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RE: Design and public opinion - fully on topic

From: Richard Wentk <mintaka-AT-dircon.co.uk>
Date: 11 Aug 2001 00:23:32 UTC   (01:23:32 AM in author's locale)
To: The Graphics List <graphics-AT-lists.graphicslist.org>
On Sat, 11 Aug 2001 02:21:18 +0300, Marius Ursache wrote:
>Speaking of tobacco advertising...
>Anyone know of some ANTI-tobacco & smoking campaigns that PROVED to be
>What do you think that works best in this field? Shocking people with
>photos of like lungs cancer, or changing the attitude that "smoking is
>cool, smoking makes you a Marlboro Man"?

Smoking is an interesting area because shifts have been slow and incremental rather than seismic. I think it's possibly the surgeon-general's warning that has done more damage to the pro-smoking lobby than any individual campaign. But I'm not familiar enough with the history of anti-smoking media to be sure about that.

Anyway, I think there are some related but separate issues here which need to be disentangled here, when looking back at the original Kyoto suggestion, to get some understanding of who the 'client' is and what their needs are.

Firstly there's a big difference between public opinion and public policy as instituted by government. Public opinion is swayed (to the extent that it can be swayed) by spin and PR. Public policy is mostly swayed by lobbying and other efforts that target decision-makers directly. While there's some overlap, these two worlds are very different, and the processes by which pressure are applied towards a certain view or decision are very different too. Very few people have any experience of how government-level lobbying works because - ironically in so-called democracies - it's a world that's largely closed to the public. It's also not he same game at all as traditional advertising, media and PR.

Secondly even in purely public terms, it seems obvious to me that design only counts for something either *when it's part of an integrated PR and media plan* or *a focus for a groundswell of public opinion.* (Preferably both.)

Logos and other design elements may help or hinder a media plan depending on how well they're designed. But they're very unlikely indeed to ever be flying solo. It's other elements of a plan, in the form of other kinds of media coverage, that are going to have more of an impact on public perception.

So I suspect the best a logo can hope for is to be a *reminder* of the plan. So that whenever a logo is seen it brings up memories of the viewpoints, feelings and experiences that are being promoted. Or if public opinion is already strongly focussed, a logo can be a rallying point - not just a reminder, but also a badge of belonging, and even a hope for the future. (Such as the CND logo, perhaps? Whether you agree or disagree with CND, there's no doubting the social influence of the CND symbol both in Europe and the US.)

I can't think of a logo that has ever managed to do more than this under its own steam. (Maybe there have been some - but I certainly can't think of any examples off the top of my head.)

Sometimes the *context* in which a logo appears can be enough to do that job - for example a logo appearing on vehicles promoting and comprising a public transport system can encapsulate the goals and the appeal of that system, if it's done well. But *purely as a graphic or image* without powerful social and media underpinning and reinforcement, I think logos are pretty much impotent when it comes to modifying public opinion.

So to go back to the question above, and to Kyoto - I think a logo on its own will be powerless unless it's used as part of an organised media campaign. Or unless it somehow captures the imagination of pro-Kyoto and anti-globalisation protestors.

Realistically, this group of designers isn't likely going to be organising a pro-Kyoto media blitz. ;)

But the latter idea is a more interesting challenge. I'd suggest that to do the job the logo has to be:

Very simple and memorable
Easy to draw or paint, so that anyone can reproduce it with a big felt tip or a spray-can
Easy to scale, so it can be drawn comfortably on a billboard, flyposter, or in the margins of an exercise book
Language-independent, so it can be understood with the same immediacy by anyone of any nationality

That's actually quite a hard job to do. Interesting though...


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