January 26, 2009

Today I attended a Business Plan Workshop at the RCA hosted by a guy called Max Comfort. It´s his real name. He said things like Sure, a business plan can be used to support applications for money, but if you don´t fully own it, if you´re heart´s not in it and you don´t have a sense of pride and a feeling of excitement when you read it, there´s not much point in sending it to other people. Unfortunately for me, my passion often lies within an area that lacks of the necessary financial resources to support my ideas. He goes on Is there a need for your product or service? Products or services based on a real need are more likely to succeed than those based on a lovely idea. aha…I think I often have lovely ideas, but maybe they are just not needed enough? Then again, could it not be possible that people might not recognise their needs until it´s offered to them? How would you convince a possible investor about that? I find it quite confusing but helpful to think about it at the same time. As I´ve learned in several conversations recently, we do live in a capitalist consumer society, that will hardly ever change because it´s been proven to work the best. Max says that Increasingly, since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, we have exchanged our ability to provide for ourselves with the ability to pay others to do it for us. Thus, money has become the umbilical cord which connects us to our well-being. Here lies the problem: I need to earn money, and I´d like to do some nice things, traveling for example, and yes, I don´t want to live in a cardboard box, but at the same time I want to do good. And I do appreciate that other people think the same. Still, I think that design should matter in a broader sense than just selling something. It needs to communicate idealistic ideas and convince people that it´s worth investing in projects that might not make much money but will change society on a small scale. I wonder if it´s possible to live on that ideal. It gives me hope when Max says that my “Unique Selling Proposition” is a combination of skills, experience and personal qualities that no-one else can offer. So maybe I just need to work on that a little more – and then people just invest in me. I like that idea.

To conclude I think this quote from Milton Glaser is appropriate.

The Road to Hell
Bending the truth can be a slippery slope for graphic designers.

A few years ago I had the pleasure of illustrating Dante’s Purgatory for an Italian publisher. I was impressed by the fact that the difference between those unfortunates in Hell and those in Purgatory was that the former had no idea how they had sinned. Those in Hell were there forever. Those in Purgatory knew what they had done and were waiting it out with at least the possibility of redemption, thus establishing the difference between despair and hope.
In regard to professional ethics, acknowledging what it is we do is a beginning. It is clear that in the profession of graphic design the question of misrepresenting the truth arises almost immediately. So much of what we do can be seen as a distortion of the truth. Put another way, “He who enters the bath sweats.”
Finally, all questions of ethics become personal. To establish your own level of discomfort with bending the truth, read the following chart: 12 Steps on the Graphic Designer’s Road to Hell. I personally have taken a number of them.

1 – Designing a package to look bigger on the shelf.
2 – Designing an ad for a slow, boring film to make it seem like a lighthearted comedy.
3 – Designing a crest for a new vineyard to suggest that it has been in business for a long time.
4 – Designing a jacket for a book whose sexual content you find personally repellent.
5 – Designing a medal using steel from the World Trade Center to be sold as a profit-making souvenir of September 11.
6 – Designing an advertising campaign for a company with a history of known discrimination in minority hiring.
7 – Designing a package aimed at children for a cereal whose contents you know are low in nutritional value and high in sugar.
8 – Designing a line of T-shirts for a manufacturer that employs child labor.
9 – Designing a promotion for a diet product that you know doesn’t work.
10 – Designing an ad for a political candidate whose policies you believe would be harmful to the general public.
11 – Designing a brochure for an SUV that flips over frequently in emergency conditions and is known to have killed 150 people.
12 – Designing an ad for a product whose frequent use could result in the user’s death.



One Response to “My USP”

  1. davidoff Says:

    yes yes yes! anne i believe you have the spirit! xx

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