Are you guilty of design consumerism?


Many people vented their opinions of each of the 5 logos showcased however there were two comments that really stood out for me as it brought up a few questions and provoked thoughts I had never really thought about.

Daphne had this to say about the 5 logos:

“Don’t like any of them [the 5 logos posted]. Feels exactly like what we’re studying in class now: where the design does not adhere to the need of the consumer, rather it’s creating a style for the consumer to follow; one that will soon become a style used by all, making it obsolete:”

Kaalis had an interesting reply…

“I don’t want a world where design is created by the consumer, I prefer one where designers create trends, create evolution, changes. Designers need to educate the consumer visually. If all designers followed what consumers (and clients) wanted, design history would have been a lot more boring. That’s why I love and support Ollin’s work, it’s innovating and fresh. It doesn’t listen to what consumers want, it educates the consumer, surprises him, makes him think, react, share opinions – good & bad ones. We designers need to support these kind of designers… we’re not a bunch a lazy guys doing drawings, we develop concepts, strategies and give estethical answers. We’re not slaves of the consumers or our client. We decide, but at our own risk:”

So this made me a think… should a designer be adhering to the needs / wants of consumers & clients? Should designers be innovating & creating a style for consumers to follow? Where can and should we draw the line between the two? Should designers follow design trends for the needs & wants of consumers or should we be trying harder to educate the client? Should we be designing for social change?

Well, this topic has been up in the air for some time now .. in fact one of the most re known designers of our time, Milton Glaser (the designer behind the I Love New York logo), coined the term “Designism” which raises a similar question of “whether design can and should   do good?”

“Designism is a movement that attempts (sometimes well, sometimes not) to connect design to politics. A less “loaded” definition would be “a movement that attempts to change the world through design.”

This Designism movement has been crafted via a number of lectures put together by the Art Directors Club although it doesn’t seem to be that popular, however, it has only been a movement 3 years in the making.

Designism - Photos courtesty of Sasha Mombartz

Be A Good Citizen – Milton Glaser

Furthering on this topic of Designism, in the book How To Think Like A Great Graphic Designer by Debbie Millman, (a great book I’ve recently finished) Milton Glaser had this to say:

“Being a designer is also about being a good citizen. What does it mean to be a good citizen? It means caring about what’s going on and taking a role. Designers have the unique opportunity to have a different role than an average person who doesn’t have access to production and manufacturing in the same way a designer does. So there is more opportunity and more responsibility.

The reality of being in the world and caring about that world is ultimately in our own self-interest. When you create a competitive and acrimonious environment, you suffer. If you play that game, then you have to pay the consequences on a personal level.”

Who cares?

Although not all are all in the same boat, Adrian Hanft of the blog Be A Design Group had these critiques about Designism after listening to one of theDesignism lectures:

•  IT’S TOO LIBERAL. A political movement should include multiple political opinions. Most people who attended the forum were liberal.
•  SPEAK IN A CIVIL TONE change doesn’t come about by dropping the “F” bomb and saying you’re pissed.

Adrian also asks “hasn’t design always been about making the world a better place?”

You can read Adrian’s full crique here and read other’s opinions here:SpeakUp, Unbeige, Core 77, and many more.

So, who is the victim of design consumerism?

In my opinion, regardless of how designers instigate change, we simply can’t do nothing. What’s your opinion?


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