers, like items that you might be interested based on a purchase or items that others with similar purchases have looked at. They were ranked 5th out of 50 of Fortune Magazine's Most Admired companies in 2010, and much of their success is due to the innovation and level of convenience they brought to the online shopper, which has enable them to expand outside of book sales.

After that lengthy discussion of how convenience can help you create enhance the financial agenda for your client, it is also important to think about how to enhance your own financial position.

Obviously two key ways to do this are to provide customer service to your clients and to meet your client's goals for the design application. Unfortunately, in the business world, the design world is often perceived as flighty and not necessarily driven by economic/financial measures of success (enough so that one of my marketing/advertising books had a whole chapter dedicated to how to work with the "creatives" at a firm). If you can demonstrate to a client that you value their time (even if they don't necessarily value yours) and offer convenience to them in your general communications and presentations, they are much more likely to keep coming back to you and possibly to recommend you to other colleagues. Chris at Freelance Review wrote The Three Rules of Convenience, which are: reply in a timely manner, give sufficient notice for absences, and deliver on-time, every time. These are valuable tips to keep at the back of your mind, so that you are always considering not only how to create the best design for a client, but also how to treat that client so they will want to continue working with you and enhancing your financial agenda.

Daft, R.L, & Marcic, D. (2008). Understanding management. New York: South-Western.
Esfahani, E. (2005, December 1). Thinking locally, succeeding globally. Business 2.0, Retrieved on October 16, 2010, from http://money.cnn.com/magazines/business2/business2_archive/2005/12/01/8364622/index.htm
Freelance Review. The three rules of convenience. Retrieved on October 3, 2010, from http://www.freelancereview.net/the-3-rules-of-convenience.
Kim, K. (2005, September). Premium marketing to the masses: an interview with lg electronics india's managing director. McKinsley Quarterly, Retrieved October 16, 2010, from http://www.mckinseyquarterly.com/Premium_marketing_to_the_masses_An_interview_with_LG_Electronics_Indias_managing_director_1666

"Green" Child Toys... or Lack There Of

| 1 Comment

Toys for children are so electronic-based these days that I decided to find the "green" side of toys. I found that amazon.com has a whole section dedicated to eco-friendly toys. Most of the toys are for babies though. As the age group gets older, the less green toys being offered. They only have six products for ages eight and up. I took a look and found that they are all activity kits. Why can't the action figures and Barbie dolls for kids be made out of recycled plastic? I searched for eco-friendly action figures and this is what I got... Gary the Gorilla. He's made out of wood blocks and hemp rope and for only 75 British pounds, you can have him. This is not a toy that will be mass-produced and sold at Target, WalMart, and Toys "R" Us. It's something an environmentally friendly person will search and search for online and let's be honest, be disappointed with. While he's cute, how many children will choose blocks and rope over a Transformer or Barbie? Certainly not my neice or nephews. They always want colorful and posable figurines.

In an article titled "The Ultimate Greenwashing: Barbie Goes Green", the author explains an attempt made by Mattel to fool people into thinking Barbie is "green". She points out that Mattel is producing a clothing line called Barbie BCause for young girls that is eco-friendly. They use leftover fabric from other Barbie products. This is a joke. Mattel wants Barbie to seem eco-friendly while still producing the doll and packaging out of unrecyclable plastic. She talks about how, ironically, her eco-friendly daughter hates Barbies. Mattel really needs to rethink their products.

The only successful "green" products I could find for children were furniture pieces. The eco-friendly parents usually choose cribs and bedroom furniture, not the child. At least furniture designers are realizing the importance of attractive "green" products. Oeuf's new Robin Collection is made out of 100% sustainable wood and 100% natural water-based paints. Sustainable wood means the trees are not cut down faster than what is needed for a healthy earth. I found that this collection is actually significantly cheaper than Oeuf's regular collections. It's over $300 cheaper! The crib can be converted into a small bed for toddlers up to five years old with a conversion package. This truly is a great collection.

Gary the Gorilla

Gary the Gorilla:http://www.inhabitots.com/2009/08/17/gary-the-gorilla-the-eco-friendly-action-figure/

"The Ultimate Greenwashing: Barbie Goes Green": http://ecochildsplay.com/2008/05/01/the-ultimate-greenwashing-barbie-goes-green

Oeuf Furniture: http://www.oeufnyc.com/robincollection.aspx

When I think about the word "affordability" in relation to design and to me personally, I think of paychecks. Unfortunately, I have yet to be financially stable enough to afford basing my job choice on personal choice. It has been always influenced by how much money I can make, and how I can fit it into my already full schedule being a full time student. I am always playing with the balance between not being able to afford working less for the financial necessities I have and not being able to afford to work too much for the sanity necessities that I have. So what are my options as a designer for getting paid?

According to the AIGA website my options include time and materials, fixed-fee, use-based pricing, licensing, hybrid, and free. Currently I am being paid by the hour. I am scheduled for a set amount of hours per week at a certain amount per hour, and the idea is that I get as much done in that time as possible. The problem with this is that sometimes creativity must be compromised in order to stay within those time constraints. However, if I was not limited by those set schedules, I might design for hours and hours and my sanity would be compromised. According to payscale.com the median hourly rate for graphic designers is $14.60. There are times in which a fixed-fee method of payment would be more affordable for the client, as well as a less trust-based option. The catch with this is to make sure I as the designer set down boundaries within the project so the client doesn't--as they most likely will--ask for additional changes or projects during the process.

Use-based pricing is an interesting option, although more common for photographers, copywriters, and illustrators. The idea is they get paid according to when and where their work will be used. Pricing can differ based on the amount of times it would be used, where it will be used, and for how long it will be used. Along this same thread, licensing payment is based on the amount made by the product on which your design is placed. Instead of getting paid up front for my work, I would be paid a percentage of the net sales of the product. A hybrid form of payment is just as it sounds, being a combination of any of these other methods. Perhaps for a project I might be paid a fixed-fee but then in the contract we write that if the project goes past a certain parameter I would be paid hourly.

Last but not least there is the free option. At first I didn't even care to read about that option because for me, I couldn't afford to spend my time doing something that wasn't going to help pay my bills. However, AIGA gives some good examples of what to watch out for in the design world as far as people taking advantage of your services by "testing driving" your designs. But on the flip side they go into the "good free", that being pro bono work. In this case, if I were to be passionate about something, such as political, social, or religious causes, and wanted to help out in some way, I might offer my design services. In this way, the trade-off of money in the bank to my conscious would be worth it.

Right now in this time in my life, my only options are to work pro bono, or hourly, as they are the only opportunities that have been presented to me. And from my point of view, it feels the most fair, because if I were to work for a fixed-rate, like I said before, I would let my client take advantages of my services, which my back nor my sanity could afford. It was interesting to me to see all of these different options because there are times when I feel that clients either don't understand or appreciate all the work that goes into being a designer, and thus don't pay us what we're worth. Or perhaps they understand but play naïve knowing that they couldn't afford to pay us what we're worth. Does this mean that I believe I should be paid millions? Hardly. I just want to be able to do what I love, and live comfortably while doing it.

Remember the time in your life when everyone asked you, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Well, I think it's safe to say you're all grown up now; do you know what you want to be yet? As soon-to-be graduates entering the broad field of graphic design, we are faced with a unique and somewhat overwhelming opportunity. We now have the ability to define who we want to be and how we want to present that desired self-image to others. Obviously, everyone in this class has come to at least a vague decision about who they want to be by choosing their degree. We have all said, "I want to be a designer." The problem, however, is that if all of us are defining ourselves in the same exact way, there is nothing that makes us different from one another.

In an opinion piece on the design and marketing blog SavvyTalk, Lisa Nalewak's "Requirements for 'Designer Greatness'" include talent, skill using industry tools and processes, work ethic, and knowledge of marketing fundamentals, particularly in relationship to target audiences. While these are great tools for every designer to have, the problem is that we all have them. Individually, we need to define what makes us unique within the field of design and find a niche audience that will be responsive to our particular strengths. This model of marketing has worked for years in the business world, and many designers have proven it to be useful in the creative world as well. Our first step is to take an introspective look at our own strengths and the things we enjoy doing so we can define what our ideal self-image is. This is a page from the book "It's Not How Good You Are, It's How Good You Want to Be" by Paul Arden. It is an excellent example of how you need to look at what you want to be--not just what you are now--and "dress for the job you want," as the saying goes. Think about this future self and what attributes you already have that can help you reach your goal. These are the things you will want to emphasize in your portfolio and other marketing materials.

In addition to defining ourselves, it is important that we ensure we have integrity and are able to live up to what we are promising. In the article "Capitalizing on Creative Differences," Dave Dolak, an independent marketing, branding and sales expert, is quoted as saying that, when a new brand enters the marketplace they "must promise something of value, offer something unique and then deliver on the promise." The same is true for us as designers. If we can't back up our promises with actual work, it is misleading to clients and employers and will only hurt our own reputation in the long run. So before telling clients and employers you are great at (blank), make sure you have some solid examples in your portfolio to back yourself up or be willing to create portfolio pieces that exemplify your desired traits. The bottom line is that the process of marketing ourselves is initially one of self-discovery, of figuring out who we really are and who we want to be and being true to those ideals.

Fun and the Financial Agenda | Jonathan Glatfelter


The fun factor and design. The fun factor and finances. Like our parents did when we were children, a design firm or a client can always put a stop to any fun that you may be having. Being able to design under no restrictions or supervision, so to speak, is a designer's ultimate dream! We sign on to a client's project and we are expected to produce a development that comes from their head through our craft. While some of this work may be 'fun' for some, it may not be fun at all for others. It's something as a designer that we must face: giving up fun for an income.

It is said that a designer or artist's best work comes when there is an economical crisis (or at least from what this website told me). I came across an article on designboom.com that gives a variety of examples of art and design projects that deal directly with the dollar bill. One artist has even scribed the word "FUN" onto the back of a dollar bill. How ironic! I think that these forms of art are actually quite relevant to the relationship between money and fun. What is the line between having fun and having TOO much fun? These artists have gone against what the government has laid out for us as a currency and they have created what they want of the dollar bill in their own way, and for what? Well, I would think for fun! When do we decide that a project is worth our time and energy? Is it only worth it if we consider it fun?

'My money, my currency' by Hanna Von Goeler

In addition to this, I looked up some statistics dealing with graphic designers and finances from graphicdesignschools.com. What I found really came to no surprise, but it's interesting to look at some of the numbers and to relate it to "fun." Graphic designers earn an average of $46,750. Only the top 10% of these people make over $74,660. Most new designers start at $35,000. Now, I am not one to assume anything, but it's interesting to really take these salaries and then to think about a couple of things in regards to "fun." Would a person who is making $45,000 a year be working on projects that are more fun than someone making $96,000 a year? Is the individual that is making more money having more fun in his/her personal life? Again, I'm not one to assume, but they're questions that we can guess upon.

Obviously every person is different from another. We all have interests, desires, aspirations, etc. One individual may find the currency design and history as fun and enjoyable where another may not. What's the fiscal value of a project when we are presented with it? It is crucial that we understand that we may not be the moneymakers of the world and that we may have to sacrifice good fiscal opportunities to enjoy work and vise versa.

Money Design and History. Retrieved October 6, 2010, from http://www.designboom.com/weblog/cat/8/view/5440/money-design-and-history.html.

Graphic Design Career Statistics. Retrieved October 7, 2010, from http://www.graphicdesignschools.com/guidance/graphic-design-career-statistics.html.

Communication | Environmental | Lindsey Ostby


In the last few decades, especially now more than ever, we have noticed a growing trend and concern with issues that have plagued our environment. The concerns that we have had in the past over clean air and water, safe food, greenhouse gases, etc. are now of greater magnitude as these problems become more alarming and the effects become more real. Not only are we aware as consumers, but also now from a business standpoint. Businesses are forced to change their standards and communication strategies as the word "environmentalism" has become apart of our society's public consciousness. This idea of renewing communication strategies within a company is important in order to stay competitive in the market. In the article, Going Green Makes Good Business Sense, the author mentions that a competitive method would be to revisit certain systems such as design, production, etc. in order to better communicate a business's new environmental standards.

Going Green Makes Good Business Sense

An example that supports this viewpoint of businesses wanting to communicate their new environmental standards is the rebranding of BP. BP wanted to communicate to their consumers that they were concerned with global climate change after they had reduced their own emissions by 10 percent. In 2000, they designed a new corporate logo. The Helios symbol, a representation of energy named after the Greek sun god depicted with a green and yellow sunflower pattern, is intended to communicate BP's interest in alternative and environmentally friendly fuels. Their new corporate slogan communicates, "Beyond Petroleum." According to BP's description of their brand, their logo communicates that they are progressive, responsible, innovative, and performance driven. Through design, BP was able to strongly communicate their brand and environmental standards to their consumers. Due to recent events on the Gulf Coast, some are concerned that BP's strong brand message is contradicting to their practices. A design that communicates something so important to what their brand is now could become hindering to them as some of their credibility is lost among consumers and the market.


Just as BP realized that it was important for their business to communicate that they are environmentally friendly, other companies are following the same trend. I have noticed this trend through the eco-friendly, "go green", website designs of certain companies. The website for Lipton's Green Tea/Ice Tea is following this trend. Just through design, Lipton is able to communicate to consumers that they are all about being a "green" company and are focused on creating products that are natural. While looking at the website for Lipton in Brazil, http://www.liptonicetea.com.br/#/home/, though I cannot read the content, I get this sense that Lipton cares about their environment. That idea is communicated when I first get to their homepage. On their global website, http://www.lipton.com/en_en/#Nurturing%20Nature-3,158 , their environmental standards are further conveyed.

Because of the power of design and communication, companies are now able to portray themselves in a way that can benefit their business. With a growing trend and concern over environmental issues, companies are able to use communication strategies to convey to their consumers that they are environmentally friendly and are taking action to defend against these problems by designing a brand, product, or service that meets these standards.

Another site of interest:

"BP." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 08 Oct. 2010.

"BP | Our Brands | BP." BP Global | BP. Web. 08 Oct. 2010.

Lagace, Martha. "Going Green Makes Good Business Sense -- HBS Working Knowledge." HBS Working Knowledge - Faculty Research at Harvard Business School. 15 July 2002. Web. 08 Oct. 2010.

Don't fall at first sight! - Quang Dao

Appeal -- Financial

To admit it or not, we are living in a society that is generally based on appearance. Most of the time, we view and decide if we like something from the first look. It 's true that products that are nicely packaged and well designed always get the attention from potential buyers. We tend to purchase things that scream right at our face. That's the main reasons companies started to revise and carefully develop their design, packaging and marketing strategies for their target group of consumers. Hence, appeal is one of the indispensable components to the success of a product, as well as any design. To sustain in our constantly changing world, having an appealing look will help boost the chance of succeeding for a product. Most people will be intrigued in buying something that has a clean and interesting design. First impression is very important in this case. The consumption of a product depends on how people notice it from the first sight. An effective design must also have reasonable costs of distribution and production, as well as viable marketing plan.

It certainly is a plus if a product is nicely packaged and has well-thought design. However having an appealing look isn't all it takes. Quality is also the main concern that consumers have mind when they buy a product. If something only has a pretty look yet doesn't function as expected, it can lead to instability in sales and a short life of a product in the market, of which exists many competitions. However, having an appealing design and quality function, a company must go through a lot of research and development in order to find the best solution to mass produce their products at the most reasonable costs. Despite the fact that we're currently in recession, more companies come out new products in the markets than ever. There are thousands of new products being releases into the market each and ever year. They offer us, the consumers, many opportunities to try out products and see what fits us the best, in regards of functionality, appearance and cost. "Some products, though, will become the old familiar brands of the future. Even with the enormous risk and cost of new products, companies continue to put them out because they are a route to continued profitability." (Hall, 1992, NY Times) The higher the demand, the more competitions there are in the market. Companies constantly try to keep up with the latest technology to invent the most satisfactory products for their ever-changing consumers. In this case, appeal alone is only one of the factors that make up the fate of the products.

According to Hall (1992), consumers "seemed most eager to try products perceived as being cleaner or more environmentally positive, or those that seemed to offer something genuinely different..." (NY Times) With that statistic in mind, companies recently shifted their production to a new path, going green for their production line. Environment-friendly products are the one of the top concerned issues in the market nowadays. Consumers started to buy more products that are "green" to use and recycle. More post-consumer waste and biodegradable products are being produced, two reasons, they cost less to produce and more people start buying them.

Appeal can be found in name of the products too. Hamermesh from the NY Times wrote a column "What's in the name?" (2010), he said, "The determinants of one's demand for a product are covered in every introductory economics course. Independent of prices, my income and my general preferences, I also consider the cuteness of the product's name." I found this very true. Name of a product can say a lot about it. Clever name gives people a sense of reliability. Short and memorable name well make people instantly recognize their brand where they go. And of course, bad name just gives a feeling of doubt and insecurity.

Appeal can help a product boost up its sales. However, the fate of a product also lies on the quality of it. Products that have a combination of good design, quality function, cost cutting, profit making and sustainable marketing strategies will be likely to succeed, but what are the chances!


Simple, useful and pretty. INSTANT WANT!


Hall, Trish. (1992). Telling the 'yeas' from the 'nays' in new products. NY Times. NY.

Hamermesh, Daniel. (2010). What's in a name? NY Times. NY.

'Status' in the Financial Agenda


As students of design, it's easy for all of us to get so wrapped up in our own work, in grades and teachers and deadlines and class and work that we forget design is first and foremost a vehicle for direct communication. It's not just homework; someday it might be real work. It's not making something look pretty or sell better; well it is, but there's more to it than that. A glance at a piece of design is a scratch on the surface of something altogether bigger, and whether or not the designer is skilled enough to properly execute that or the viewer is smart enough to understand that, there are lines of communication being drawn behind what the eye can readily see and/or what the mind can readily comprehend.

Status is driven by branding, something we've all come to realize is a lot more complicated than a photograph and some text. As stated by Marty Neumeier, '"Because it works" will no longer suffice as a design rationale.' Branding is a complex system, the result of a strategy to deliver the kind of message that is not only seen and read but also felt and remembered. Good status is good branding, good branding is smart strategy and successful execution, and good business is dependent all of these things. So what does status have to do with the financial agenda? In short, everything.

Here's a quick and current example. The Huffington Post is one of many news sources that have been covering a move to rename high fructose corn syrup 'corn sugar.' According to the article 'Goodbye High Fructose Corn Syrup, Hello Corn Sugar (Signed, Corn Industry),' corn syrup consumption has fallen to a 20 year low - mainly due to a largely unproven assumption in Americans that corn syrup is unhealthy and more likely to lead to obesity than sugar. Given their financial woes, a new strategy was developed by the corn industry to renew corn syrup's status in the public eye. Advertising campaigns have already begun as corn syrup begins its rebirth - in this case, it's less about gaining a positive status than it is about shedding a negative one. Regardless, the effect on business has been undeniable.

1. Fredrix, Emily. "Goodbye High Fructose Corn Syrup, Hello Corn Sugar (Signed, Corn Industry)." The Huffington Post. 09/14/10.

2. Neumeier, Marty. "Survival of the Fittingest." AIGA. 04/07/10.

Profit | Financial | Kirk Steineck


Being profitable is necessary to a successful business, but is that all that makes a design business successful? The answer is no, in my opinion some of the more profitable companies in the twin cities produce some of the least successful work. This is caused, again in my opinion, by oversized companies. When a company is oversized it allows a much larger body of work to be produced, not only because of the increase in man hours but also because of the assembly line structure most oversized companies adopt. Although efficient, this assembly line structure is what inhibits creative work. When one person's involvement in a project is reduced to something as small as image searching, it causes a loss of perception. When not involved in the whole process start to finish a project can become boring and disjointed.

Now take this company that produces a vast amount of mediocre work, sure it is profitable, but would I, as a designer, define it as successful? No. Design is so much more than profit. In Systematizing the Graphic Design Process by Kayla Knight, she gives a good summary of a successful design process, this process is meant to be executed from start to finish by one person, or a small group of people. When the process is divided and simplified among many people it loses its effectiveness. Thus watering down the design and creative process.

"...one must remember in the end, the ultimate arbiter of design greatness may only be the satisfied, paying client." - Jacob Cass

Being profitable means being efficient, most of the time being efficient is a good thing, but in design it sometimes can be detrimental to the creative process.

Sources: Click here for the full articles



Personal Education & Design


We, as designers, communicate everything, and it would certainly help know everything. Whether communicating with clients, to their audiences, or making sense of it to ourselves, we need to root our decisions in real information. This can go a long way in making us credible to our clients, sincere to our audience, and comfortable with our work.

I just got out of GD4, and Richelle was talking about connections. Specifically, how past jobs inform current design decisions, and how she has instilled confidence in her clients with deeper understanding of their business. For example, when working with Medtronic's contacts, she was able to reference her insurance knowledge gained from working with a past insurance company. Undoubtedly, this personal relationship affected Medronic's opinion of Richelle's work, and contributed to their trust in her decisions.

The example above speaks to a connection by coincidence, but it speaks to a larger idea of personal curiosity. To want to know about the world, so when a tunnel-visioned client or a puzzling design problem comes up, you have the wealth of knowledge to reference, and more blocks to play with in conceptualizing. We are hired for fresh ideas, and fresh comes from unexpected places. Designer and illustrator Frank Chimero is a major proponent of play and curiosity when designing, and says you must "start with good stuff. Otherwise, garbage in, garbage out." And as a mantra, "clarity+surprise=delight"

Usability: The Social Agenda, Sarah Schiesser


Within the realm of the social agenda, successful usability is essential to ensure that designed objects are meeting the needs and demands of society as a whole. Usability encompasses everything from a product's general ease of use to accessibility, intuitiveness and overall functionality. The whole point of designing 'things' is for them to serve a purpose in the best, most easily understood way possible. Therefore, it could be stated that designers spend a lot of time and work fussing over unnecessary and avoidable details that contribute nothing to usefulness.

Amidst the colors, images, patterns and content, design is something that influences our decisions and touches our lives every single day. While we all know that the aesthetic-usability effect plays heavily in the minds of consumers (as aesthetic designs are perceived as easier to use than less-aesthetic designs), functionality is still at the heart of the design--it must work and serve a distinct purpose. I feel the best design is most successful when it's invisible, when the user's experience is so successful that their attention is never drawn to the mechanics of how an object works. As designers we are constantly trying to improve upon the notion of usability. Yes, it meets the needs of the user, but can we change production, use less resources, combine materials, etc. These elements, however, remain secondary to the pure functionality of the designed object--usability must come first before variation and improvement can take place.

In a recent article by Robert Fabricant in Design Observer (designobserver.com), he states that designers such as Naoto Fukasawa have taken the user-centered design method a step further. He writes, "...Design is not just ease of use, but invisibility. In other words, the design should fit so well with the user needs and expectations that it 'dissolves into behavior.' The user is unaware of the choice the designer has made. In fact, the user should be unaware of the existence of the designer altogether." Fukasawa's Muji line of products are an excellent example of how well-designed products with a distinct appreciation and sensitivity for the importance of invisible, yet effective functionality can improve products while adding personal value and longevity.

As of late, usability has often been a term associated with interface design, websites, and interactive media, used as a tool to measure the effectiveness of certain designs to ensure users' interactive experiences run smoothly. However, I'd like to explore usability within the context of everyday designed objects, such as the one and only Spork. We're all familiar with this 19th-century hybrid utensil that seemingly combines the best of both worlds--the spoon and the fork--together to create a cutlery super child that functions better than using the original utensils alone (or so we thought). However after taking a closer look at the Spork's functionality (and therefore usability), it doesn't fulfill all of its proclaimed duties--the tines are too short to pierce and hold food, while the bowl is too shallow and leaky to hold liquids. While the design may be seen as an economical and efficient solution for certain groups of people (prisoners, the military, etc) it raises questions as to what we value most in our society, usability or convenience?


1) Lidwell, W. Holden, K. Butler, Jill. Universal Principles of Design. Rockport Publishers, 2003. Beverly. Massachusetts.

2) Fabricant, Robert. "Design With Intent." Poster September 2010 http://changeobserver.designobserver.com/entry.html?entry=14338

The Power of Inspiration


Inspiration seems key to not only a design related profession, but any profession. Inspiration is what drives any person to pursue their passion in life. In design, however, inspiration is not only key, but also mandatory & required. With out the ability to constantly be inspired by our environment, friends, other design, etc. we fade away. Take a moment think about, exactly; with out new inspiration our designs become one noted (or two...wah-wah).

I believe that at the core of inspiration is the idea that inspiration is what motivates us. The heart of inspiration is "inspire;" the definition of inspiration is, "The act of influencing or suggesting opinions" (Merriam-Webster). It isn't a passive activity, which we simply allow happen to us without action. It is the driving force of creativity and design. The beautiful thing about inspiration is that it can happen to us with out trying, but it can also be sought out. I came across this little number while looking for sources for this post; it has some really awesome designs if you ever find the inspiration well a little dry, click here to check it out (Inspire Me Now).

Finally, inspiration as change. How can personal inspiration affect society? Through good design (I fee like that was kind of obvious, but true). This question highlights the power of design. Every professional field likes to think that their practice changes the world; some are obvious, like doctors and some are more discrete, like oh I don't know, graphic designers. This isn't trying to make our future sound heroic, but to point out that we have potential to design pieces that can change another person's opinions. Information can be put together and presented by anyone, but graphic designers make it look good. We use design to inspire people with the simple task of evening viewing something.

*References are cited in the paragraphs as links. They are also listed and linked below.
(Inspire Me Now)

Energy - Personal - Hilary

| 1 Comment

Energy is something I have always had a lot of. I was never sure where it all came from or how I happened to have it, but in comparison to many around me, I seem to have an abundance of energy. Just recently a friend of mine named Munger made a comment to me about the abundance of energy I have. He stated "the other day I was talking with Pete and we came up with, when is Hilary not having fun, going, or doing something? And the conclusion we came to was -NEVER! You always have energy and are ready to go!" He continued to compare me to several other friends of his, who apparently are always napping or never have energy to do anything. Another friend Soler, who squatting at my pad, also made a similar comment. He sees that I run around all day every day, I don't get enough sleep, and I never have a day off, while he sleeps in and chills out majority of the day. Yet he made the comment that I always have way more energy than he does. I have always realized that I seem to have more energy than others, but lately I have been pondering why.

Well what is energy and where does it come from? According to the Webster's Dictionary Online Energy is: a dynamic quality, the capacity of acting or being active, a usually positive spiritual force, the energy flowing through all people, vigorous exertion of power : effort, a fundamental entity of nature that is transferred between parts of a system in the production of physical change within the system and usually regarded as the capacity for doing work, usable power (as heat or electricity); also : the resources for producing such power.

Energy is life. It is intertwined in everything; it is what makes us move, live, and feel. It is in the earth, the air, being and soul. Everything is interconnected through energy. Energy comes from the interior of a being along with everything exterior to the being. Everything for me plays a key role and factors into my personal level of energy. One of the biggest factors I have noticed in my personal life that affects my level of energy is my overall happiness. I know not everyone can be happy all the time, but something I have noticed in our society is that people are too often displeased, get angry about the slightest thing, are impatient and there for become angry, things didn't end up exactly how they wanted to they become all together turned off, or people get mad and then hold on to the anger for long periods of time. I am not saying that everyone should have a super positive outlook on everything that they do and should be happy shmappy all the time, but instead should reflect on the situation/experience and see what they can learn and how they can grow from it. I know I probably sound like I am rambling and turning off subject, but in my personal life this has had a huge impact on my level of happiness, energy, and overall being. Getting disappointed all the time, angry, holding a grudge, being impatient, or having set expectations (not always bad, but you can miss out on a lot of unexpectedly amazing things, I have seen it happen all too often) all of the time causes and abundance of un-needed stress!

Which brings me to the next point STRESS DRAINS YOU! Yes I do get angry, and I'm guilty of being impatient, and getting disappointed, but the key for me is to let it go! As my great friend Andy always told me "Guess what, it'll be okay!" The longer you hold onto something that doesn't bring you joy or happiness the more over time it will drain your energy without you even realizing it. I know so many people who are so angry about things that have happened in the past, and when I try to explain this to them, I get the usual response of "Well you obviously have never had anything terrible happen to you." Which is downright bullshit, yes I have been blessed a million times in my life with an amazing family, friends, and experiences, but I have also experienced things that I would never wish upon anyone. Yet I choose to let them go, forgive, and live on. I have seen one of my closest friends energy sucked away by holding onto the past and making the past her present and future. I know, not think, but know that that the way specifically our society lives is making us feel like we need lots of stress and that is a normal part of everyday life. Yes stress can sometimes be useful, but never in the amounts that most average people stress. Guess what it's not the end of the world. People get so caught up in the little things, and stress over them, which because they are stressed about them, makes them even more stressed, which leads to an ever plummeting energy sucking black hole. For me this is just the start, I could go on and on about every other factor but I will save that for another time.

Not only does your energy affect you, but it also affects those around you. This goes back to one of my first statements in that energy is intertwined in everything. In the movie I heart Huckabees, the character that Jason Shwartsmen plays is being going through a process where he is being investigated by a couple who will then help him better understand himself. I have always enjoyed these clips in the movie that talk about energy and how everything is interconnected. Check it out and enjoy at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7kB_mOfvDPU.

Quantity: Personal (Michelle Haga)


For this post I would like to look at the implications that quantity has on a personal level threw a design lens. We will take a look at the entire workday as well as focus on the quantity of produced design.

Throughout the day there are many distractions and things grabbing for your attention that may slow down your productivity levels. For example, while you are at work you have to catch up on the latest gossip, check and filter through e-mails, prepare for a meeting, and finish the tasks at hand. All of these constant interruptions can affect the quantity of work that gets accomplished. There are several ways to complete tasks more efficiently thus producing more quantity of work. For example, only check e-mail at scheduled times, limit the amount of socializing, and focus on one task at a time. By following some of those guidelines more work will be accomplished and hopefully the quality of the work will increase. More information on your workday can be found at http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=view_from_the_bay/everything_else&id=7338547. And http://lifehacker.com/5161561/simple-guidelines-for-workday-quality-over-quantity

Now that your workday is more organized, lets focus on a single project. Lets say you are working on a logo design for a new company. Do you spend 10 hours on perfecting one logo, or do you create 100 logos and refine from there? I'll assume you do the latter. We can all agree that quality is of great importance; however, I believe that producing piles of work and learning from mistakes is one way to produce something of high quality.

Here is an example, http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2008/08/quantity-always-trumps-quality.html there is a ceramics class and half the students will be graded on quality and the others graded on quantity. In the end, the students that produced the most work learned from trial and error and created a higher quality of work. The students that focused on quality sat around theorizing about perfection but could not produce anything of great quality. Applying this knowledge to design can be extremely beneficial. It's good to think and strategize, but don't be afraid to dive in and get the project going. Does it seem like you are wasting time by designing many unsuccessful pieces? Think of it this way, you are learning from your mistakes and hopefully you will not make the same mistakes twice.

My advice: stop theorizing, design lots, and learn from your mistakes.
Through quantity comes quality.

Environmental HEALTH in the design world-Kate Carlson


As a busy graphic design student I tend to get so fixated on the projects I'm working on, my deadlines, and trying to come up with great design I tend to forget about my impact on the environment. Although the topic is always in the back of my mind, it is hard to wrap my head around the excessive amounts of wasted paper, printouts and non-biodegradable materials I am using. As a designer it upsets me when I realize that not only am I creating all of this waste, but also my fellow students are creating the same amount of wasted materials.

As a designer we have an impact on the public, we have the tools of communication at our fingertips to promote recycling, reusability and encouraging people to pay attention to our effect on our environment. But as a designer my main goal is to create something that is beautiful, fresh, and new that can be produced. Some times as a designer we do not have the ability to call all of the shots when it comes to the production of our designs, the company may opt for a cheaper, non recycled material or a non-biodegradable plastic, so how much power do we really have?

At my work each year we produce a media kit, this year I worked very closely on the project and when it came to production we held a meeting with the printers. When we ran through the process of picking paper my colleague and I were interested in a recycled fibrous paper for the main content, we were interested in creating a recycled environmentally friendly piece, but when it came down to price we were unable to afford the recycled option.

This confused me as I thought the recycled option would be cheaper then fresh, brand new, bleached paper, unfortunately I was wrong. This got me to think about the paper industry and I did some research. I found a youtube video that ran me through the process of making recycled paper, there is nothing different or more extensive that happens in the process of making recycled paper that creates an increase in production costs. In Too Good to Throw Away: Recycling's Proven Record a report written by Allen Hershkowitz of the Natural Resources Defense Council he says "there's no inherent reason why recycled should be more expensive than virgin. In terms of actual production price, it need not cost more. There's less chemical waste, less water waste, and equal or less energy needed." He elaborates "recycling is overwhelmingly a matter of money and the market," so what is a designer to do? Only choose recycled when its convenient to ones budget? Or when the market allows it to be cheaper then virgin paper? How are we supposed to support the recycle revolution when it in actuality costs more; and more then likely businesses will opt for the cheaper option?

>Too Good to Throw Away: Recycling's Proven Record, Allen Hershkowitz, Natural Resources Defense Council, New York, 1997.

> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SdJtYkAzTw
Brian Cowie, Founder of ThePaperMillStore.com

IKEA, Minimalisation, and the Financial Agenda


James Cosper

I'm sorry I said IKEA sucks
I just bought a table for 60 bucks
And a chair and a lamp
And a shelf and some candles for you
I was a doubter just like you
Till I saw the American dream come true
IKEA by Jonathan Coulton

When creating my initial concept map for Minimalisation my initial questions about the Financial Agenda were:
What is fundamental?
Who else is working towards the simple instead of the complex?
Can a minimalist design be successful in the marketplace?
Can we market only the essentials?
How can we avoid feature creep?
Will customers pay more or less for a simple design?
Can we cut profit to compete but be comfortable?
How can we cut packaging and reduce shipping during distribution?
What practices can increase cost effectiveness throughout the entire life of a product--from the first stages to the time the consumer is through with it?

Minimalisation and the financial agenda intersect in the Swedish furniture company IKEA. In Good: An Introduction to Ethics in Graphic Design (Roberts, 2006) furniture designer Michael Marriott states while discussing sustainable design, "I've got this cutlery from IKEA that costs about 25£ and is beautifully simple and stainless steel--really lovely. I'm aware of it everyday I use it." Swedish design is known for combining utility, aesthetics, and affordability, a trait common to Modernism-influenced mass produced objects. IKEA creates furniture and household items that have been stripped to the essentials while striving to turn simplicity into a selling point.

IKEA's design method when creating a product is interesting and in many ways backwards: they set a price point first and then design the product. This method encourages innovation when coupled with the company's robust environmental policy, described in Is It Green?: IKEA (Jeffries, 2009). The designers at IKEA consider the entire product life while designing a piece. Furthermore, they hold their industrial partners to high standards in the cultivation and distribution of raw materials and labor practices. The cycle of responsibility thus includes not only the consumer and IKEA but the partners that may be invisible to the end user.

The focus on the lifelong footprint of the company, and thus by extension the experience of using IKEA, becomes a selling point. IKEA publishes the "Never Ending" list of ways they are working for sustainability ("Never Ending," n.d.). They answer some of the questions I had when putting the words Minimalisation and Financial Agenda together: Environmental impact is fundamental to the relationship between company and customer. They will offer simple solutions for an affordable price. They will build around a price point rather than cut usability afterwards. They will minimize waste throughout the process. When the product is no longer viable it will probably be recyclable. IKEA has the advantage of working with the economy of scale on their side. However, I believe that designers starting out can take lessons from their business model.

While starting designers do not have the economic power of IKEA they can make similar choices when developing a design. They can make conscious decisions to minimize the environmental impact of a design by developing and producing locally. Materials can be chosen for the sustainability of the product in the materials and processes. The environmental consideration can then be sold as a value-added element of the design to offset discrepancies in price. Instead of looking at minimalisation as a constraint it can be accepted as a guiding principle when ideating. Avoiding feature creep is possible when designing towards a specific purpose. The financial considerations will then be linked to the environmental in selling an experience to customers that works towards the betterment of the customer's life.

Finally, here is a link to a fan made video for Coulton's IKEA song that has actual IKEA commercials integrated into it.

Works Cited

Coulton, J. (Songwriter & Performer) & MyLooneyBun (Videoproducer). (2008, January 10). IKEA [music video]. Retrieved October 7, 2010 from

Coulton, J. (2003, Novemember 5). IKEA. On Smoking Monkey [CD]. New York: JoCo.

IKEA Systems. (2010). Never ending list. Retrieved from http://www.ikea.com/ms/en_US/about_ikea/our_responsibility/the_never_ending_list/index.html

Jeffries, A. (2009, January 29). Is it green?: IKEA. Retrieved from

McCarthy, T. (2008, September 4). Is IKEA eco-friendly? Retrieved from

Roberts, L. (2006). Good: An introduction to ethics in graphic design. Switzerland: Ava Publishing SA.

Competitiveness | Social Agenda | Allison Hall


The challenge of competitiveness will never go away, in any field. Somebody out there will always try to one-up you, make you question your skills, even your values, and will make you wish that you would've come up with their brilliant idea. What makes competition tough to manage in the graphic design world is that design can serve multiple purposes: to inform, to persuade, to simply get people to look at an ad. Designers are trying to make something pretty that draws attention. To both make that impact and have an affect on the community is what can put you ahead of the competition. But it's not always easy to do.

As an individual designer, we are faced with balancing our reputation with our values. Of course staying competitive in the design field is important to having a successful career, but perhaps certain design trends or outlets for putting your work out into the world isn't something with which you want to be associated. A good example is from October 2009 when Ralph Lauren released an ad with a (terribly) edited photograph that made the model look unnaturally skinny, to the point of looking sickly. According to an article on "Shine" (an online news source from Yahoo!), it was quite the fiasco when Ralph Lauren tried to sue a blog for criticizing their poor judgment in ads (and poor Photoshop skills). You can read the article here: http://shine.yahoo.com/event/fallbeauty/image-of-ultra-thin-ralph-lauren-model-sparks-outrage-521480/

Ralph Lauren ad

I digress. But I think about the designer/photo editor that made that ad and think, how does that person feel now? Yes, I'm sure the graphic designer was paid decently to do the work and the graphic design position with Ralph Lauren is surely quite competitive. It looks good on a resumé, it's experience and may jet the designer forward into his or her career. But is it worth it when you're supporting something like that? It's not sending a positive message, that's for sure, and it's not doing a service to society. All it's doing it telling girls they have to be skinny to look good in Ralph Lauren clothes.

Unfortunately, the companies that are "doing good" for society can't give graphic designers much in terms of compensation for their work. As students, we all know that it's pretty easy to build your portfolio by going to a non-profit and offering them your design services for free of charge. But once we are professionals, we won't always be able to afford that, or to be selfless with our time and energy. So the dilemma comes to the surface: do you work because it's for a good cause or do you choose the job that will pay? Do you develop the reputation of a designer who works for cheap but assists with the improvement of society, or do you work on all commercial and corporate projects, regardless of the message you must communication, which keeps you competitive in the field? Not to mention keeping food on the table...

Matters of competitiveness in the social agenda can also arise as designers help perpetuate reputations for companies through their design work. When designing some sort of marketing material for a company, especially websites, it's important to know how to exhibit the company's competitiveness. If this is done successfully, the company will appear trustworthy, fair and will be known as a company that has the interests of the community at heart.

The "Designing Social Interfaces" website pasted below describes this with their "Competitiveness Model Chart," showing different ways in which a company can be competitive. This source emphasizes the importance of company's being transparent, rather than trying to be competitive in an area where they don't stand a chance. Although this resource specifically focuses on "reputation systems" under these terms, I think designers can use this idea to hone in on a company's strengths, how they are competitive, and what makes them different and special. This leads to how they see themselves as competitive in their market, which will help designers do their job to highlight those fortes and assist in building and/or maintaining the company's reputation in a community.

View the chart here: http://www.designingsocialinterfaces.com/patterns/Competitive_Spectrum

There are more questions than there are answers with this subject, because it depends on what kind of a designer you want to be. It's not a bad thing to want to make a lot of money. What's bad is if you don't know where you stand, what you're values are and where your loyalties lie. It seems to me that once you figure those things out, you can market yourself and find ways to be competitive within that realm. There, we will discover how we each fit into the design field.

Personal pleasure in relation to design starts with inspiration. When constantly bombarded with information from every direction, it may be difficult to sift through all the junk to find something beautiful, something inspiring. Inspiration is great when it comes from unexpected places or at unexpected times, but sometimes we are not so fortunate. For those times, we must seek it out ourselves. This is when the internet becomes our best friend.

Now, I could not talk about personal pleasure in relation to design without mentioning one of my most beloved sources of inspiration- designsponge.com. Design*sponge is a blog that focuses primarily on residential interior design, with gorgeous photos of wall treatments, furniture, and color schemes. This blog is also very dedicated to showcasing product design, fashion, trends, typography, and DIY projects. It is an interdisciplinary culmination of all things beautiful, all things designed, and to me, all things inspired.

I may be a bad graphic designer for saying this, but I am probably more inspired by fashion, interior design, and architecture than I am by graphic design. I guess I just don't care to hunt down cool posters after I've been designing one for six hours. I feel that it is refreshing to look at what others are creating, especially in other design fields. Designers have been dipping their feet in each other's ponds for quite some time now, and I think it's a brilliant idea. Just see fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli's lobster dress when she collaborated with Salvador Dali, or architect Frank Gehry's jewelry for Tiffany & Co. The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles hosted the 2006-2007 Skin + Bones exhibit that highlighted the parallel practices in fashion and architecture. I believe that connecting with other visual disciplines is not only a means of inspiration, but also a necessity.

Frank_Gehry_Torque_Ring.jpg lobster_dress.jpg

Feasibility | Financial | Cindy Sargent

According to Merriam-Webster online, feasibility can be defined as, "capable of being done or carried out." In design, feasibility most often relates to the financial agenda. Clients usually have a set budget of what they are willing to spend on a project. As designers, it is our job to create a solution that not only satisfies the creative needs of the client (and hopefully ourselves as designers as well), but also stays within their designated project budget. When designing, we as designers must consider whether our creative solutions are financially feasible based on the client's set budget.

In some cases, designers are given very large budgets to work with. This usually means greater creative freedom not only in terms of the aesthetic design, but also opens up possibilities in terms of the production and distribution as well. However, more often than not, the issue of feasibility in design is usually the opposite of this. Designers are often given restrictive budgets with clients (and probably even the designers themselves) not wanting to sacrifice creativity or quality. How do we as designers reconcile this? How do we develop aesthetically pleasing, thought provoking, successfully communicative, creative, quality work that the client (and hopefully ourselves as designers) can be proud of within strict budgets that may not allow us to create exactly what we'd like to?

On the one hand, limited budgets can greatly limit the creativity and quality of our designs. Lower budgets can limit our ability to truly produce something more unique for clients and stop us from using our imaginations and creativity to produce something new. On the other hand, however, strict budgets can also force us to be more innovative. Creativity is often fostered in the midst of sparse resources because as the saying goes, "necessity is the mother of invention." Someone who has little tends to make better use of what little they do have and looks to find new ways they can extend it to do more. As designers, we should embrace the challenge of having a minimal budget. These types of restrictive limitations are something we can capitalize on, and we should view them as an opportunity to be innovative rather then a problem that hinders our creativity.

Feasibility. (n.d.). In Merriam-Webster online. Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/feasibility

Glitschka, V. R. (2008, July 24). How Limitations Influence Creativity. Retrieved from http://www.notesondesign.net/inspiration/design/how-limitations-influence-creativity/

Roskell, T. (2008, May 28). Time Constraints and Stock Images Kill Design Creativity. Retrieved from http://www.graphicdesignblog.co.uk/time-constraints-and-stock-images-kill-design-creativity/

Empowerment: Financially Viable? Meher Khan-Financial

| 1 Comment

When used in the context of finance, the word "empowerment" can seem a bit subversive. After all, empowerment is about the distribution of power; the weak are given the chance to stand up against the strong, the needy can improve their situation, and the minority can find a voice. But when used for financial gain, the power can potentially be distributed to those who already have it. In different situations of financial empowerment in design, there are many opportunities for the balance of power to go awry. However, closer inspection can reveal opportunities for smart, innovative ideas that lead to financial gain while also bringing new services to the masses.

A simple example of empowering design is the use of branding and logos. Good branding and identity will inevitably provide support to anyone who uses them, from large corporations to free-lancers and small business owners. Take for example the rebranding of Walmart. Although it is a large corporation, Walmart was initially focused on attracting customers through their prices. Eventually, we saw a new design, featuring a sleeker typeface and abstracted, modernized star. But the logotype was not the only aspect of Walmart that changed. The inside of the store was changing as well, creating an easier shopping experience to attract new customers. Joe Tapper, Walmart's Vice President for store presentation, stated, "We're trying to make it more experiential, rather than just stuff we're selling. We've placed emphasis on making it more enjoyable." Their market also seemed to shift from lower-income families and individuals who didn't attribute much importance to design to moderate-income customers, who were simply making smart choices while still being young and stylish, and enjoying their shopping experience (Tampa Tribune, 2008). Suddenly, Walmart was now competing with Target, another corporate giant, but one aimed towards a much different audience. While design is being used here to reach financial gain, it is also a great equalizer; with good design, a company or individual previously in a different bracket is on par to compete with a whole new market. Projecting an image becomes a form of empowerment, and while Walmart is a company on a national scale, any company can benefit from a strong identity.

Empowered design can also come in a more abstract form. In Peter York's essay, Culture as Commodity, he illustrates how English culture became a tangible, marketable thing. He describes the process of this transformation through examples of music, movies, clothing, and other articles of culture throughout England's history, but emphasizes the actual design being exported from England is not considered "English."

"Ask anyone in America, Japan, or Italy...what they think of first when they think of England and of course, they'll say Royalty, Diana, upper-class and old, old, old first. But running a very close second will be...one or other of our roll-call [sic] of juvenile delinquent pop-stars or alternative comedians. Ask them to name a British car...a British electronics product or a British designer, and you'll draw a blank (York, 1988)."

York's examples of artifacts that have in a sense become English culture are extensive. My first instinct is to be repulsed by the idea that a nation and it's people are apparently being reduced to their artifacts. But the designers who brought about this shift in perception--and it was a shift largely fueled by the work of designers--have done something really extraordinary, even if it was somewhat over-simplistic. These designers were working towards financial gain through what their audience wanted rather than design conventions, and all the while, they were creating a new movement in design, inspired by what audiences both English and otherwise perceived to be English. While it may not be design with a strong foundation, it still contributes a certain aesthetic, and is powerful for the simple reason that the audience bought it.

The financial aspects of design are often controversial, but the examples here illustrate that empowerment comes in many different forms. Although the results may not always be favorable, the financial gain shows the power of good design.

Quality and the Environmental Agenda


In class a couple weeks ago, I was struck by an issue of quality as it pertains to the environment. When addressing the issue of how we decide on solutions, Richelle brought up IKEA as an example. IKEA claims to attempt to "minimize the amount of waste generated in the manufacturing process, and if possible use it in the production of other products," while also recycling as many materials as possible (IKEA, 2009, p. 52). One way they do this is by turning what would be the waste byproducts of wood milling into particleboard. Swedwood, IKEA's corporately owned wood supplier was able to recycle or reclaim 74% of their waste in 2009 (IKEA, 2009, p.53). Such particleboard is then covered by wood veneer or lacquer and used by IKEA to create various furnishings.

In many ways, this is an innovative and cost-effective way of minimizing waste and therefore environmental impact. However, with companies as large as IKEA I think it is important to ask what the long-term costs and impacts are. I own an IKEA dresser made out of veneered particleboard and I noticed that the boards often warp depending on the temperature and humidity. Additionally, the bottoms of the drawers have seen little weight, yet they are already sagging. There are other issues as well. Particleboard is held together by some sort of chemical binding agent. IKEA has recently stopped using any binders with formaldehyde in them, but what risks are there with the chemicals currently being used? Will the chemicals damage the environment after the furniture is disposed of? Particleboard also can hold more moisture than regular wood and therefore can be an ideal environment for mold to grow. What sort of health risks does this furniture pose to me? Based on what I have witnessed in the first six months of use, I think it is safe to say that my dresser probably will not last until I have children, or even until I get married for that matter. In an attempt to make the dresser affordable and environmentally friendly, it seems that IKEA has compromised on the item's structural quality.

In this, I see a sort of paradox. The particleboard is created and used to minimize the waste and environmental impact of companies, yet the quality is significantly lower and thereby decreases the potential lifetime of the product. Ellen Ruppel Shell raised this issue in an article in Atlantic magazine. The problem with this, as she points out, is that "IKEA bookcases and chairs, like most cheap objects, resist involvement: when they break or malfunction, we tend not to fix them. Rather, we buy new ones" (Shell, 2009). The product quality is reinforcing a consumer cycle of buying and disposing rather than purchasing an item to keep for long periods of time. However, as Shell also points out, "to be fair, creating heirlooms is not IKEA's goal" (Shell, 2009). IKEA is filling a specific niche for affordable, well-designed furniture. The question that remains is if there are any other reasonable alternatives. Even furniture retailers such as CB2 and Crate and Barrel, which are marketed towards a higher-end audience, use similar materials to those used by IKEA.

My point in saying all of this is not that IKEA is, as Wig Zamore says, "the least sustainable retailer on the planet" (Shell, 2009). Again, IKEA is just filling a niche. I simply mean to point out that what is environmentally friendly in the short term may not be in the long term. I have spoken only of furnishings, yet there are many product areas that might fall into a same pattern as IKEA. In general, there does seem to be some truth to traditionalists' favorite saying, "they just don't make 'em like they used to." In light of this, we designers should take into account how the quality of our products is going to effect the environment not just now, but ten, twenty or thirty years later. We should also present consumers with a variety of options that allows them to choose a product that may be more expensive, but will last longer, thereby mitigating a disposable culture.


IKEA. (2009). The Never Ending Job Sustainability Report '09. Retrieved from http://www.ikea.com/ms/en_US/about_ikea/pdf/sustainability_report2009.pdf

Shell, E. R. (2009). Buy to Last. The Atlantic. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2009/07/buy-to-last/7513/

Packaging design is perhaps the most relevant example to biodegradability in design today. Other branches of design also relate, but few produce the amount of waste as package design. Flashy yet inexpensive are two important components most package design tend to hold tight to. Plastic is cheap and easy to manipulate into cool shapes, it can keep out elements and protect products. But plastic lasts hundreds of years and is most frequently made for temporary use. Financial limitations dictate design decisions, but the green movement in the market has pushed for more biodegradable packages.

One example you might be familiar with is the biodegradable SunChips bags. In early 2009 SunChips redesigned the look, feel and sound of their packaging, aiming to reduce landfill impact from their package. They felt the same as previous bags, looked even better for the green movement crowd, but they sounded like they were crunching in front of a bullhorn. Due to complaints to the company, as well as Facebook groups condemning the bags, SunChips will be returning to the old non-compostable bags. SunChips will keep using the new bags for one of their six varieties of chips. I am not sure if it is due to the sweet, and therefore expensive redesign and marketing push, (including TV ads), or because of the environmental conscience of the company that they are keeping the Original flavor in the loud bag.

Other companies are also starting to make plastic out of corn. Although I am not sure where anyone can buy these things. I have come across water cups made from corn based plastic at organic and sustainable cafe's throughout the twin cities. But I had to pay extra at those establishment for the good feelings I was getting about eating local and with a reduced carbon footprint. However as we can see from SunChips actions, good feelings are not enough to motivate the masses to support biodegradable design. I do think that we will get there someday soon, especially if designers make an argument for it.

Fredrix, Emily. "Hush! Frito-Lay to Pull Most Noisy SunChips Bags - Yahoo! Finance." Yahoo! Finance - Business Finance, Stock Market, Quotes, News. Associated Press, 5 Oct. 2010. Web. 05 Oct. 2010.

Knoblauch, Jessica A. "Plastic Not-So-Fantastic: How the Versatile Material Harms the Environment and Human Health: Scientific American." Science News, Articles and Information | Scientific American. Environmental Health News, 2 July 2009. Web. 06 Oct. 2010.

Ownership and the Financial Agenda in Design

| 1 Comment

The concept of "ownership" is a relatively simple term in the world. For example, when I moved into my new apartment I went to IKEA, bought a desk, brought it home, and now I own it. Easy enough, right? Well what about when it comes to the less-tangible world of design? Being a graphic designer, the concept of "ownership" becomes a bit more confusing. Designers are hired to create, and clients in tern pay for their creations. But in a given situation, who can claim "ownership" of the final design? Who has the right to buy or sell the design? Who has to pay? The concept of "ownership" is a tricky in the design world, and needs to be looked at in all areas, including as a designer in a firm, a freelance designer, or simply a creative individual.
As a designer in a design firm, or agency, you are "work for hire." This means that any work that you do there and/or for the company ultimately belongs to the company. This is something that needs to be understood when going into the job, and generally works out just fine. But situations can arise when lines get blurred and determining ownership over designs is a legal and financial mess. One reader of the online magazine Notes On Design (NoD) wrote in with a curious situation on ownership and working in a firm. While working at a small company she was the only designer for years, and eventually decided to leave and start her own firm. Many of the previous company's clients in turn decided to leave with her, but she was unsure who technically owned the design files. Both the creator and the client were leaving, but the original company wanted them to have to buy the files in order to have them. In the article "Ownership and Buy Out of Files" guest author and legal expert Jean S. Perwin answered some of her questions. Since she was "work for hire," the work she did was ultimately the company's, and unless the rights to the files were previously transferred to the client in writing, they would stay with the company. The client would need to purchase the files from the company, for as much as they were willing to pay, before being able to work with her new firm. A case like this truly is thought provoking for a designer. I know I have always imagined myself working at a firm, having multiple clients and the security of a steady paycheck. But when it comes down to it, do I like the idea of the work I produce never really being mine? And the possibility that I may need to pay my company for the files I produced?
If the concept of "ownership" within a firm makes you uneasy, there is also the option of being a freelance designer. This, though, comes with it's own challenges of ownership. Freelancers are on their own in protecting their work, which is why it is very important to set up a standard contract system. The best advice a new freelancer can get is to get everything in writing. Without a contract, it is to easy for a client to try taking advantage, getting out of payment, or claiming ownership of something they may not have had a right to. I have been doing freelance work for a few years now, and simply by being young and naïve, never set up any type of contract. This came back to hurt me though on my last job, when I ultimately got paid less than half of what I should have. Luckily though, nothing to do with ownership has been a problem, but I have begun setting up a contract to attempt to avoid any issues in the future. Graham Smith of imjustcreative professional freelance designs, posted a short, worthwhile article, "How I deal with 'ownership' of logo design files." In this article, he showed an example of the "Design and File Ownership" clause of his contracts. In short, it states that all process work belongs to him, and all final designs belong to him until final approval and once all invoices have been paid, then they are transferred to the client. This applies to only the final design, no concepts or other intermediate. It also goes on to state that he retains the right to show any of his work, including the final design, in his portfolios or online galleries. To me, that last part of the clause is what is most important to me. When I design something that I am truly proud of, I am more than happy to give it to my clients and let them use it as they please, but I am almost more excited to be able to add it to my portfolio. I am not concerned with "owning" the design, I believe in strong brand identities and would never attempt to sell that same design to another client. But I would love to "own" the skills behind it, and showcase my potential as a designer by providing examples of my work in a portfolio, not a catalogue.
While the two situations I have explained so far have involved legal design professions, the concept of "ownership" even comes into play in the every day creative individual's life. Before I knew I wanted to be a graphic designer, I had always been the creative type. One of my favorite things to do was, and still is, use my creative abilities to create pieces for family and friends. I never thought there would be any issue of "ownership" and finances between friends, but one article in NoD opened my eyes. Again, a reader of NoD wrote in to Perwin's column asking for legal advice. In this situation, the reader, Cath, had purchased a piece of art from their neighbor. One day the neighbor asked to borrow the piece back to make prints, and Cath verbally agreed. Soon later an issue between to two arose and Cath decided against letting the neighbor borrow the piece. Now the question of "ownership" is who has what rights? As the title of the article so appropriately states, "Artist vs. Buyer: Who is the Real Owner?" Perwin states an interesting fact, Cath can't revoke permission she did not even have the right to give in the first place, and the artist has rights to her images. But she also states "possession ... is 9/10ths of the law" and since it is a physical piece of art she had purchased, Cath had no obligation to physically give it back to her neighbor. Ownership of tangible and intangible design is really a curious situation.
In the world of design, creative need to be aware of the muddy state of "ownership" and finances. Weather you are working for a firm, working for yourself as a freelancer, or simply a creative individual, "ownership" will no doubt affect the work you produce. At face value, the term "ownership" is relatively simple, even a two-year-old's favorite word is "mine." But when we get a bit older, and enter the world of design, things can get a bit more confusing if we're not careful. Always be aware of the situations you are in, and get everything in writing to protect your work, your pay, or who you would have to pay.

Works Cited:

Perwin, Jean S., (2008, September 8). Ownership and Buy Out of Files. Notes on Design. Retrieved from http://www.notesondesign.net/resources/ownership-and-buy-out-of-files/

Perwin, Jean S., (2009, July 23). Artist vs. Buyer: Who is the Real Owner? Notes on Design. Retrieved from http://www.notesondesign.net/inspiration/design/artist-vs-buyer-who-is-the-real-owner/

Smith, Graham. (2010, June 17). How I deal with 'ownership' of logo design files. Retrieved from http://imjustcreative.com/logo-design-ownership/2010/06/17/

Emerging Economics | Social | Angie Miller


"Emerging economics" sounds like something a finance major would study and designers would never have to worry about. It's a loosely used word; "emerging economies," "emerging markets," and "rapid-growth economies" are all synonymous newer terms for what were once known bluntly as "less economically developed countries." This encompasses 80% of the world's population - any developing economy with low to middle per capita income. China, one of the world's economic giants, smaller, poorer countries such as Tunisia, and many others are alllumped into this category. With such a wide scope, making generalizations is difficult. Overall, though, the view of graphic design in these countries is much different than it is in the United States.

From a social perspective, it's easiest to understand this when we see that as Americans, we are not classified as an emerging economy. The prevailing mindset among designers seems to be the "benevolent development-helper." Designers can help bring the magic of prosperity and technology to those unfortunate lesser countries! Surely their world will be better if we make it like ours, right? We can adapt our cell phone designs to themso they have flashlights for their unlit streets and dust-resistant covers, as Nokia did. I don't want to say our passion for globalization is bad, because there are definite good things that come out of increased technology and development for emerging economies. It just often turns out that we have big plans to help the world, but they either remain plans or just force the world to become like us.

Critique of idealist designers has popularized signs like this:

Sometimes I wonder what can be done for larger causes as a designer. Helping developing economies continue to grow is a large cause, and designers will likely be the ones asked to help bring our consumerist culture in. We can choose to work for awareness of larger issues, but it still raises the concern voiced in John Thackara's blog:

Eighty percent of other design professionals are in the representation business. But designing a poster about an issue, or launching a media campaign about it, is not the same as helping real people, in real places, change a material aspect of their everyday reality. Development is not primarily about products, let alone posters.

That's a harsh critique. I think raising awareness and bringing attention to issues and work that can be done to help develop other countries is something important, too. It might not be face-to-face with the people we are trying to connect to, but when communicating with a large audience, mass media is necessary. It's behind-the-scenes work, but it might be making more of a difference than we realize.


Thackara, John. "We are all emerging economies now." Observatory: Design observer. 06052008. Web. 6 Oct 2010.

Heakal, Reem. "What is an emerging market economy?." Investopedia. Web.

Jusko, Jill. "Design for emerging markets." Industry Week, 08012007. Web. 6 Oct 2010. .

Children, Research, & Finance


Whether we like children or not, they are part of our future. The newest generations will eventually be in charge of the world. They are also one of the most expensive things families will invest money into. Just look at these statistics I found on MSN Money: http://moneycentral.msn.com/articles/family/kids/tlkidscost.asp

As designers, we can use this information to our advantage. Obviously children are one of the most important things on this planet, and an extremely large market.

One way to secure our futures financially may just be working for a company focused on children. Parents spend a lot of money on clothing, toys, and education for the kids. I know if I were designing clothing for kids, I would go to my niece and nephews and ask them what they would want to wear. Dinosaurs, trains, mermaids, and princesses would be at the top of the list. But knowing them, they would throw in unexpected ideas and opinions about colors, patterns, and fabrics. They certainly won't be talking in technical terms, but they will be giving me feedback and new ideas for my job.

Companies are already doing just that. This article titled "Children help scientists, engineers design the toys of tomorrow" explains that the University of Maryland is using children ages 7-11 to help with their new technological products for kids. While it is hard working with children sometimes, they say it is worth the extra effort. The children will challenge the different ideas presented. The adults learn from the children just as much as the children learn from the adults. Here's a link to the article: http://www.post-gazette.com/magazine/20000620toys3.asp

The article continues to talk about new technology-based toys that are coming out. The toys are flexible and allow the child to imagine. There is no flexibility or opportunity for the child to expand his or her creativity. Doing research with children brings creativity and flexibility to the toys.

While this strays away from finance, I think research and funding research is a large part of creating good designs. It may cost more to bring children in to talk to about your ideas and designs, but I think it's worth it. It is one market that if something doesn't seem right with the product, there will be complaints. Parents want the best for their children and as designers, so should we.

Poverty | Financial | Nahil Khalife

Poverty means less financial aid, it is like a disease that spreads so fast in many communities. It might seem that poverty is not related to design simply because it is not given much attention to. However, designers can approach different ways to increase financial aid and alleviate poverty through designing smart products that provide income for poor economies and having better communication within societies.

In Brazil, the Grupo de Desenho Industriale Desenvolvimento Sustentável (GDDS) at the Universidade Federal de Campina Grande, led by Dr. Luiz Guimarães, university students worked "with low-income groups that collect rubbish to design goods that will add to the income of these people" (Thomas). The same group also helped develop a product for washerwomen to ease their job. These couple projects demonstrate that designers are able to help in decreasing poverty by being innovative in solving problems that the low economy is facing. According to Angharad Thomas in his article Design, Poverty, and Sustainable Development, "craft production can make a significant contribution to poverty alleviation" (Thomas). Designers are the ones with strong skills of craftsmanship and they are able to create products that can be affordable and function in efficient ways. However they must always remember that these products must be feasible so that the poor can use them without having any extra problems on top of their heads.

Another example where designers achieved in affecting poverty is by inventing the clockwork radio by Trevor Bayliss in the U.K. This radio changed lives by raising awareness about the AIDS epidemic in South Africa to a rural audience (Thomas).
This proves that designers using effective communication can change people's views and affect human behaviors.

In addition, designers can help also by creatively putting together images, music and people to send out one bold message which can dramatically change the world. Remember Haiti and how much donations were needed to help the community get back on its feet? A group of artists and musicians came together and sang WE ARE THE WORLD by Michael Jackson that now has reached 59,212,426 viewers on YouTube which leads into a well designed website for donations. The purpose of this song was to touch the emotional sides of the viewers by showing them images of the situation in Haiti and asking their help to donate money as much as they can.

As designers in more developed countries we are able to solve problems and use our time to think and create solutions because designers in the poor countries tend to mostly copy other designs simply because they do not have the luxury of time since they have to deal with a million other problems they face daily in their countries. Therefore, we ought to challenge ourselves and help out in any way we can and not just let the NGO's deal with it by themselves because after all we are the experts in communication.

Thomas, Angharad. "Design, Poverty, and Sustainable Development." Design Issues 22.4 (2006): 54-65. Web.

Official Site of We Are The World 25 For Haiti. Web. 07 Oct. 2010.

Financial | Copyright | Kelly Grahn

| 1 Comment

I would like to open with a video.

This is a popular creative work, uploaded onto youtube, currently with 386,031 views. The video is uploaded to a site owned by Google, and each time it is viewed there is a chance for Google to earn income from an advertisement on the page. Why is this a problem? Because Google is making money from a parody of "Pokerface" by Lady Gaga, and that can lead to all kinds of legal troubles. What if Lady Gaga or her label were to sue Google or the creators of this video? Who has the higher legal ground?

QuestionCopyright.org has a firm stance on the issue; "The whole history of human culture evolves through copying, making tiny transformations... Copying is the engine of cultural progress. It is not "stealing." It is, in fact, quite beautiful, and leads to a cultural diversity that inspires awe." The creators of "Neutra Face : An Ode On A Typeface" did not copy exactly the lyrics and music of Lady Gaga's song, rather they created a transformative work that used "Poker Face" as a base. It is a work of art in its own right, and I do not believe the creators of works such as these should be open to legal action, despite the tricky gray area in the law.

This next video is the very first part of a student production called "A Very Potter Musical," in which the Harry Potter book series by J.K. Rowling is reenacted in a comedic manner, with lots of singing. The group who put on the production had to be very careful not to accept any money, to minimize the risk of J.K. Rowling suing them (as she has done to other fans). I argue that this work, too, is transformative. It goes beyond the original story and characters and creates something new and meaningful.

I would like to finish with a video from QuestionCopyright.org, which uses very old sculptures by artists long dead to create a music video (aptly titled "All Creative Work Is Derivative").

"All Creative Work Is Derivative (Minute Meme #2) | QuestionCopyright.org." QuestionCopyright.org | A Clearinghouse For New Ideas About Copyright. Web. 07 Oct. 2010.
"YouTube - A Very Potter Musical Act 1 Part 1." YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. Web. 07 Oct. 2010. .
"YouTube - All Creative Work Is Derivative." YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. Web. 07 Oct. 2010. .
"YouTube - Neutra Face : An Ode On A Typeface (A Bearded Poker Face Parody)." YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. Web. 07 Oct. 2010. .

INNOVATION | financial | Caitlin Cave



What do you think of those photos up there? I'm sure something in the way of cliché was the first thing that came to mind. In fact, I would bet my whole bank account on it, which, if you were interested, wouldn't make you much of a profit (and, it isn't a very innovative way of making a profit, after all).

Well, that's what you get when you image Google search "innovation." And while these images represent innovation--to whom, I'm not sure--they are not intrinsically innovative in and of themselves. In fact, these images showed up three or four times within three or four pages of Google images. So, what does that say about our understanding of innovation?

I'm tempted to go into a sardonic rant that goes something like, "the idea of innovation is a culturally constructed idea... blah, blah, blah, hence the cliché images of it," but I will resist, and rather, I will describe through concise examples how innovation is the crux of the financial realm of design. Let me preface this whole thing by saying that I think the concepts framed for us are valid and important, but it's just not what I want to talk about. At this point that I am more interested in how innovation can lead to profit--financially, because, let's face it, we don't want to talk about it, but that's what my paper tells me to do-- rather than budget and client relations. If somebody has any ideas in line with what cues "The Financial Agenda" frames for us, please comment and I will reply.

I would argue that innovation, as I mentioned in the previous paragraph, is the crux of design. Design is a system of innovation, small and large, minor and major, silent and screaming. Creativity and innovation is not the same thing, though I think it's assumed by many it is. However, on the same hand it can be said creativity depends on innovation and innovation is a product of creativity, so the mix up is understandable.

Let's take a look at something I'm positive all of us tweeting, blog following, hipsters--er, design geeks-- have seen: OK Go's "This Too Shall Pass" music video. A glorified viral video, possible act of genius, OK Go's second attempt (they had another, less successful version) at their video was undeniably innovative. Innovative in many ways, some less about design than others, that catapulted OK Go into a band that supersedes their music and places them in the realm of a brand, and a pretty strong one at that.

The Rube Goldberg (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rube_Goldberg_machine) video (I'm going to attempt to embed the video, below, attempt being the operative word) is an orchestrated work of innovation, a well-oiled machine, you might say. Clichés aside, maybe this is the time to talk money:

Here's an abbreviated and crude summary:
Band gets together, makes song > song needs video > band has little money, but lots of ideas > band starts surfing the internet > band contacts Syyn Labs (designers! And engineers) > Syyn Labs (syynlabs.com) has some friends in some very important places > 55 to 60 build Rube Goldberg machine > make video


The band had $90,000. Syyn Labs had to get creative. First of all, they used people they knew, which may not have been any cheaper for labor, but people you know (and who like you) are much more willing to give you their industry secrets than a stranger for hire is. Second of all, recycled trash was used to create a majority of the Rube Goldberg machine. Thirdly, and most humbling of all, the band was put to work setting up the machine in the final days before the music video shot.

The video took two days to film and the final video was done in one shot. The design team of Syyn Labs had to be innovative. The more money they saved on labor and materials, the more money (theoretically) they would make. But even beyond that factor, their video was so successful (or, I should say, their Rube Goldberg machine) that they gave themselves the exposure that waiting around for a big pay check would never have given them. In one day (ONE DAY!) the video was viewed more than 900,000 times, 6 million views within six days.

Creativity pays off. In addition to the exposure of the creative company involved, the video resulted in an increase in single sales and concert numbers for the band. When I first watched "This Too Shall Pass" I watched it 4 times (and I don't normally like music videos or things repeated). Innovation in design is what made this video so successful; it hadn't been seen before, the behind the scene innovation made the whole thing possible, and innovation won out, financially.

If you take anything away from the above, take this: a cooperation and cooperative goal between client and designer is the culpability of financial success through innovation. Now, if only our clients could all be super hip rock stars.

Some additional interesting bunches of words:

To save you, the reader, from doing anymore reading of my writing, I will direct you to an additional article about the financial success through the corporate partnership between OK Go and State Farm Insurance: http://www.businessweek.com/the_thread/brandnewday/archives/2010/03/ok_go_state_far.html

And, just in case I'm unable to embed the video:

And, and, I will use this source in a later blog post, but I thought it was VERY pertinent to this topic:

Security and Social Networking/Social Agenda | Charles West

In 2004, the exhibition known as Massive Change came into being with the intent of questioning "what we our doing to ourselves, and [to] our world" with the designs we create (Macdonald, 2009, p. 1). We often design things to make our lives easier, to complete tasks faster and with more efficiency. This is a huge part of what the Massive Change exhibition was meant to be about. Regardless of these benefits, however, we must consider how using a design may affect our safety. Designers must question whether or not what they create makes them and/or other users less secure, and if so, are there ways to make users safer.

Security online is one of the most relevant issues in design today, now that nearly everyone uses the Internet. Society benefits from being able to pass along information faster on the Internet, but it is possible for this information to be viewed by those who were not meant to receive it. Web designers have already encountered plenty of security breech issues in social networking websites that have required them to rethink how to keep users safe. Facebook, for example, had to change its privacy settings so that users would have the option of only allowing certain people to view their text, images, and videos. Many people post material on Facebook for social gain; for sharing fun moments with their friends. Unfortunately, many users did not consider the fact that they were exposing themselves to those they had no intent of exposing themselves to. Predators on Facebook used the site for their own personal gain, manipulating under-aged children, setting up meetings to put children in compromising situations. (Stone, 2007) Furthermore, many people had lost their jobs because employers would look at their employees' Facebook pages for content that could harm their company's reputation, and thus interfere with their financial agenda. Users were exposing themselves online for their own social gain, not knowing that they were actually jeopardizing various agendas of others and themselves.

Focus.com (a website that gives advice about safety in the business world) states that many people feel that they can post whatever they wish in the digital world, because they are at a safe physical distance from the people they are interacting with. Facebook is a fine example of what we as designers must do in order to protect users from themselves and from others with malicious intentions. Is there a way to keep people from carelessly posting information online? Warnings and content filters have already been implemented on Facebook, and yet there have still been a few cases in which inappropriate content was posted successfully. Too much filtering, however, may be viewed by society as abusing people's freedom of speech, among other rights. With the ability to send information at the speed at which we can today, people will only expect newer designs to move even faster and proficient way. While we cannot please everyone, in a world that relies more and more on computer technology, we as designers will have to figure out how to make technology safer for society without limiting user abilities to the point of frustration.

Macdonald, N. March 16, 2009, Design and Society. Retrieved from
http://spy.typepad.com/ (2010, October 3). Massive change in enquiry and debate needed
Stone, B. July 30, 2007, New Scrutiny for Facebook Over Predators. Retrieved from
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/30/business/media/30facebook.html?_r=1 (October 2, 2010)
Editors Unknown, 2010, "The Security Risks of Social Networks," retrieved from

Waste | Environmental Agenda | Tarin Gessert


Waste is directly linked to human development, both technologically and socially.
Industrial development and innovation are directly linked to waste materials. The solution to a world with less waste all comes back to the waste hierarchy we learned as children: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. This can be applied to every single person on our planet. You don't have to be an environmental activist to live by this fundamental idea.

One of the biggest ways that designers produce waste is through paper consumption. And in the scheme of things, it could be much worse -- paper is recyclable. Recycling is a great alternative to throwing things away, however, the process still expends energy. In the world of recycling, an item isn't simply recreated. Used office paper is rarely recycled into new office paper. It is usually more difficult and expensive to recycle paper than it is to produce the same product from raw materials.

As designers, we need to produce less waste by using less paper. In an article written for suite101.com in 2008, Taylor Loran discusses ways that designers can reduce paper waste. They can email clients proofs up to the final mock-up of the design project. Designers can use electronic invoicing by simply creating PDFs. Making sure that the office uses recycled paper is another way to reduce waste. Getting off the mailing lists for unnecessary catalogues and design junk mail will help, as well. And lastly, and very obviously, only print what is needed.

Interestingly enough, I interned at a magazine over the summer that could use some advice on paper consumption. They electronically filed their invoices -- after printing out hard copies. They received hundreds of magazines during the month, and some of them proved to be very helpful and inspirational. However, one of the first things we did upon receiving a shipment was recycle the "bad" ones that were of no use. It would take time to go through and unsubscribe from those publications, but it would save a lot of paper in the end.

And, so many drafts were printed for each page. I understand that, especially in the publication industry, printing drafts is important and necessary. But, printing the same layout of a spread with different images dropped in a placeholder (when there is already a printed contact sheet of the images) seems a little unnecessary. If a page wasn't complete by the end of the day, it would still be printed and placed in the dummy. The next day, the finished version would be printed and placed over the top. Then, a correction would be made and the newest version would enter the scene. There was just a lot of paper being used at the end of the day.

As students, reducing paper waste may not be a high priority. I think many of us concentrate more on getting the project done on time and in the format requested by the professor than on saving paper. Looking back on several studio classes I have had in the past, it shocks me to think about how much paper I have used simply for critiques. I think with the new computer lab set-up in McNeal, this problem will be nearly eliminated, assuming that professors allow digital critiques over printed proofs. There are always exceptions, and sometimes it is necessary to print things. Over the last three years, I could have reduced my paper consumption by 50% by turning over my rough drafts and reusing them. I think it would be very beneficial to the environment if we all considered our paper consumption, and a figured out a way to reduce it.

View the full article mentioned above.

A helpful link about how you, as a consumer, can produce less waste. Some ideas are obvious, others are a bit extreme.

A short column about fashion designers making fashion less wasteful.

Other sources:

Environmental Agenda - Recyclability (Reusability)


Barbara Hicks

First of all, I think that all of the topics are all linked in some way or another. For instance - the way recycling affects the environment also, somehow and at some time will affect our personal, financial and social lives.

The core issue, I think, is the massive amounts of garbage that we're pouring into our landfills every day. The land is running out, of course, so it's gotta go somewhere. China doesn't want it anymore (http://www.good.is/post/recycling-a-moral-imperative-or-an-economic-opportunity/). We can't just be pumping it out into the oceans - at least we SHOULDN'T be doing that. And although responsible recycling it a good thing, it has it's downside, too. It's all well and good to throw recyclable materials into the recycle bin, but then it all has to be recycled. That requires manpower, energy and money. Recycled waste builds up faster than it can be recycled, and it produces toxins when it's melted down. And what happens after the stuff's been recycled? Can you recycle it again? How many times? Does it all eventually end up in landfills anyway?

I think one of the big problems is that people don't realize just how much impact they have. They think from an individual point of view when all it would really take is to stretch their vision as far as the end of the block they live on to get a picture of how much waste is produced every week.

In my experience, the verbally expressed viewpoint of people, in general, is that recycling (and reusing and repurposing) is good and necessary and we should all engage in as much of it as possible. YAY! WE LOVE THE PLANET! LET'S ALL BE GOOD PEOPLE AND RECYCLE! In practice, though, people basically throw their aluminum cans in the 'recycle bin' (if there's one nearby) and call it recycling. (NOT that there's anything wrong with at least doing that!) I think it takes a lot of thoughtfulness and willingness to put serious recycling into action. It's sort of like speaking out against the practices of a (insert name of your favorite superstore here), but shopping there anyway when it'll save you money or time.

When I think about recycling, I automatically think about reusing. And when I think about reusing, I think about how things are designed. My biggest gripe is packaging.
Why don't we design things, whenever possible, that can fulfill another useful purpose? Or at least make the garbage SMALL.

The biggest offender, in my opinion, is packaging. I'm not only offended by the amount of pure, unrecyclable and unreusable waste that I have to buy in order to get a product that I want, but I'm also offended by the fact that I'm paying EXTRA for the packaging! (http://www.ohiodnr.com/Home/ToolsandResources/ReduceWaste/ReducePackagingWaste/tabid/17950/Default.aspx) And then I have to pay for it AGAIN when I write out the check to my garbage collection agency! Something like 15% of garbage is from consumer product packaging. (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ae226)

I understand about point-of-purchase and all that. As graphic designers, of course we understand this. But can't we come up with a solution other than filling millions of 'designed-to-get-your attention' containers with tiny amounts of food and filling up shelves with them? For instance, how about just designing point-of-purchase signage and displays that will get people's attention and then having the food in tiny containers that will produce hardly any waste? We could take a lesson from Japan, as one example, and their super-innovative idea for packaging tofu and pudding in balloons! (http://boingboing.net/2008/07/18/beautiful-and-nonwas.html) Or how about, instead of packaging a tube of mascara in an ounce of molded plastic, which is then glued or melted or stapled into a giant piece of colorfully designed cardboard, why don't we just have ONE big attention grabber and barely package the tubes of mascara? I know, I know - because people steal. Or because they have to be packaged for easy transport. Or something else. I don't have all the answers. Yet. But I, for one, will be really happy when I can just use a product when I get it home instead of having to get out the bolt cutters to slice through the inch of plastic encasing my itty-bitty product.

As a designer, I have to say that it sometimes seems like an insurmountable problem. After all - we're being trained to create designs that will be successful for a client. That involves how it will get attention, how it will appeal to consumers, how it will be packaged for shipping and how it will fit on a shelf, among other things. So I believe that, while in good conscience we can't give up, we have to be willing to be patient and persistent and really really innovative.

When I lived in Germany, my landlords familiarized me with how garbage collection works. When they pulled out the teeny-tiny garbage can that I was allowed to fill each week, I laughed. I thought they were kidding. I'd estimate the thing to be about 5 gallons. After living there for awhile, I realized that it was more than enough. When I went shopping, I brought my own basket and purchased food that was barely wrapped. For instance, sandwich meat and sliced cheese were wrapped in very thin pieces of waxed paper. No styrofoam. No boxes. No plastic. Of course, these things were being produced locally, so they didn't have to packaged for long distance transport.

I really think the only thing that will finally have a real impact on this problem is how we, as CONSUMERS, respond. If we continue to spend our money on products that produce waste, the waste will continue. We can talk all we want, but if we don't act differently, not much will change.

If you're willing to shop smarter and be just the slightest bit inconvenienced, this link has some practical information on smart shopping to reduce waste:
This is a good link that advocates 'pre-cycling' vs. recycling:
This link has information about environmental issues in print:
This link gives designers some interesting options for biodegradable packaging materials:
Here is a really cool link - you can download a widget from Apple that gives designers basic information about the environmental impacts that design methods and techniques have, divided into three categories - paper, print, & more info - as well as ethical tips and links to other websites:

Disability | The Financial Agenda | Christine Yakshe

| 1 Comment

The World Health Organization states that "Disabilities is an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions. An impairment is a problem in body function or structure; an activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action; while a participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations.
Thus disability is a complex phenomenon, reflecting an interaction between features of a person's body and features of the society in which he or she lives." ("World health organization," 2010)
Design deals with exactly that; the features of the society in which we live. Designing for disabilities is something that will always be significant. Unless doctors and technology find a way to cure blindness, paralysis, dyslexia, and other numerous kinds of disabilities, there will always be a need for design that caters to those who have disabilities.

It is amazing the things you will come upon when searching for designing for the disabled. Obviously there is a need there and we as designers can choose to profit from this. Personally, I had never thought specifically of designing for disabilities until having this word for this blog assignment. Now, having thought about the need for design for those with disabilities, I realize there is such a large market for disability design. Is this something I might want to pursue in my own career? Possibly.
Take for instance the following link--http://www.yankodesign.com/2008/08/28/trike-for-disabled-tikes/
This link shows a bike/trike designed specifically for children with disabilities although I'm sure it could apply to older people with disabilities as well. My family chooses to go to Door County, Wisconsin every year and each year we bike in and out of town. This has always been an issue when my younger brother has been along and no one is there to watch him and he has special needs and is not comfortable riding a regular two-wheel bike. We tried a three-wheel bike, with one in the front and two behind but he still didn't feel safe riding it. It's great that someone found a need with disabled children and designed for it.

The issue with designing for disabilities is that people cannot always afford what is designed. Finding a way to work with insurance companies would probably be the first step after having designed something that is a need to those with disabilities. Also, there would need to be extra research put in to finding the most inexpensive ways to distribute and produce such items.
Having personal daily experience with someone who has disabilities could help me to find those holes in the market and design something that helps those with disabilities to work through every day life easier having something designed to help them and it could help me at the same time to make a living doing something I know is helping others and not just being designed to be designed.


Pullin, G. (2009). Design meets disability. Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

World health organization. (2010). Retrieved from http://www.who.int/topics/disabilities/en/

Social Agenda and Awareness

Using Design to Promote Social Awareness
The Social Agenda
Lauren Maus

Designers have a lot of influence on the world around us. We don't just create "pretty pictures". All design has a purpose, a concept or idea that it grew from. What we do as designers is grow that seed, and nurture it into something visual and our goal is to impact the audience we target. Thinking about our scope and influence is not new: "Design has always played an important role around society and the individual as it affects cultural identity, social structures, economies, cultural development and environments" (Saki, 2008). We as designers have a lot of responsibility on our hands. It is important to know about our impact and how far we can manipulate people. There becomes a thin line where the designer is making the viewer think and beginning to think for them.

A great facet of design is "Social Awareness":
"This new perspective on design gave more responsibilities to designers who play an important role as the new agents of change. Designers today seek to create something new for the world by using creativity and strategic design thinking whilst demonstrating their ability for social awareness" (Saki, 2008).
With the growth of social media and networking, more and more people are exposed to things that they never would have seen before. We are no longer confined to what we see on television or our own back yard. We have the entire world in front of us, seeing the struggles and triumphs of others. Social Awareness has really taken off as more people use design to bring these issues to the forefront of everyday life: "Many graphic designers are today involved with both social and cultural responsibilities in a world that is more globalised than ever" (Saki, 2008).

This social awareness goes deeper than just the over-whelming problems we see in the world. Design can be very powerful, and that's why I keep saying "responsibility". We are each responsible for being aware of what we do, and considering the impact of our designs: "I believe that the single identity of the artist and the technician in the person of the graphic designer forms the basis for his capacity to assert his role strongly -- and to take his own specific action as an individual who is a part of civilization" (Bernard, 1997). Each of us needs to take a stance, and stick with it. I will promote Social Awareness for the causes I believe in and make the impact as dramatic and appealing visually as possible. However, I won't create propaganda. We have a responsibility as designers to carefully consider each project we take on, and whether it goes past our ethics boundaries or not. Designers "play an important role as the new agents of change" (Saki, 2008), and should have a thorough understanding of what that means.

Social Awareness campaigns:


Saki, S. (Designer). (2008). The role of graphic design in international development. [Web]. Retrieved from http://www.icograda.org/feature/current/articles1814.htm

Bernard, P. (Designer). (1997). The social role of the graphic designer. [Web]. Retrieved from http://backspace.com/notes/2009/09/the-social-role-of-the-graphic-designer.php

Returnability | Financial | Lisa Hocraffer

Returnability is defined as that which may be returned, for example, plastic bottles and aluminum cans that can be returned for money ("Returnable"). While many people think of returnability as an environmental issue, it is also closely related to finance. An meaningful returnability example for many college students is keg deposits. Keg deposits at most liquor stores average around $100, more the doubling the cost of the beer ("Keg deposits," 2007). If the consumer needs to rent a tap or ice bucket, the total deposit price goes even higher. To many consumers this deposit seems unreasonably high. However, when considered by retailers, it is the only financially viable option. New kegs cost between $100 to $200, making it very important for retailers to have their kegs returned. Using reusable kegs allows retailers to save a substantial amount of money, and allows consumers to purchase beer at a much lower price. The sizeable deposit shifts the responsibility of keg return to the consumer, allowing retailers to spend less time attempting to track down empty kegs. In the past, when keg deposits were lower, consumers could sell empty kegs to scrap yards for more than the deposit, costing retailers significant money to replace kegs. To increase keg returns, some retailers pay consumers a five to ten dollar bonus when refunding the deposit, effectively discounting the price of the beer. In this example, the keg was designed to be reusable, but the product marketing had to be redesigned to provide incentive for consumers to return the container.

A concept closely related to returnability is reusability. The reusability movement is powered by the idea that it is cheaper for retailers and consumers to purchase items that are more expensive, but are reusable. For example, in the Netherlands if consumers need plastic bags at the grocery store, they must pay a small fee per bag. This encourages consumers to purchase bags that are designed for reuse. As a result, retailers are saving money on plastic bags and are able to charge less for their products. While it seems like this would make very little difference, the average family of five uses around 720 plastic bags every year. One reusable bag can avoid the use of around 20,000 plastic bags during its lifetime (aqualunacom). Reusable bags allow both consumers and retailers to benefit financially from a more ecologically friendly arrangement. A similar US example is coffee shops that give a discount to consumers using reusable beverage containers.

As designers, what is our role regarding finance and returnability? Designers should consider what can be done to make projects more affordable to clients and products more affordable for consumers, particularly during economic challenging times. One successful method for doing this is to reduce resource consumption by designing products that are reusable and packaging that is returnable. As responsible designers, we must ask, how can you integrate reusability and returnability into your design practices?

Works Cited

Agualunacom. The environmental benefits of using reusable bags [Web log message].
Retrieved from http://www.squidoo.com/reuseable-bags-environment

Keg deposits. (2007). Retrieved from http://www.realbeer.com/discussions/show

"Returnable." (n.d.). Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition.
Retrieved October 04, 2010, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.referen

Distribution -- Environmental Agenda -- Sarah Even


Distribution and Its Relevance in the Environmental Agenda
Sarah Even

Watch this 2 minute video about distribution and it's negative effects on the environment.

Watch this video about a smart way to distribute pizza.

According to dictionary.com, the two best definitions of distribution that relate to design are, "the delivery or giving out of an item or items to the intended recipients, as mail or newspapers," and "the marketing, transporting, merchandising, and selling of any item." Distribution is a process, as Annie Leonard pointed out in the "Story of Stuff" YouTube video. As designer, we cannot just change one little bit of the distribution process and expect to make a big difference. We have to consider the whole. Luckily, the design phase precedes the distribution phase; therefore we can have a greater affect on it.

In an article by David Drickhamer, Michael Prince, the CEO of Beyond Design, Inc., says, "package configurations must also meet the unique handling and merchandising needs of retail customers. When such customer requirements are known, they can be designed in, rather than accommodated after the fact." This idea of predicting consumer needs could reduce a lot of waste as a result of distribution. Take IKEA for example. They are known not only for their furniture design, but also for the packaging it comes in. It is minimalistic, cheap, and most importantly, better for the environment. As a consumer, I don't care that the lamp I bought for $10 at IKEA comes in a non-conventionally shaped box. I think it is wise of them to consider the fact that some of their products are oddly shaped or over-sized and accommodate the distribution of these products so we can access them more easily.

Green Box is a company that has redesigned the pizza box to function as first, a distribution container, second, as plates, and finally, it re-folds into a new, smaller box to hold leftovers. Genius! Overall, it is really important for designers to think about simple things like boxes. If we can use recycled materials, design for reusability, and think about the cost of distribution environmentally instead of financially, we will all be better off. Ever had one of those moments where you open up a new product just to discover that the box is three times the size it needed to be, and all the extra space is just filled with needless styrofoam or crumpled paper? Designers are the phase before the distribution phase. What we say, how we design, and our opinion matters. We can help make a change.

Drickhamer, David. "Design for Distribution." Material Handling & Logistics | Strategic Supply Chain Execution | Green Material Handling | Packaging, Vehicles, Workforce Solutions, Sytems Automation, Industrial Technology. 1 Feb. 2005. Web. 06 Oct. 2010. .

"YouTube - Green Box: Pizza Box Turns into Plates & Storage Unit." YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. Web. 06 Oct. 2010. .

"YouTube - The Story of Stuff (2007) - Ch.4: Distribution." YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. Web. 06 Oct. 2010. .

Pollution | Social | Missy Austin


Today I'm exploring how pollution relates to design. Obviously, the environmental aspect of paper & packaging being trashed comes to mind first, but I can't even begin to wrap my mind around that right now because I'm too busy frantically checking my facebook to take my mind off of doing something slightly academic. For this reason, I think it's inevitable that I take a moment to plea my case against a pollution that effects myself and maybe most of us countless times throughout the day-social media pollution!

The statement "social media pollution" can be taken a few ways: one being that all social media outlets (facebook, twitter, and countless others) are all forms of pollution on society. The other being that there lies pollution within these outlets, i.e. pointless facebook status updates such as "today is not the day to be sick.... last exam of the week tonight waaaa" (taken from a girl who went to my high school who can always be counted on to deliver little gems like this.) Either way you take it, tacking the word "pollution" on the end of anything typically makes it an unpossitive statement.

As a designer, I feel pressured to "keep up" with my twitter and have an active online presence...why? To me it's something that sounds nice in theory, but at the end of the day what's it all for? There are those out there who contribute to the greater good with their social networking, by posting an event coming up or a new font that was just released, but how do you pick through the garbage to find this information? I don't mean to be insensitive or a hypocrite when I say that I don't care that you "have class until 8:30 boooooo!" or "(insert vague and emotional lyric relating to your break up here.)" That said, I still find myself going on facebook when I'm bored and feel the need to scan someone's "Family Reunion 2010" photo album. Does that make me a contributor to the pollution? Probably.

Here are some sites that I found funny and/or related to:

Kevin Quillen's web designer blog:

5 Worst Possible Facebook Status Updates:

communication / financial / amy maleson

| 1 Comment

In a way, communication and finances go hand in hand. The more communication that takes place would result in better designs, which would mean there would be more of a profit. Designers can not only focus on the cost and making that profit, but also need to listen to and communicate with the world around them. By communicating, a more useful design will be produced. The more useful the product, the more financial greatness it will achieve.

The definition of communication as given by Wikipedia is, "a process whereby information is enclosed in a package and is channeled and imparted by a sender to a receiver via some medium." In this case the medium would be design and the process would take on a few different parts. One major step would be communicating with the client. Designers and their clients work closely to create successful products. By communicating appropriately, there is a greater chance for creating financially viable work.

Another important thing to think about as a designer is who the end-user will be. It is important to communicate with the target audience to get ideas of how to make a product more useful to them. The more useful the product and the more communication that takes place, makes for more of a profit in the long run. Daniel Yang also thought this to be an important part of the process by saying, "the user is the main priority in the design process." Without considering the user, there is no point in making the product. The users are the ones that will benefit from the product and are the ones that will give it success. The user also incorporates society as a whole. The user is part of society and the designer needs to communicate with those two categories of people in order to have financial success.

Wikipedia: Communication. (10/1/2010). FL: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. Retrieved 10/1/2010, from http://www.wikipedia.org.

Yang, Daniel. (2007). Ethics in Design. Retrieved 10/1/2010 from http://www.danielyang.com/musings/designethics.php.

Convenience - Social Agenda - Manon Ibes

| 1 Comment

The New Oxford American Dictionary defines convenience as "the state of being able to proceed with something with little or no effort or difficulty." In terms of the social sphere, convenience could be closely related to the usability of the design, meaning that the easier a thing is to use the more likely that thing will provide the user with convenience. For example, when a printed piece contains relevant information in a clear and concise way, it provides convenience to the reader.

J.P. Rangaswami, a well-known systems designer, when musing on the design of his hotel room makes a connection between convenience and customer service. He writes:
"Lots of little things that show that someone thought about what people want... Putting things where people would intuitively look for things... Using open standards wherever possible. Building things with the customer in mind, actually thinking about how the customer would use something. Thinking about where a customer's eye would fall, what his reach would be.
When we design systems, there is much we can learn from people who take customer service seriously."
This is a very interesting point to think about. In school, designers are often "working" for themselves and for the grade. Without experience designing for a real user students can lose sight of this important aspect of design. Design is created for a purpose, and if a designer can't communicate convenience for a user in either the portrayal of a message or in the usage of the design, what is the point? When designing, it is important to remove oneself from the "designer role" and look at the product from other points of view: how will the client feel about the design, how will a user interact with or benefit from this or that designed feature, and above all, how can the design increase convenience for the user?

Considering convenience in terms of design can also mean making physical activities more convenient for the person doing them. For example, the 1950s witnessed an explosion of technological advances in kitchen and home appliances that were designed to add convenience to the housewife. The design of the appliances was a strong draw for the consumer, not only did they add convenience, but they also were designed to match the style of the times. These appliances are taken for granted today, but if you've every tried to whip cream by hand, it is easy to appreciate the power of the hand mixer. Or, in Rangawami's case, his hotel's interior design made his stay more enjoyable and provided convenience to him.

A customer-centric approach to design is applicable in all avenues in the design world. Product, interior, and apparel design can physically give users more convenience in their lives. Graphic, web, interactive designers need to consider how users/viewers will interact with the designs and how it can be made most convenient.

Rangaswami, J.P. Musing about design and convenience. Retrieved October 3, 2010, from http://confusedofcalcutta.com/2008/05/26/musing-about-design-and-convenience.

Making the modern world. Home comforts. Retrieved October 3, 2010, from http://www.makingthemodernworld.org.uk/stories/the_rise_of_consumerism/02.ST.03/?scene=3.


Cost Effectiveness: The Financial Agenda


by Ashley Kohler

With the economy in the state that it is today (that is to say, not great), many companies are looking at ways to cut costs without sacrificing the quality of their products. Cost effectiveness is a tricky concept for business plans because it implies that we need to put a price on the outcome of a project. Most of us have encountered a boss/client who says something to the effect of, "I need this done ASAP, for cheap. Make sure it looks good!" One great article that I found that references this is "Balancing Speed, Cost, and Quality in Graphic Design," by Preston Lee. Preston uses the image of a triangle to make a valid argument for sacrificing one quality to gain two others. For instance, if we ask for speed and quality, we should be prepared to pay for it. If we ask for cost-efficiency and a good design, we should plan on sacrificing time. And if we want something to be done quickly for a low price, the quality of the product suffers.

When a company (or a person) wants to change his/her habits to save money, priorities are the first things to consider. Example: I'm low on money and I have a class that requires me to stock up on a huge amount of expensive supplies, paper for critiques, a locker for storage, and an overwhelming amount of unexpected expenses (WTF, why am I spending twenty dollars on an assignment that won't even be graded?). I need to figure out where I can cut corners without being too obvious, which often ends up as mooching and borrowing. Like a financially distraught company, I may have to give up a fair amount of pride to save money.

Luckily, many marketing campaigns have been able to succeed with a low budget. With the innovation of social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, companies are able to implement effective viral strategies to influence customers. When Blendtec released a $50 video on YouTube where the premise was putting different things in a mixer and blending them (in this case, salsa, buffalo wings, Budweiser, and chips), they received six million views in five days and their online sales grew 500%. The point: Companies that have a strong idea that can be simplified and accessed by millions won't have to trade quality for cost effectiveness.


Lee, Preston. Balancing Speed, Cost, and Quality in Graphic Design. Retrieved October 4, 2010, from http://graphicdesignblender.com/balancing-speed-cost-and-quality-in-graphic-design

Social Maximizer. 7 Awesomely Amazing Examples of Success through YouTube! Retrieved October 4, 2010, from http://blog.socialmaximizer.com/youtube-business-use-cases/

Utility | The Financial Agenda | Andrea Leesley

The difference between a designer and a good designer is that a good designer keeps the form, function, and aesthetic quality of a project balanced. A good designer listens to what the client wants and considers their budget during the entire design process. Good design should emphasize the utility of a product while looking aesthetically beautiful. As the competitive market continues to grow, designers and clients need to explore their options and invent new features that distinct their products voice from its competitors.

Creating a positive relationship, and building trust with the client through good communication, and understanding the client's needs are important attributes to have while working on any project. Doing research and planning will help the designer justify any design decision to the client. It is important for the designer to be able to discuss the budget of a project with the client and propose different options for them to choose from. By doing this, the designer can then explain the pros and cons for each proposed idea and how the outcome for each idea will affect the cost. Rather than estimating the cost for a design, designers should create designs based on an estimate.

Some client's and a few designer's tend to focus too much on adding or removing features to a project to decreased costs or because they are convinced that it will increase profits; in turn decreasing the products utility and most likely increasing the price. Good design should be honest and should not have to use persuasive words such as "More Features", or "Includes...", to lure a customer into buying a product. More expensive and more features does not always mean better design. The design should be able to speak for itself through aesthetics and utility alone.

Buchanan, Richard. (2000). Good Design in the Digital Age. Gain: AIGA Journal of Design
for the Network Economy, 1. Retrieved from http://www.aiga.org

Rams, Dieter. (2007). Celebrating 25 Years of Design. 25/25. Retrieved from http://

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from October 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

September 2010 is the previous archive.

November 2010 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.


Powered by Movable Type 4.31-en