Project about denouncing consumerism through graphic design

Hi, I am new here. I am a student of Graphic Design at UOC online university in Spain.
In the Digital Communities and Resources subject a group of four students had to make a virtual project showed in a Google Sites page. The last task is to spread it along the web. I found this forum which I find very interesting and useful.
So I have decided to post here some parts of it, because unfortunately the site can not be shared.
Although it is written in Spanish, I have seen there are some Spanish speakers around. I hope some of you got caught and would like to see more. Let me know your thoughts please.

#recomuoc #nomorelies

This is our introduction —

Our project’s title is linked to the idea of studying and analyzing the way that design denounces any kind of abuse from the capitalism and how this interacts to the society using the design.

We have studied and discovered different artists and movements that used graphic design as a “weapon” with different formats: advertising, street art, graffiti, editorial design… Sometimes they did it following the social rules, other times without respecting them.

We have made great discoveries: from local to global. From how to create a virtual team to notice the way we consume or the relevance that (as designers) our actions have for the society.

The information we have included in our project is only small sample of the more relevant artist and movements, maybe in the future we will be able to study them in a deeper way.

In Spanish —

El título de nuestro proyecto está ligado a la idea de estudiar y analizar el modo en el que el diseño denuncia cualquier tipo de abuso del capitalismo y cómo interactúa con la sociedad mediante el diseño.

Hemos estudiado y descubierto diferentes artistas y movimientos que han usado el diseño gráfico como “arma” con diferentes formatos: anuncios, arte callejero, grafiti, diseño editorial… Algunas veces siguiendo los cauces convencionales y otras saltándose las normas.

A lo largo de estas semanas, hemos podido descubrir muchas cosas: desde cómo trabajar virtualmente en equipo hasta cómo consumimos o la repercusión que, como diseñadores, nuestras acciones tienen en la sociedad.

La información que hemos incluido en nuestro proyecto es tan solo una pequeña muestra de los artistas y movimientos más relevantes pero hay muchos otros. Tal vez en el futuro podamos estudiarlos con más profundidad.

Here you have a link to our Prezi presentation:

I also attach the front cover of the Sites page.


Thanks for your help. Hope you like it.

Carlos - UOC

1 Like

I applaud your motives and I agree with your sentiments, however the examples you give are mostly art, not graphic design. It is true that you can create art using graphic design, as many of your examples show, but it is still art.

Most graphic designers follow the brief of their client. If the client doesn’t like it, it doesn’t get used. There is a very limited scope for hidden messages and such like, but this is subversion of the client’s brief.

As a graphic designer, you can chose not to work on a project whose subject you object to (cigarettes is a good example) but that project will still get made.

That said, art at its best is always subversive.

Graphic design is all about Consumerism. I don’t think your campaign is so much denouncing consumerism as it is appealing to designers not to present corporate-driven lies and deceit to the public when doing consumer-aimed design.

Are cigarette ads bad? If so, what about ads for alcohol, gambling/lottery, tanning parlors, fast food, fast cars, or 24oz sodas? Or less lethal, but no less a minefield, politicians and politics. Where a designer draws that line is his or her own business. Literally.

Hi, and thanks for your quick reply. I’ve been busy with my final deliveries.

In our work, which I sorry that we can’t share with you, we have showed artists and collectives which use graphic design, its statements and concepts, as a tool for their creations. Of course, their work is art, but I humbly believe that the work created by graphic designers must be consider art.

Artists as Banksy, collectives as Adbusters, or movements as Brandalism, have been explained as examples of people worried about the message spreads by big corporations which are usually only interested in selling more and more.

So, those individuals use graphic desing for their own interests, they are the creators and act by their own reflexions and decisions. Our work have tried to explain their intentions and their denounce of consumerism.

Something different are the thoughts that somebody could generate after reading our work. Including there the designer objections to work for some brand depending on their principles. However, that was not the objective of our work.

Thanks for you comments,

Hi, I appreciate your comments.

I must make clear that our work was intended to show artists or collectives which use graphic desing as a tool for their creations. We tried to explain their intentions and how-to actions. Always individuals which denounce consumerism and corporations practises. However, we did not take a stance for or against their message (although we may simpatise).

Still we completely understand that after reading our work, many questions could appear about working or refusing some campaigns depending on our personal principles. But all that questions have remained out of our working field.

Thanks for your comments,

Diversify your clientele.

That’s the narrower (mostly B2B) definition of graphic design. In the broader definition of graphic design that applies to some B2C, prosumers, and fine art, a person can be his or her own customer, or doesn’t take orders from the customer. Sometimes people buy things that they never order. Sometimes people purchase information with time and not money. And every now and then, things purchased are needed more than they are wanted.

No such thing.

Abuse from capitalists for the sake of greed, aka predatory capitalism.

Consumerism in a very broad sense. All graphic design is consumed in some way or other. It isn’t all about the capitalistic sell. Though one could argue, I suppose, that even an educational exhibit exists through some capital expense somewhere along the line. If the content of an educational museum doesn’t “sell” the product, no one visits to pay the entry fee. If the poster doesn’t “sell” the concert, no one buys a ticket. If the campaign doesn’t “sell” the need for donations, no one donates. Whatever its content, graphic design is created to “sell” a message, if not to actually sell something at least it needs to get a point across that elicits a response to a call to action.
Everything else is pretty much just Art (sure even some art elicits a response, but in a different manner from Graphic Design.)

There’s a difference between commerce and consumerism.
There’s a difference between money markets, the market of physical goods and services, and the marketplace of ideas.

Abuse in the sense that we all sell our time and skill for someone else’s benefit. Yes we get paid too, but if you think that is ever a fair and balanced trade you are fooling yourself.

Who consumes graphic design. Sure the client buys it. But who consumes it?
Commercial art is no more and no less than a commodity to be sold. It is a product. If you want to consider it the marketplace of ideas, that’s all well and good, but if you are paid for those ideas, they are a commodity, bought and consumed, then thrown away when no longer useful.

If you consider Graphic Design to be too much more than that, perhaps you are in the wrong business. That’s not to say you can’t have an ethos behind your work and a bar over which you will not allow your commodity to be used, but you have to let go of the concept that your work is YOUR work.

StudioMonkey you hit it right where the rub is. Graphic Design used to be a career that was part of a balance where the designer was paid a living wage to benefit their clients’ bottom lines. Due to the total deterioration of the field of design, no professional bar set on qualifications, and the current free-for-all in the commercial marketplace where everything has to be fast, cheap and quality be damned, it’s no wonder that it is no longer a fair and balanced trade.

My point is that graphic design is useful beyond just a means of making money. It’s about communication.

That is our point. The artists and collectives that we have shown do not usually follow earning money. They are fighting against the system, and denouncing their message, sometimes using the same weapons; for example, placing their own-created ads in bus stops, etc.

Although one thought that come after is when some of them take advantage of their relevance to make a living of their art. I understand that all of us need profits to survive, and along that path at the same time some try to make people consider their behaviour in order to make the world a fairer and better place. Of course it is questionable. In our work we just mentioned this reflexion, then people would make their own opinions about the subject as we are doing here.

It’s great to be altruistic, to do something just for the rightness of it.
But everyone has to eat.
IOW, don’t quit yer day job.

What about the designer who is hired by a corporate-hating deep-pocket client to make those types of pieces? Or in the case you mentioned, having what started as a guerilla campaign suddenly becoming very lucrative. Wouldn’t that be considered hypocrisy?

I don’t imagine the printers printing those billboards are going to do it for free either. In the process of communicating their message, in the above example several of the corporations in question are readily identifiable. Are they implying those companies are all about lies? And are they prepared to defend that accusation? I wouldn’t touch that billboard print with a 10-foot pole.

There’s money there somehow, somewhere, even if the only people that win are the lawyers.

Isn’t communication all about selling an idea?
For instance, these designers are “selling” the idea that greedy corporate advertising is bad. Did they convince you? Or do they need to “sell” it better?

There are multiple degrees of making-money that range from non-profit organizations to predatory capitalism. If a person can fulfill their own personal needs without being greedy, then a person can make a modest living supporting an anti-consumerist agenda without hypocrisy.

Selling ideas is not consumerism unless the idea being pitched is consumerism. Anti-consumerism is one of the ideas being exchanged in the marketplace of ideas.

And on that note, let me sell you on the idea of reading these books. Full disclaimer, I’m not Dan Pink, nor am I affiliated with anyone who makes money from his books.

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