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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » Do Good Design: How Designers Can Change the World » User review

Design does matter

  • Mar 20, 2009
Rating:
+3
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 of Psychology Today and am pretty put off by the blatant sexual overtones that the magazine regularly uses. Do Good Design covers that subject and raises the question of how tying a product to the implication of sex with an attractive partner plays out in the long term. Will buying that beer or soft drink get you the supermodel? Obviously not. Yet that's what the drink ads not so subtly imply.

Spiekermann suggests the long term fallout of such manipulative practices is negative for the advertiser. It sure hasn't hurt Budweiser, so I don't quite buy that argument. On the other hand, I recently turned down a job for a firm that wanted me to use sexually suggestive material for their website. I found the project offensive.

The point that the author makes is that appropriate images work better if they fit with the product they are designed to promote. The basic idea is truth in advertising applied not just to the textual or spoken content but to the images used as well.

Images are powerful and can touch us on a subconscious level. Did you know that Coke is the second most know word in the world behind okay? Coke ads blanket not just the industrial world but outlying villages in Africa and Asia. A coke costs about the same as a malaria pill. With the extreme poverty rampant in malaria infested areas is it right to promote sugar water sales where such a purchase may keep the customer from being able to buy medicine?

As I went through example after eye opening example of the power of product promotion through design I realized that Do Good Design makes me recall the old phrase consciousness raising. The book certainly raised my consciousness about my work and the power of design for both good and ill.

Obviously, design is just a tool and it's the underlying motives of the people who use it that is the real problem. As we see the results of corporate greed and how it has hammered the world economy. Do Good Design is a timely reminder about motivation and manipulation.

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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
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 …
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 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 …
About the reviewer
michael mckee ()
Ranked #458
I'm a photographer and writer living in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. I love - in no particular order: nature, good coffee, smooth jazz, mystery novels and speculative fiction. I hike, bike, play … more
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About this book

Wiki

"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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Details

ISBN-10: 032157320X
ISBN-13: 978-0321573209
Author: David B. Berman
Publisher: Peachpit Press

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