As I discussed with my group yesterday, I have come to see empowerment as an achievement, and design as a tool to achieve it. This definition applies to personal empowerment as well. Design is an excellent way to promote yourself exactly as you want to be perceived; designers use their resume, business cards, and websites to not only provide information about themselves, but to show their personalities and styles in the process. (I think we're lucky; we get to highlight our differences with what we love, rather than intentionally trying to homogenize ourselves, like some industries prefer!) For an example of designers promoting themselves, visit www.cargocollective.com. This website makes it possible for anyone to use design to promote themselves and what they do, and is itself a form of design that leads to personal empowerment.
Another way I have seen design used for personal empowerment is to alter or even create a perception for a reputation. Presidential candidates use this all the time; the most obvious example would be President Obama's campaign materials. He (along with campaigners) created a branded image that showed him as forward, progressive, and of course, as a CHANGE from the past. In an interesting supplement to Obama's campaign, the artist Shepard Fairey took Obama's message and created the ubiquitous HOPE poster. Although this was promotion for someone else, it also shows how influential a visual campaign can be in creating a personal brand.
These are examples of self-promotion using design as a tool. The ultimate achievement is empowerment, and while these are examples of personal empowerment, the concept extends from individuals to groups to corporations, and even to entire nations (like flags!). Design helps us establish our personal identities, and knowing how to use it effectively can give us an advantage in self-promotion.
Willis, M. (Feb 27th, 2009). Shepard Fairey: Inspiration or Infringement?. In Fair Use Lab 1.0. Retrieved Dec 1, 2010, from http://williscreative.com/fairuselab/?p=38.
(n.d.). Featured Websites. In Cargo Collective. Retrieved Dec 1, 2010, from http://cargocollective.com/#/featured.