May 27, 2013
The graphic design of evil
In his book Iron Fists: Branding the 20th-Century Totalitarian State, author Steven Heller points to four pivotal examples of how design was used to establish and propagate horrific brands for Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, the USSR, and Communist China. Their respective leaders — Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Joseph Stalin, and Mao Zedong — were directly responsible for the death and/or suffering of hundreds of millions of human beings.
And unfortunately, among the minions of these figures, were many talented designers. My point is simply this: Designers wield enormous power. Though I doubt many of us are thought of as powerful people, we understand the influence of story and image. We know how to present ideas with authority and emotion.
On this Memorial Day, the day the United States of America, remembers the men and women who died while serving in the Armed Forces, I want to remind my design friends around the planet that with talent comes responsibility. Let's pledge to use our talents only for what we personally believe is good.