Book Review - Do Good Design: How Design Can Change Our World by David B. Berman
One of the books I received from Amazon Vine last month was Do Good Design: How Design Can Change Our World by David B. Berman. Actually, it was a book I heard about from a few other bloggers who I respect, so getting the opportunity to pick it up for review was perfect. Overall, I thought his premise was interesting and thought-provoking... Designers have an obligation to "do good" when it comes to crafting messages, and that our current mindset of mass consumption is not sustainable in the long run. He shows plenty of examples to back up his views, and you can't help but consider how much "mass deception" we've succumbed to. But to buy into his message completely, you have to think that most everyone out there is bent on seducing you in ways you haven't imagined. And I personally don't think that everything is a conspiracy theory...
The Creative Brief - Disarming the Weapons of Mass Deception: Start Now; Beyond Green - A Convenient Lie; Pop Landscape; The Weapons - Visual Lies, Manufactured Needs; Where The Truth Lies - A Slippery Slope; Wine, Women, and Water; Losing Our Senses
The Design Solution - Convenient Truths: Why Our Time Is The Perfect Time; How To Lie, How To Tell The Truth; how We Do Good Is How We Do Good; Professional Climate Change
The Do Good Pledge: "What Can One Professional Do?"
Appendixes: First Things First Manifesto; Excerpt From The GDC's Code of Ethics; Excerpt from AIGA's Standards of Professional Practice; The Road To Norway And China; Notes; Index; Questions For Discussion; Acknowledgements; About The Author
If you're not in the habit of questioning what you see, Berman will open your eyes in the first section on disarming weapons of mass deception. Yes, you've got the typical ads that are heavy on sex, enticing male viewers to equate the product with fulfillment. But he also goes after products like Fiji Water that attempt to position themselves as an environmental alternative. But we're talking about, as he puts it, "shipping water from the South Seas in plastic bottles from China to the US and Europe in container ships". When you start looking at ads designed with those deceptions in place, you realize that the drain on resources to support that type of selling is not something that can be sustained on a global basis before the environment takes heavy damage. Coke takes a pretty heavy hit with the ubiquitous use of the familiar Coke logo spread all over the world, cementing their products in people's mind through sheer mass exposure. He also exposes myths like Bailey's Irish Cream, which tries to evoke the image of centuries of handcrafted excellence, while it's really only about 40 years old and is a result of a corporate campaign to get more young women to drink whisky.
He intersperses these examples with others that show responsible and truthful facts in advertising, such as cigarette warning labels that tend towards the graphic depiction of what tobacco can do to you in the long term. All this culminates in a commitment to the Do Good Pledge: the time to commit is now (immediacy), I will be true to my profession (ethics), I will be true to myself (principles), and I will spend at least 10 percent of my professional time helping repair the world (effort). In other words, instead of doing whatever it takes to get and keep the large clients, take a principled stand that you will not feed the mass consumption beast and you will instead try to make a difference in the world.
Personally, I got a lot out of the book even though I'm not a "designer" in terms of the audience he's addressing. We *do* need to change our mindset as consumers, and stop being manipulated by images designed solely to make us want to buy more stuff we don't need. On the other hand, there's a fair amount of grey area over what constitutes responsible selling vs. manipulative selling, and I don't know that I fall as far to the left of the scale as he does. But if nothing more, reading Do Good Design will make you look at the images and icons around you in a new light. And hopefully you'll act a bit differently as a result...