May 27, 2013

Marketing PR

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.

use design for good

Steven Heller tracks down the Nazi graphics standards manual...

A preview of Iron Fists...

An interview with Heller regarding the book...

Examples of Nazi propaganda...

Fascist Italy propaganda...

Soviet Communist propaganda...

Chinese propaganda...

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Comments

Let's pledge to use our talents only for what we personally believe is good.

Chuck, the last line in your notes made me cringe. I would think some of the designers that did work for these regimes did personally believe what they were doing was good, when in fact it promoted evil ideas. There has to be a objective standard as to what is good.

I read your blog regularly and thoroughly enjoy these posts.

(Don't get me started Nathan.)

Unfortunately, the trend is to relativism -- the belief that each person designs their own truth. In that system, all we can do is appeal to the relativist's own self interest -- in this case not to promote systems that might ultimately hurt the designer or someone they care about.

Ideally, I would prefer that we accept that the truth is something that exists outside of us. That's what I believe anyway. If that is the case, all we have to do is figure out what it is and apply it -- haha... the work of a lifetime.

I do know this: If we had followed the teachings of Jesus these horrific things would not have happened (whether you believe He was a teacher or God come to earth in the form of a man).

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