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Disarming the weapons of mass deception...

  • Mar 18, 2009
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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 run. He shows plenty of examples to back up his views, and you can't help but consider how much "mass deception" we've succumbed to. But to buy into his message completely, you have to think that most everyone out there is bent on seducing you in ways you haven't imagined. And I personally don't think that everything is a conspiracy theory...

Contents:
The Creative Brief - Disarming the Weapons of Mass Deception: Start Now; Beyond Green - A Convenient Lie; Pop Landscape; The Weapons - Visual Lies, Manufactured Needs; Where The Truth Lies - A Slippery Slope; Wine, Women, and Water; Losing Our Senses
The Design Solution - Convenient Truths: Why Our Time Is The Perfect Time; How To Lie, How To Tell The Truth; how We Do Good Is How We Do Good; Professional Climate Change
The Do Good Pledge: "What Can One Professional Do?"
Appendixes: First Things First Manifesto; Excerpt From The GDC's Code of Ethics; Excerpt from AIGA's Standards of Professional Practice; The Road To Norway And China; Notes; Index; Questions For Discussion; Acknowledgements; About The Author

If you're not in the habit of questioning what you see, Berman will open your eyes in the first section on disarming weapons of mass deception. Yes, you've got the typical ads that are heavy on sex, enticing male viewers to equate the product with fulfillment. But he also goes after products like Fiji Water that attempt to position themselves as an environmental alternative. But we're talking about, as he puts it, "shipping water from the South Seas in plastic bottles from China to the US and Europe in container ships". When you start looking at ads designed with those deceptions in place, you realize that the drain on resources to support that type of selling is not something that can be sustained on a global basis before the environment takes heavy damage. Coke takes a pretty heavy hit with the ubiquitous use of the familiar Coke logo spread all over the world, cementing their products in people's mind through sheer mass exposure. He also exposes myths like Bailey's Irish Cream, which tries to evoke the image of centuries of handcrafted excellence, while it's really only about 40 years old and is a result of a corporate campaign to get more young women to drink whisky.

He intersperses these examples with others that show responsible and truthful facts in advertising, such as cigarette warning labels that tend towards the graphic depiction of what tobacco can do to you in the long term. All this culminates in a commitment to the Do Good Pledge: the time to commit is now (immediacy), I will be true to my profession (ethics), I will be true to myself (principles), and I will spend at least 10 percent of my professional time helping repair the world (effort). In other words, instead of doing whatever it takes to get and keep the large clients, take a principled stand that you will not feed the mass consumption beast and you will instead try to make a difference in the world.

Personally, I got a lot out of the book even though I'm not a "designer" in terms of the audience he's addressing. We *do* need to change our mindset as consumers, and stop being manipulated by images designed solely to make us want to buy more stuff we don't need. On the other hand, there's a fair amount of grey area over what constitutes responsible selling vs. manipulative selling, and I don't know that I fall as far to the left of the scale as he does. But if nothing more, reading Do Good Design will make you look at the images and icons around you in a new light. And hopefully you'll act a bit differently as a result...

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review by . May 03, 2009
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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 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 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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Thomas Duff ()
Ranked #43
Thomas Duff, aka "Duffbert", is a long-time member of the Lotus community. He's primarily focused on the development side of the Notes/Domino environment, currently working for a large insurance … 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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