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The Impact of Marketing on Society as a Whole!

There are lots of mediums we can apply our Graphic Design experience to, and because of this we are hopefully able to have a more actualized perception of our job and tasks. Graphic design not only requires creativity and skill of the programs, but most of it is psychology and much time is spend considering audiences and expectations. We are (hopefully) not going to be simplified to a specialized task for our job, we are expected to have independent thought and constantly weighing the ends and means of our actions not just on the company but society as a whole. This is awesome! So lets look at a medium we will be working with, marketing, and define ways we can have an upper hand at creating a better world, for as in a previous post I wrote that marketing is a notion of authority that has potential to breed a society either hyper-suspicious and cynical or mindless zombies. So how can marketing be healthy for both the company and the consumer?

It could probably start by not seeing our neighbors as consumers.

In a cynical point of view which may or may not be true, it seems our capitalist world is going down the inevitable track of valuing consumption over community. With our technologically advanced and globalized world we can be friends with people across the world or a few blocks down the street, no big deal, but when it comes to going 'home' and feeling welcome surrounded by neighbors that look after you this isn't always the case now a days. I remember having block parties every years in our neighborhood, but that notion of community and belonging dissipated into staying in and tending to our own interests.

And maybe this lack of neighborhood community is being replaced with more voluntary and proactive community, for because of our economy we are able to have time finding out what we specifically enjoy, in turn creating community out of those interests. This might not mean you and others that enjoy the same scene as you happen to live next door on a block, but you make it work.

But back to marketing and society. No one enjoys being told what to do or what to believe, which essentially is what marketing is doing. Marketing is also simply communicating, but there is so much at stake to the company's bottom line the 'communicating' results in 'cpersuasion' (I was doing good with alliteration with the letter 'c' up until this point). Looking at the marketing of Jesus! I was 'cpersueded' by the marketing tactics of the cool, alternative Pentecostal church from about 7th grade to 12th grade, which might be why I am now so sensitive and perceptive of roles of authority, persuasion, and the ends and means needed to do so. But after falling out of the dogmatic believe system and writing reflective papers on the matter I realized the real reason I was voluntarily consumed with this subculture for so long even though I was constantly justifying the irrational fundamentals of the belief system was a combination of--- fear and community. We were fearful of eternal fire and brimstone for us and our loved ones, but I think we were actually mostly fearful of loosing the loving, supporting, and welcoming community we were a part of. I also realized a lot of situations in life outside of a religious standpoint are rooted with fear and the desire for community, which seems like a pretty natural drive looking at humans in a evolutionary perspective.

So if two strong human drives are fear and community, how does that relate to marketing? Well is shows why the act of marketing will always have conflicting sides. It helps get rid of a sense of fear for the company, in turn the individual workers within the company, but it also threatens our sense of community, forcing us to treat our neighbors as consumers over comrades.

As newly budding graphic designers going into the field I think we should be considering what our role is in society, and to not be afraid to stand up for ethical issues. I'm sure most of us will be just happy to get a job no matter what, and we aren't entering our jobs like we are going to take over the place or anything like that, but to keep our world progressing and considering how large a design community there is in Minneapolis, its good to consider at least.

As most of us are only a few weeks away from the inevitable change of being protected from the burdens of life by college, I think it is worth talking about what we are designing for. I would say immediately, my word being communication, that we communicate to the public for clients. That is our job. But how much of ourselves are put into our designs and what happens when we are designing for causes or companies we personally don't support or think are immoral. Do we have a greater calling to represent ourselves over clients in these cases and how much is it worth standing up and saying "I refuse to help spread or improve this companies business."

So far the majority of design work has been strictly school work. This enables us to do whatever we want. We choose our audience, the product (most of the time), the voice, and everything else. This is different, as we all realize from actual life, where our clients tell us who they are, who their voice is, and what products they sell. We will all start out working under an art director or in a team of sorts so you would think we would have little control on what projects we get. What if we get assigned a project of completely revamping a strip clubs image and doing all of their advertising work? Or take for instance myself. I am a Roman Catholic. What do I do if I am assigned to work on an Atheist website and print materials? I would say it would be wrong of me to do so. What if I am forced to work on it?

I am not saying we have to go to the extreme and quit our jobs, but it would be an option depending on other variables going on in life. If you have a cause you truly believe in and then you are asked to design for something that is totally against it, how are we all going to handle it? And how are the jobs you take as a freelancer going to impact your career as a designer? Are your clients going to care about the companies that you worked for and the projects you display on your website?

I can't really find much on the topic but that is probably because I am not a professional "googleist". Did that word just happen? You know it did! However, I did find a forum that somewhat discussed the topic.

The question posted was:

"Would you turn to promote in which something you do not believe in such as pornography/liquir/smoking."

These were some of the respondents answers.

  • I would work for Microsoft but would probably overcharge them because they suck.
  • Someone is going to get paid to do it so why not me.
  • I wouldn't aid anyone who was on the wrong side of the fence.
  • Pornography/liquor/smoking? That's a regular weeknight!
  • I wouldn't. At the end of the day, a week of hunger doesn't sting as much as guilt.
  • freelancing is a minefield, turn down or accept the wrong project and it could screw your whole reputation

Everything we do as designers I think give people an insight into who we are. Most of our projects are just jobs, but people will automatically form opinions by what they see. They will look at our projects and what we have willingly created and come to rapid conclusions about who, in this world community of design, would represent their values the best.

In the end it seems mainly to come down to the variables within each owns life. Do I have family? Do I need the money? How bad is the project? Am I awesome so could I easily find a different job? Should we care at all? Hopefully none of us ever have to face a crossroads like this but odds are at some point we will.

Works Cited:
(here is a site about bad project warning signs for freelancers. Found it searching for relevant information)

To greed or not to greed: Minimizing Our Desire for More

What is greed, for the lack of a better word (motivation? incentive? curiosity? necessity? pressure?) Is it good or is it bad? Is is something good that must be controlled to prevent it from going bad?

I recently watched something that you should watch. Its a lecture given by
Stefan Bucher (buk-er) at the Walker Art center for the most recent Design lecture series.

Watch the whole thing, the whole talk is good, it won't bore you, even the question and answer is engaging and relevant to our lives as designers.

But for the sake of this post, watch from 51:40 to 56:30 to get the juicy part. To sum the part up, Stefan talks about his practice of a philosophy called Greed Control. He does not accept jobs based on money, but based on the work. This way, he gets work that he wants to do, and spend what he does earn more consciously.

"If making money is your primary goal, you're going to start choosing work on that basis. And the easiest way to make your work better or worse is by the clients that you choose to work for."

An opposing view to this is from the 1987 film Wall Street, by a character named Gordon Gekko. He is a fictional character and the main character and antagonist, played by Michael Douglas. His famous from the film:

"Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind."

What is it that defines the "upward surge of mankind". It is fuel efficient vehicles and ipads? Is it quality education to children and access to higher education regardless of economic background? Maybe it's really cheap chicken wings and fountain drinks, or a global "free market" that allows a low cost of production, despite exploiting labor. It might be getting a really juicy ROI so that if not us, at least the people who pay us get rich.

To bring it back to Bucher's point about controlling greed, I know I hate it when people are only after my money, and I know other people hate it too. But we're global citizens, should we really care about our personal, monetary ROI getting increased each year? What about all the other things, like sleeping and solving social issues, and planting trees? Can we be advocates for peace, and satisfy our desires and pay back our student loans? (this sort of relates)

"A real problem for the world is that each of us 300 million Americans consumes as much as 32 Kenyans. With 10 times the population, the United States consumes 320 times more resources than Kenya does." (4)

This is not an upward surge of mankind. This is ridiculous, we know this. Why do we agree that we can call a nation like Kenya "developing", as if the United States is not developing?

What I really find the most disturbing about greed being disguised as growth "upward surge" is that its very easy to feel detached from participating in the greed pool, and that the greedy contribute to good things. For example, is this ultimately good or bad greed?


When we design we usually are designing for a client and for a certain audience target, but this way of designing is how we ended up with bursting landfills, unrecyclable materials, and short lived products that can't be fixed or reused.

To remedy our current non-green design habits we could follow the writings of Brian Dougherty author of Green Graphic Design, he says we should design backwards by thinking about where your design will ultimately end up. Which will most likely be in a landfill or if you are lucky in a recycling facility, we need to face the fact that our designs will ultimately be thrown away.

So as designers we need to consider how our designs can be reused, how to make them recyclable and fit to compost. We should also think about how the designs are to be distributed, use efficient packaging and keep it minimal, how it is transported, and warehoused. Finally, think about how you product will be manufactured, plan for minimal trim waste, try to use recycled materials, and design for green printing.

We have all heard of sustainable scorecards from previous guest speakers, here is a scorecard that Celery Design Collaborative, a green and sustainable design firm, uses to quickly assess materials.

Picture 3.png

What makes a quality product? I'm sure durability is high on the list, as well as appealing design, but I'm almost positive that being able to easily disassembly it isn't on your list. When we design we don't think about our product breaking or the possibility of it quitting on a user, so we usually only plan on how it will be manufactured, not how it will be taken apart. Alex Diener author of Afterlife: An Essential Guide To Design For Disassembly writes that we should consider the future need to dissemble a product for repair, refurbishing, and/or recycling.


Since we live and have grown up in a throw away culture, something that arose in the 50's due to the rise of consumerism, cheap labor, and new mass production methods. The results are the bursting landfills and toxins found in product waste. These consequences are becoming more and more of a concern and today are fueling the green and sustainable movements we are all aware of.


The How to Design for Disassembly Roadmap shows a framework of actions that can be preformed for designing more efficient products, to get a more detailed explanation of the steps and visual examples of Designing for Disassembly visit Diener's post.


By designing with the end destination in mind, kind of like designing with the seventh generation in mind, you will be able to produce products that can be more valuable to the users as well as environmental friendly. Along with destination designing, designing for disassembly will help you create products that users will be able to use and repair with ease, limiting user frustration and poor product interaction which will raise the perceived quality of the product as a whole.

For a preview of Green Graphic Design by Brian Dougherty click here

Looking at affordability and design in a social context is really an investigation of how different groups of people define what is affordable and how the marketplace reacts to and influences those decisions. Our cultural definitions of affordability are constantly evolving. Changing gas prices, for instance, provoke a wide range of reactions, but rarely do they result in a major drop-off in consumption.

Our most recent speaker, Will Davis from Target, provided some excellent insight into some of the decisions companies make with regard to the consumer perception of affordability. In particular, Target and other companies use focus groups when determining how pricing affects purchase decisions. As Mr. Davis pointed out, the introduction of higher-priced lines to one area of the store affects customer perception in several ways. Beyond influencing the customer's overall impression of the store (in this case, by differentiating Target from other low-priced retailers), the higher-priced items set their neighbors in sharper relief, giving the customer the impression of greater value at the lower price-points. This can serve to increase the final cost that a consumer finds affordable. In simpler terms, the ten-dollar Maybelline [insert cosmetics product here] looks significantly more affordable next to a thirty-dollar Jemma Kidd product, and this contrast may cause the consumer to purchase the Maybelline over an even lower-priced alternative.

This kind of decision by Target is one that is made very carefully. By including more expensive options in their lineups, Target can give their customers a more upscale, luxurious impression of the company, and this may cause them to shop at Target more frequently. Include too high a price-point, however, and Target risks tarnishing its image as a low-price retailer. Finding the balance between these two points is the kind of difficult decision companies make when considering consumer's impressions of affordability.

Will Davis, Target Corp.

Being aware of your social resources, assets, networks, organizations, events, and opportunities is a vital role in becoming a respectable designer. To take advantage of every part requires you initially to establish a good attitude. This has been told to us a million times, as designers, but it rings truer everyday coming closer to graduation. The unemployment rate plummeting, the design work is not enough. A positive attitude and outlook on life as a whole will take you places. An article from Articlesbase stated,
"Even if you are jobless there is no sound or required reason to remain unhappy. Your attitude governs mostly everything in life. Adversity comes and goes in the lives of people every day. Facing life with optimism and determination will enable those with a way to overcome."

By obtaining this positive attitude, you will have more inspiration and motivation to become aware of your social opportunities. Many of us have a twitter account, which is crucial to stay associated and become further informed of the design world around us. An article I found online, Making the Most of Twitter for Designers by Taylor Loran, gave a few pointers that are important for Twitter users and for any future Twitter users out there (get one now!). As a user of Twitter, it is necessary to tweet about other projects, encouraging articles, stock images, etc. that you have found and not just about your own ideas and projects. Twitter can be a great guide to network for millions of designers. By getting to know other designers and their work you can only gain knowledge. To be successful through Twitter, you must be an active member; posting often and sending direct messages once in a while. On the other hand, don't post too much and don't write consecutive unconstructive posts. This causes annoyance for many. Finally, the central key to Twitter is to not let it take up too much of your time! (I know we all get caught up and can't leave!) Keep it as a daily routine, but once you are finished move on to designing.

The last social aspect to be aware of is not the virtual world, but the actual world of design around us; from preparing for an interview to recognizing names of designers. Being able to talk about their company in an interview is impressive and you will be remembered, which again brings us back to attitude. Studying the company you have an interview for, involves a lot of positive attitude and inspiration. Here is a quote from Tom Sloper,
"If you want to move up into the studio, perhaps eventually to become a designer, you need a good attitude. It's the bright stars who get noticed. Don't just look for ways to do more... find them."
By being socially aware with a positive attitude, life will give you opportunities you weren't even aware of. Just a little inspiration and aid for everyone looking for a job out there! Good luck! ☺

Articlesbase. Attitude Plus Aptitude Equals Altitude.

Loran, Taylor. Making the Most of Twitter for Designers. Oct. 19, 2009.

Sloper, Tom. Lesson #9 - Professionalism and Attitude.

Society. Even if we say that design always ends up being perceived and reacted to by individuals, it is within society that this takes place. Changes (innovations) will always be affected by social factors. For this post I decided to choose three words to represent different social considerations of innovation: intent, feasibility, and transformation. The first is something that may be integrated into our differing design philosophies; the second is a social factor we should all consider when doing something "new", the third is a social phenomenon that will always be part of design.

What are you aiming for when designing? Experimentation is good, but society's needs are a practical counterbalance to boundless creativity. A question to think about is where we should place innovation among design priorities. Scott Berkun wrote an article backing "good" rather than "innovative", and stated:

"From my studies of the history of business innovation, I'm convinced you can beat competitors and even dominate markets without fancy tricks. All you need is the ability to make things that are good consistently, since few companies do." (1)

He points out that companies popularly hailed as innovative (Apple, Amazon, Mozilla, Google) started out simply with the goal of being better than existing competitors. From this point of view, success is "driven less by...breakthrough thinking and more by a focus on making solid, reliable, simple, good products that solve real needs people have." (1) But surely disruptive thinking is part of a designer's role. In The Brand Gap, Marty Neumeier says that creatives' "thinking is often so fresh that they zag even when they should zig. But without fresh thinking, there's no chance of magic." (2) I wrote in my "personal" post that an individual could be pleased by a design's newness, but functioning well is usually more important. I think most of us have learned to begin with broad experimentation, and then focus our process towards real practicality.

This practicality is a basic factor in social feasibility--whether creations survive in society. Earlier in the class Dean Kamen and the Segway PT were briefly mentioned. The Segway is an interesting topic for innovation and feasibility. It is a potentially revolutionary device, and has been promoted as a way to combat urban vehicle congestion and pollution. So why isn't it more widespread after nearly ten years? Its blurring between motor vehicle and pedestrian locomotion has caused policy conflicts and restrictions, just one of many societal obstacles such a design may face. Going back to graphic design, the creation of an identity best represented by, say, animation, may not be a good direction for a brand largely represented by cheap printed packaging. If it is not seen at its best, it may not be as easily accepted. A designer must remember the stormy nature of social use when letting an important creation set sail.

Transformation is the word I am using for the power that groups of people exert on objects, ideas, and designs, to change their uses to suit varying needs. This is society's innovation, or design by the masses. The book Design by Use explores and documents this idea, calling it non-intentional design, meaning that a designer did not specifically plan the use. "The non-intentional use of mundane objects can be observed in almost any area of life. We encounter changes of use at home, in the office, and in public." (3) An example of this is the wide range of structures and objects used as seats by people in public areas. The book also mentions the development of "emoticons" or "smileys", the result of trying to expand expression using only lines of text in contexts such as e-mail messages. These combinations of symbols have developed a whole identity that survives numerous changes of context. In my "environment" post, I wrote about Sugru, the moldable do-it-yourself product. The creation of such products gives credit to the innovation that society can produce organically. The success of different forms of social media is another example. These media tools are flexible enough to allow society to innovate and become part of the design through use.

I will remind myself of these words when working on projects in the future. I must think about my design intent, deal with the reality of social feasibility, and learn from the transformations of society, the greatest day-to-day innovator.


(1) Berkun, Scott. "Good Beats Innovative Nearly Every Time." BusinessWeek. Feb. 22, 2010.

(2) Neumeier, Marty. The Brand Gap. New Riders. 2006.

(3) Brandes, Uta et al. Design by Use. Birkhäuser. 2009.


"Hope" might as well have been the word of the year back in 2008. The phrase of the year? "Yes We Can." Thanks to President, then Senator, Barack Obama, a whole new generation of young people were instilled with a sense of trust, positive energy, and above all, hope. A hope that we might not be in as much trouble as we initially thought. A hope that we, as a nation, were going to turn things around. A hope that wars would end, peace talks would ensue, the economy would recover, we'd have universal health care for all, and a new infrastructure on which to build a stronger, more efficient, and conservative energy movement.

According the the United States Election Project, the 2008 election saw the highest percentage of voter turnout since the 1968 election, back in 1968. 54% of young voters ages 18-24 (the largest turnout for the age group), made for 18% of the national turnout, an increase compared to past elections. If you were to ask these young people why they voted, odds are they'd say they were inspired. They had a newfound sense of hope instead of fear. A chance to be heard for once, instead of looked over while larger entities were looked after. And since 66% of them voted for Obama, odds are he had something to do with it.

Barack Obama had perhaps one of the most brand-successful campaigns in history. He wasn't just running as an individual, he was running as a movement--a larger, transient idea. The idea that young people could make a difference if they simple put their minds to it. And even in the face of conservative ideologues suggesting Obama was simply brainwashing voters, he still prevailed. Some will argue it was because of his policy, but I disagree. Yes, yes, policy is important. I know that. But if you look at the larger picture, you'll realize that Obama ran as a brand. People identified with him much like shoppers identify with their favorite retailers. If I had to draw on metaphors, I would say that Obama was the Target, and McCain was the Walmart. Let me abstract this comparison some more: Obama was the iPad--Bright, new, and useful. McCain was a piece of chalk--Old, white, and brittle.

I'm deviating a bit, I understand. But you cannot deny the influence of the Obama camp during the election. Student groups on campus lobbied for his election. Pamphlets and brochures appeared on lunch tables at both Coffman Union and the St. Paul Student Center. Dorm-to-dorm salesmen promoted his campaign. Hell, even Kal Penn showed up during the primaries. He shook my hand, asked me who I was voting for, and when I said "Hillary" he scoffed and asked me "why?" Kal, fucking, Penn.


Where was McCain's celebrity endorsement? Heidi Montag never showed up on campus. Just think, if Barry was backed by Steve Jobs and Apple he would have received at least 106% of the votes.


Youth still inspired by Obama, but impatient for change.
Young Voters Are Stoked
Vote For Hope
CNN Election Center 2008
Pew Research Center Publications
United States Election Project
The Obama Brand: A Retrospective
The Brand Called Obama
The Obama Brand
Why The Obama Brand Is Working
How They Grew Brand Obama
Hope: An Obama-Inspired Short Film

Trying to tackle ownership in a social realm is a little daunting. How can we make sure we, as designers, help improve (or, do we even want to improve) the social realm? One of the definitions of social is "relating to human society" which can involve everything from culture to government to art, etc. It seems, again, that taking ownership in terms of social comes down to taking ownership of your actions, or owning how you act in "relating to human society."

It can then be hard to separate "social" from the other three categories as they all directly influence or are contrived by "human society." Last time I talked about how ownership and environmental intersect, specifically in terms of our waste as designers, and it seems pretty obvious that if we can take ownership of our waste (read: reduce), it will directly benefit society.

I think that the lesson we can from that post is that, overall, the best way to benefit society is to take ownership of your actions. By being cognizant of your actions easily gives yourself better moral character, which allows you to more peacefully coexist with others in the social realm.

That's a huge, philosophical topic that can easily be discussed further, but that specific discussion is not what this blog is for (although, if you are interested, I thought this [other] blog post was pretty interesting). Rather, we need to look at bettering our morals in terms of how we design.

Many design firms occasionally do pro-bono for smaller entities, usually for non-profits that are working to better "human society" (I really feel like I need to continue putting that in quotations). This is often their way of owning their moral character as a company, by offering their services for free or reduced rates to those who are working for good. I think that we as designers, free-lancers or not, can easily better our own moral characters in the same way, by offering our services (or work for companies that offer their services) for free to non-profits and social good bettererers. A good examples of designers stepping in to help is the Hopenhagen campaign, which our local talent Colle+McVoy helped out with.

I think that owning your own actions in terms of how you work in the design community itself can also help better "human society" but specifically keep our community of designers thriving. This can be as simple as volunteering for the AIGA or otherwise. Once you're a "professional" give back through mentorships. There's a lot of ways in which we as designers can give back to our own design community.

A great resource for learning about social good, and who and what is helping to "pushing the world forward," seems to come from a designers perspective more often than not.

Oh, and of course, as soon as I'm finishing this post someone comes along and writes it better than me. Check out "Design for the people is not dead"

Social media is a major tool and the quality of its content has become increasingly important.

Most, if not all of us know some of the major social media networks. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are some big ones. Why do we use social media? Some uses are for individuals or companies to grow their networks, build partnerships or relationships and increase brand awareness. As designers, we want ourselves known by a wide range of employers. It's competitive out there and for most of us, social media has become the way to get ourselves out into the design world.


According to Hjörtur Smárason, "If no one knows about your great product, no one will buy it. That hasn't changed... Today, people will tell. They will write reviews and others will read those reviews before buying a new product. And if another product has got better ratings, even though it's an un-advertised product and therefore previously unknown to us, we are likely to choose that product... Since people are paying less attention to advertising and more attention to social media, product quality is going to weigh heavier at the cost of the message in marketing. So marketers have to watch out more carefully not to create an "image identity gap" between the user experience and the promise they deliver in their advertising" (1). It's important to understand that until you put yourself out there with clear quality content, very few will know who you are. Do your research and learn about those who can get you where you need to be. It takes more than following a potential employer to get where you want to be. Make them interested in you by building a connection or conversation. Jason Verdelli explains this better:

"Once you have established base level connections on the social web (i.e. LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.), it is time to start creating conversations. Learn more about them by reviewing their profile and develop a conversation that gets them talking. I'm sure you have heard this before, but people always like talking about themselves and when you can get them going you will generate their interest in you. Create that message or re-tweet their latest blog posts to your followers or do whatever you can to provide them with what they will see as valuable. From that point, you can converse with them on ways that they can connect you to some of their contacts and/or resources that will help you accomplish your purpose of why you are using social media" (2).

Connect, connect, connect. We all want the social web to work in our favor, but many do not know how to do it. Try Jason's suggestions and if those do not work, just keep trying. Eventually you will succeed. Research where you want to be, who can help get you there and make sure you express yourself clearly. The quality of how you sell yourself, your brand or your product is important.

(1) Hjörtur Smárason - "Product Quality vs. Marketing"

(2) Jason Verdelli - "Why is Quality more important than Quantity in Social Media?"

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