TWO – Speaking of Design…

Advocacy and design; what’s the connection?

Design has an often underestimated impact on everyday living. It may seem obvious at first; the red sign means stop, the door handle means pull and the button means push. But the impact which design has on our world at large is somewhat underappreciated.

In our week 2 guest lecture, we had the bounty of hearing from Julie Connoly who through her profession tends to the needs of refugees and asylum seekers by engaging in collective advocacy, analysing how to appropriately advocate for their needs and involving them in a process of integration into local life.

We explored the notion that advocacy and design have the potential to solve complex issues by employing creative communication methods to deliver information, visual aids to increase access and usability and investigating the incorporation of design strategies to capture experience and raise awareness.

When contemplating these opportunities, the following thoughts came to mind:

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I began by listing the attributes of advocacy and design that I deemed most prevalent: flow of information, engagement, systemic/collective, support; process, solutions, creativity, communication. It became quite clear that many of these factors were interrelated.

The concept of obliquity particularly caught my attention. Obliquity, as described by John Kay implies that it is the process of achieving complex objectives indirectly. This exercise demonstrated how many of the broader social, structural and cultural issues which systemic advocacy tries to address can be solved through application of design.

Through design, awareness of environmental issues can be expressed, giving voice to the voiceless:

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‘My White Body is a Dark Stain – Thanks to You’ – Savas Cekic, 2010

By capturing social reality through design, the struggle of the minority (or many) can be raised to the consciousness of the masses:

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‘Child Labour’ – Mehdi Saeedi, 2011

With visual communication, support can be delivered to individuals when factors such as language and culture may prove to be barriers to progress. Refugee resettlement is considered in this context:

Public Pictograms (Sunit, 2009)

Where traditional advocacy fails to deal with questions regarding placement of power, design can convey controversy:

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‘Hurricane Katrina Poster’ – Richard Boynton, 2005

 

At the center of these thoughts was the relationship which people have with society and how design could cause a shift in thought, behaviour and culture. Design is not merely a process that allows for the conceptualisation of functional solutions to create structure in everyday life. It is also the process that can indirectly solve broader problems regarding social justice, inclusion, and cohesion.

“Now, instead of a mass audience consuming media from a single source, we have multiple sources, multiple channels and multiple audiences. Every participant is potentially a sender as well as a receiver of information, and the barrier to entry is no longer the fortune required to set up a TV station or a newspaper, but the price of a PC and an Internet connection.”

– Colin Moore, 2011

As an individual who is heavily concerned with the state of the world and its gradual disintegration, this is something I will strive to be conscious of as I continue to learn about the nature of design. I hope to see how this field can become a source of integration and social good, erasing negative patterns of behaviour, questioning the merit of perhaps out-dated ideologies and challenging the standards of today.

References

  • Moore, C. (2011). Propaganda prints:. London: A&C Book Publishing.
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