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"There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all crew." (Marshall McLuhan)

  • Apr 17, 2009
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Throughout human history, the most important inventions and innovations would have remained in the minds of those who devised them in concept had each not had been formalized with a design for production and reproduction. (In this instance, I am reminded of Thomas Edison's observation, "Vision without execution is hallucination.") As I began to read David Berman's book, I incorrectly assumed that he would be sharing in it his thoughts about various types of design (i.e. graphic, industrial, and interior) and what the aesthetics and applications of each are...or at least should be. However, I soon realized that his book is a manifesto. (Note: I just checked and Amazon offers 85,307 books in the "manifesto" category.) Berman calls upon his readers to join him and others in a mission, a crusade, to improve the quality of human life by changing mindsets and values. "I believe that the future of our world is now our common design project as stewards of precious resources" and nothing less than the survival of the human race is at stake. This transformation must occur not only in industries and countries but indeed throughout the planet Earth.

That is why he asks his readers to re-evaluate what they think and believe, what they do, and what they plan to do with the remainder of their lives, given the fact that design "can help to repair (or destroy) our civilization [because] design is at the core of the world's largest challenges...and solutions. Designers create so much of the world that we live in, the things we consume, and the expectations we seek to fulfill. They shape what we see, what we use, and [key point] what we waste. Designers have enormous power to influence how we engage our world, and how we envision our future. How much power I intend to shock you." Berman did not shock me but he did stimulate some thinking about issues I have generally ignored or neglected. Specifically, those associated with a number of his core thoughts (Page 2). For example, "Designers can be a model for other professionals for identifying one's sphere of influence, and then embrace the responsibility that accompanies that power to repair the world." Designers are engaged and rewarded to complete assigned tasks. Berman wants those who retain them (i.e. other professionals) to make certain that these tasks disarm rather than strengthen various "weapons of mass deception" used (abused?) most evident in advertising and PR campaigns.

In Chapters 1-7, Berman explains how to disarm them. Then he offers a "design solution) in Chapters 8-11, followed by "The Do Good Pledge" (Chapter 12), and then four appendices that include the "First Things First" manifesto. (Note: I just checked and Amazon offers 85,307 books in the "manifesto" category.) For me, one of Berman's most important insights is that the very same "weapons" (e.g. brand advertising) now used to achieve and then sustain mass deception can also be used to educate, inspire, guide, promote, and intensify the repair efforts that are urgently needed. As Berman notes (Page 39), "rather than sharing our cycles of style, consumption, and chemical addictions, designers can use their professional power, persuasive skills, and wisdom to help distribute ideas that the world really needs." David Berman and his book are a case in point. However, those who read this eloquent and insightful book should keep in mind what Marshall McLuhan asserted years ago: "There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all crew."

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More Do Good Design: How Designers ... reviews
review by . May 03, 2009
These days I think most people want to believe that what they do for a living has the power, or at least the potential, to be more than just a way to earn their daily bread. If it can be a force for positive change in the world, so much the better. David B. Berman believes graphic designers can in fact change the world, and in "Do Good Design" makes a strong case for a "professional climate change" in the design field.    Berman's fundamental argument is that designers should …
review by . April 17, 2009
Read all the other reviews. They're all true.    It took me a few chapters to figure out exactly what point the author was trying to make. I was disturbed that he claimed the title of "designer" for people who create ads; IMO, "design" is huge and everywhere. I selected the book because I thought it would be about the rest of "design," not just the glossy ads tacked on as the product goes to a consumer market.    If you do graphic design, you might find something …
review by . March 20, 2009
When I first started reading this I was a bit cynical. Yeah, much of graphic design deliberately skews its message to influence the viewer. As a designer myself I pretty much take this as part of the game. Whether selling a product or person the idea behind design is to influence behavior.     As I got into the book however, I realized that I am not as jaded as I thought. Yes influence is important but so are clarity, honesty and appropriateness. I recently looked at a cover …
review by . March 19, 2009
Many of us have thought about or discussed the relative levels of responsibility for environmental and social ills belonging to corporate America or the American consumer. David Berman takes it a step beyond this by examining the level of responsibility belonging to designers.  In a book that dips into history, culture, the environment, social responsibility, health, education, and lots of other interesting topics, Berman also examines fundamental ethical questions.  Most of …
review by . March 18, 2009
One of the books I received from Amazon Vine last month was Do Good Design: How Design Can Change Our World by David B. Berman. Actually, it was a book I heard about from a few other bloggers who I respect, so getting the opportunity to pick it up for review was perfect. Overall, I thought his premise was interesting and thought-provoking... Designers have an obligation to "do good" when it comes to crafting messages, and that our current mindset of mass consumption is not sustainable in the long …
review by . March 08, 2009
This unusual book treats design, not as simply an art, but as either a force for good or a means to mislead and degrade its intended audience. Design is part of culture and, as such, wields a wide and powerful influence. The author declares that designers have a "social responsibility" to do good, and not just promote overconsumption of products that hurt the environment and ultimately make our future unsustainable. He takes a broad view of design and attributes to it the "power to repair the world."  &nb …
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Robert Morris ()
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Professionally, I am an independent management consultant who specializes in accelerated executive development and breakthrough high-impact organizational performance. I also review mostly business books … more
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"In Yiddish, a mensch is a person of integrity and honor and it seems David Berman fills the bill.  His book is lively and humorous and sly too because while it makes you think and adjust your perspective, it includes the reader on several levels.  Changing the world for the good never seemed more appealingly possible."
--Edward Asner
Past President, Screen Actors Guild

"Timely, relevant, and necessary. Well done!"
--Don Ryun Chang
President of Icograda

"I believe that the real value of this book does not reside in the plethora of data and information that it contains but rather in the compelling biographical account of the author’s passionate journey to discover and advocate how design and designers can contribute to doing good in a fragile world."
--Jacques Lange
Former President of Icograda (2005-2007)

"David Berman, in this lively visual narrative, reveals for us the power of design to drive consumption and some of our unbecoming behavior of recent decades. Yet, more importantly, he speaks of the extraordinary potential to design to change the world, leading human behavior toward our aspirational destinies."
--Richard Grefé
Executive director, AIGA the professional association for design

“...just the right measure of passion and reticence...excellent.”
--Ken Garland
Author,First Things First manifesto

"A fine read."
--Steven Rosenberg
Past President, Society of Graphic Designers of Canada

"I think the book is just great!"
--Mervyn Kurlansky
Co-founder, ...
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ISBN-10: 032157320X
ISBN-13: 978-0321573209
Author: David B. Berman
Publisher: Peachpit Press

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