storage | debates

socially responsible design


I had a bit of a aha-moment when I was still in high school. I was bored one day and turned on the TV. While zapping through the channels, I kept stumbling upon a commercial for yogurt that was aiming to kids and their parents, claiming that their product is stuffed with all sorts of great and healthy things, to make the little ones grow faster and stronger. Then, a documentary was shown shortly after. It was debunking all sorts of health myths and marketing bullshittery for all sorts of products, including that yogurt I’ve seen in the commercial a few minutes earlier. I was in shock to find out that that supposedly healthy snack was loaded with tons of sugar and other chemicals that are anything but good for children. Apart from that, what I also couldn’t get my head around was what were the people who did that commercial actually thinking? How can they sleep well at night by fooling parents and children to buy such crap and risk their kid’s health?

fast forward. I am an adult now, I became a designer and I’ve seen many things along my way. One might now point the finger at the companies providing the products, accusing them to do whatever it takes to make profit. That’s surely one part of the bigger picture, but certainly not the biggest. In fact, it’s the design agencies presenting their marketing concepts to their client, it’s them who persue their client to take a certain path. The big boys on the market have good communication skills, so they can push a client into the direction they want, at least most of the time. That being said, they are also responsible for getting a certain message across. Even if the client stands in the way, the big boys could afford it financially to walk away if they chose to.

you now might say that if you don’t do it someone else will. Would you say the same thing if you replaced advertising with some other criminal activity? Sure, if you don’t rob a random stranger on the street, someone else will. That doesn’t make things better just because it’s not on you this time. Still not hungry for some thought food? Let me give you another example: Bad design or advertising can kill people. I kid you not! Imagine you’re in a hospital. The doctors and nurses use all sorts of hardware and software to make sure you get diagnosed correctly and get your treatment accordingly. No big deal, right? Wrong. Many of the systems have bad for quite a long time and believe it or not, people actually died because of it. Just like in the commercial example, there was a design agency (of one or more designers) creating these UI’s that were purchased by the client. Why didn’t anyone notice what’s wrong with it? Didn’t anyone care?

so, can we now just walk away and turn a blind eye to what bad design can do to humanity? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against advertising unless it’s highlighting the actual qualities and benefits from a product, because honestly, I couldn’t sleep well at night if I had to live with fooling people at the cost of their well being. We designers have a huge responsibilty as it’s us who shape the appearance of the world. Think about that for a second.

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back to the drawing board


in order to attend design class, the future students are often required to prove a certain level of drawing skills. It becomes a large part in most beginner classes, even before the first pxl gets pushed on a computer. Many students find this odd and can’t wait till they can get their hands on Photoshop, unless they enjoy drawing in the first place.

there’s an ongoing controversy whether or not drawing skills are necessary to be a (good) designer. The topic is more complex than a simple “pro” or “con” type of answer. Lets look at the differences between a digital peace and artwork done on paper. Apart from the obvious, we can see different approaches and creative processes going on. There’s a huge amount of possibilites and effects that can be applied on digital work. With unlimited “undos”, we can also erase any mistakes. On paper, each shape, stroke or area takes longer, depending on the tools used, the “undo” options are quite limited up to a point of no return. Certain things are harder to do than with Photoshop unless someone has the skills to get it done.

The creative process underlying the workflows differs as well, and here’s what it comes down to: It’s all about decision. As strange as it may sound, due to the limitations on paper, the brain has to examine each step carefully. This allows the artist/designer to achieve more accurate, better quality results. This kind of decision process doesn’t stop with paper, it would also apply to digital work and that’s what makes the difference. Even more so, when it comes to communicating a message through design, which also requires making the right decisions.

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tea or coffee?


designers need to choose their career path whether they’d like to work in an agency or as a freelancer, some even do both. Each option has its pros and cons, but designers are not the only ones facing this issue. Clients can be as confused and unsure which option to choose to get their project done. Many might regret their decision if things didn’t turn out well. So lets take a look at this topic from a client’s perspective.

First things first, what exactly is the difference between an agency and a freelancer? Agencies and freelancers are businesses providing design services of all kinds. In a nutshell, the difference between the two lies in the interaction between client and the business. A client would communicate with a freelance designer directly, while in an agency would provide a representative who then passes on the tasks to the designer (or whoever is to be in charge). Just like with all services , prices and results can vary for better or worse.

The decision which option to choose depends on the project and its objectives. An interaction with a freelance designer can be beneficial for startups, small – medium size projects, as all tasks and briefings are discussed directly. Misunderstandings can be dealt with immediately, without a middleman, which in many cases can be a time and money saver. However, large projects have to be accomplished by a larger team, this is where an agency comes handy. Having each unit to work on one part of the whole project simultaneously can be far more effective, than having a freelancer (or a team of two) working their way through.

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creative lost souls


there are times in our (professional) lives, where things don’t go as planned. Some lose their job, others fall back due to physical/psychological difficulties, some fall in a creative black hole, others are just at the beginning of their journey and don’t know where to start. In any case, the struggles and uncertainties are similar.

The internet is full of more or less useful advice but how many did actually feel enlightened and motivated after reading them? Most of these tips are vague and generic, and they all rather focus on what to do, but not how to do it. Which is why I also ended up more keep on reading… »

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killing them softly


the magic wand | design by pxlgirl

in the late 90’s, during my psychology studies and before I changed the path to become a designer, I got to present a very interesting topic on the impact of advertising on children. I was very excited about it, especially because I was expecting to confirm the widespread objections  from the mainstream media regarding this topic. Many have voiced great concerns that children being exposed to advertising would have a negative impact on their psyche. While examining this topic, I was surprised to find out that not only there were very few scientifically accurate studies at that time, and the few existing ones found no significant evidence that keep on reading… »

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