Designers can make a difference with where and how we apply our talents. Let’s look at examples of design that highlight causes or meaningful issues.
Graphic design doesn’t have to be limited to profit-based endeavors. In fact you can use your design skills to refine the content of any message, helping it to come across as high-quality and professional.
According to Tibor Kalman, “many bad companies have great design.” Referred by some as graphic design’s moral compass, Kalman urged his contemporaries to question the effects of their design work, as well as the a client’s or employer’s very product.
So, how do we, designers in charge of visually marketing products and companies that make them, find balance between making a living and doing work we can be proud of?
Here, we take a look at some common causes as well as a few examples of how good design helps that cause. Use this as a springboard, and perhaps it will inspire you to look at how you can put your skills to more rewarding ends.
Image courtesy hothounds.org
Pets reward us with loyal companionship, so surely we all want the little fur/feather babies to get the best care. A particularly alarming issue is that during summer, some people leave their doggos in the car, where the greenhouse effect can magnify the heat far above the temps outside – even with the windows cracked.
Benefitting the ASPCA, Hot Hounds are car-baked dog treats, demonstrating the fact that your car can reach actual oven temperatures on a hot day. This clever ploy can be seen as a little morbid, but saving even one dog from heat stroke is worth a little discomfort.
The Humane Society offers a selection house-designed merch, including a t-shirt with a map of the US made from the illustrations of different kinds of pets. The design is super cute, and also supports adoption of animals.
The Animal Rescue Site gives 20% of the sale price of items in The HSUS store to HSUS to support all of its life-saving work. You will also receive emails with news and products from The HSUS store, from which you can unsubscribe at any time.
Image via www.humanesociety.org
The Public Good & The Ad Council
The Ad Council is responsible for some of the most recognizable advertising in history. The best part is, they were drawing attention to issues we all share, or the public good.
Image via adirondackalmanack.com
It’s weird to think that some of our earliest memories of advertising were campaigns for issues like wildfire prevention, or anti-littering. Then again these were noble pursuits and every bit as effective as Coke or Wendy’s at creating lasting impressions, and did a ton of good in many areas of public life.
Whatever side you find yourself self on, political and patriotic campaigns are an example of using design for a cause rather than product. It boils down to using your skill to help boost what you believe to be worthy.
Image via thoughtco.com
One of the most famous of these is the Rosie the Riveter poster. Copied, mimicked, and rehashed a million times since its WWII origin, it’s become ingrained in America’s visual history.
Now assumed as a modern feminist icon, Rosie was originally representative of the women who worked in American shipyards and factories to build airplanes, war ships, and ammunition during WWII. It’s a call to action, basically the yin to propaganda’s yang in its absence of disparaging others to prop up the favored group. However, it’s still based in supporting a nationalist, or patriotic, cause.
Rosie is now just as recognizable as the Uncle Sam poster. Both are meant to inspire citizens to do their duty in supporting the war effort of their times.
Image via www.houseofillustration.org.uk
As a counterpoint, Cuban designers, inspired by American design in the 60s, decided to tell their own side.
In the exhibit Designed in Cuba: Cold War Graphics, artists such as Alfredo Rostgaard, Helena Serrano, and Gladys Acosta Ávila created politically-charged posters and designs for the illustrated magazine Tricontinental, which also featured articles by radicals of the time such as Che Guevara and Malcolm X, as well as, perhaps more surprisingly, Jean-Paul Sartre and Jane Fonda.
You can find a vast well of design in work for various social causes. These causes can run the gamut from general awareness to foundations working to protect threatened groups.
One such issue is with cultural stigmas affecting menstrual hygiene products in China. Design studio Pearlfisher tackled this with branding of a tampon made by Yoai. In this case a product is positioned to “do good” via branding and accompanying education.
Injecting confidence and positivity into the traditionally apologetic category, we rooted our strategic approach to the brand creation in the mission of empowering “the woman within.”
Image via www.pearlfisher.com
Memorable packaging design can be based in many qualities: tactile feel, unboxing experience, and the provenance of materials, to name just a few. So, when a designer wants to make a change for the environment, having become aware of the wastefulness that packaging can represent, the possibilities are greater now more than ever.
Whether by using recycled materials or inks, the designer can use the ideology of the design in the design itself. It’s easy to hit a home run here if the product inside itself relates to environmentalist viewpoints.
Image via teapigs.com
Natural tea makers teapigs uses packaging designed in multiple layers of sustainable, biodegradable materials. From their website, here’s a list of materials incorporated into the design at each stage of the packaging:
Tea temple (bag) – made from plant starch – pop in your commercial compost collectionInner bag – made from wood pulp – pop in your home compostOuter carton – made from sustainable paperboard – recycle meLoose pouch – non-recyclable so try to re-use me!
Cover image via Aniwhite.
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