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The responsibilities of Graphic Designers in Kosovar society
By Fatos Bogujevci in Kosova on 30/11/2011 with comments
Tags: Advertising, Brand, Creative, Culture, Design, English, Film/Video, Language, Music, Photography, Social
 
Fatos Bogujevci | 1 December 2011
 
The responsibilities that accompany graphic design are my subject of choice from which I have based this essay. This title covers a wide range of issues that I feel are pertinent to not only the subject of graphic design but also to the moral and social understanding that I feel is needed to accompany a role within this field. In specific I will be looking at the ethical situations that graphic designers put themselves in when they are constructing visual aids for public display purposes through corporate advertising. The issues that I intend to analyze, interpret and evaluate are mainly issues concerning the younger generations and topics relevant to the visual images that would either concern these generations. These are visual aids that are specifically targeted at the younger generation, or simply advertisements that have been placed within areas which are able to be viewed upon by these younger generations in questions.

To accurately assess the responsibilities that befall graphic designers we must at first look upon the reasons behind their work and why it is initially created. The majority of graphic design work seen within the public eye is generated from the private sector of the country, mostly coming from large corporations based within Kosova and Albania, even though the state of our current economy has a major negative effect on budget put aside for marketing. Another relatively small section of work created by graphic designers is non-profit work, designed for clients such as public bodies; being local and national government agencies and of course charitable organizations, these particular sections will be addressed in a more in depth fashion later on within this case study.

With the majority of the clients behind graphic designers being private companies their main goal at hand will be one of profit. All of the reasons that companies give for advertising from; brand awareness, corporate diversity, logo awareness and just public interest all break down into one inextricable link, profit. With profit in mind private companies sole goal is to achieve an advert that consists of graphic designs that will ultimately increase their revenue and thus increase profit margins, this being their main goal leaves many concerns at hand one of which is; that are companies acting unscrupulously when displaying these adverts purely for the good of their profits or are they simply acting as a normal corporation just trying to promote their company in an ethical and morally acceptable fashion.

This raises the concern for graphic designers moral and ethical responsibilities, being the instrument of these private companies and ultimately the end finisher on any visual aids prepared by these companies’ graphic designers have now become involved in a social debate as to whether their work should be more stringently governed by design associations, such a discussion was held at the REDO Design Conference in September 2011.

As we are focusing on younger generations I feel it’s pertinent to start with advertisements that are solely focused at younger generations. Children are subjected to cleverly placed advertisements from the earliest of ages with primary and nursery schools, place their company logo and products in and amongst the classroom.

Arguments are passed however that state that brand recognition is something that is very important not just to corporations but also to society in itself, many international corporate lobbyists make the valid point that people should be aware of established brands and corporations within a certain field so they can measure levels of credibility within such sectors and make an educated choice as to whether or not to undertake business with a company. And that with younger generations being more aware of brands and their logos being visually displayed within advertisements they have established a good foundation of knowledge for later on within their life and thus with their disposable incomes later on in life.

This is a granted point and has some merit, but this is also insinuating that massive amounts of money need to be spent to advertise in order to get recognition for a company’s profile surely that should come from recommendation and not from a well designed advertising campaign.

Lobbyists who are very much against corporations using graphic design to heavily target younger generations are arguing the point that adverts not only misconstrue products and services they misinform younger generations to a point where detrimental effects are taking place on the younger generation. I feel a very good example of this can be seen with adverts designed to target young woman, when graphic designers are given these briefs they are told to ensure that the models are looking perfect, airbrushed to the maximum, with sexy and svelte bodies adoring the majority of the advertisement. An example of this would be Birra Tirana's advertising campaign with the celebrity, Çiljeta, showing the signer wearing a bikini and posing in a very provoking way. Now when taking into concern that these young children are seeing these images of models with very thin figures and on occasion bordering on un-healthy figures with unnatural busts for their size, due to cosmetic surgery, these young women are given a misguided image to what they are meant to look like. If they see a massive billboard of a very attractive model with a surgical enhanced bust coupled with a very thin figure, young teens will strive to attain that figure and also put pressure on others to also attain this level of socially approved perfection. And why would they not? After all they have seen advertisements on the television, in magazines, on bill boards and of course on the internet. These are all images that have been designed, touched up or even created by graphic designers and as such they have a lot of pressing issues as to the moral standing of their work.

Another good example of advertising that is possibly inappropriate for younger generations is musical artists visual adverts and videos, some artists involved within rhythm and blues music as well as what has been labelled as rap and r'n'b music, have pictures of themselves placed in and amongst naked women brandishing firearms and large amounts of money. An example of this sort of music video would be that of "Tingulli 3nt feat Ermal Fejzullahu - I kom" displaying exactly these sort of images mentioned above, and with almost 5 million views on YouTube which proves the point that anyone on the internet and on the TV can watch these videos with no sort of censorship.



This is clearly making what, is a very unpleasant and socially unacceptable standard of living, seem to be socially and morally just through mass advertisement. Most of these adverts are aimed at the younger generations and appear on these social networking sites such as facebook, that are full of young teens, when they see these pictures and videos portraying a successful artist covered with weaponry and brandishing large amounts of money they follow in these footsteps and often involve themselves within crime as its now cool and socially acceptable, I mean if you see it on T.V what could be wrong with it? This is the attitude that has been seen amongst young teens in today’s society. And with knife and violent crime at an increase amongst young teens within Kosova (especially in and around high schools) it seems to beg the question as to why these advertisements are even allowed to be portrayed. With these facts in mind graphic designers still seem to portray these images in and amongst teens, although they themselves are not physically placing the ads within these positions they are more than aware that their work is contributing to these conditions within society, so why would they do this? The answer seems to be financial, with these corporate companies and music artists having money available for graphic designers fees, designers will always be enticed by those sums, I mean after all the reason that they are working is for financial gain, very few work for charity bases.

Brand recognition is a massive issue when it comes to corporations, in 2000 Naomi Klein [wikipedia], a Canadian author, published a detailed book on the use of advertising and subsequent “branding” of multinational companies (MNC) upon the average consumer, this book was by far the pinnacle in studies and research within this field, many other independent studies and researches often quoted and drew extracts from her novel to add credit to their own studies. In her book she describes the 1980’s as; “the birth of a new kind of corporation, whom changed their primary corporate focus from producing products to creating a brand name” this suggests that at this period in time corporations realized that advertisement for their goods and services became more important than the product itself.

With this in mind it’s obvious that targeting in advertising is big business, and one of the biggest buying powers are younger generations, the reason being; not only will they establish great brand recognition for their own disposable income but their “nagging power” is far more persuasive to adult buyers than any ad could be. Adults are more inclined to listen to their children over an advert they have seen on television especially if that purchase will make a loved one happy.

Children and younger generations “nagging power” has been labelled as “pester power” by "Kidfluence" [amazon], a book published in 2001 by Anne Sutherland, a marketing and strategic planner, and also Beth Thompson, an award winning journalist who is an accredited author and has been writing about family life and health for the past twenty years. Sutherland and Thompson divide “pester power” into two different categories within their book; they note that there is “persistence” and “importance nagging” the first involves, “a repeated plea, over and over again” and the second is supposedly; ”slightly more sophisticated” and involves a child “appealing to the parents desire to provide the best for their children and exploiting any guilt the parents may have over not giving their child enough time”. This is obviously a very powerful marketing tool, and designers are the instruments in these cunning plans by corporations, this is not just exploiting influential younger generations but also exploiting fragile relationships between parent and child.

Martin Lindstorm [wikipedia], author of the demographic manual “Brand child” [amazon] and an independently recognized expert within this field, writes about “the great tween buying machine” he also concurs with my findings by adding “at the age of nine or even 14, the world is still a place to be explored and experienced, and this is just as true of brands as it is of any other facet of life. This is why it is so important for brands to establish a relationship at this age rather than later on in life, when views are more established and inertia takes hold” unfortunately MNC have realized this potential avenue to develop consumerism as a way of life into a whole new demographic.

In the end it’s seemingly obvious that designers in Kosova and everywhere else, need to act more conscientiously when handing over their work to their clients and if maybe they put themselves in the viewers position they could possibly understand a different perspective on what is being shown. Better yet designers should envisage a younger loved one viewing their work and consider the ramifications it would have on that individual and consider whether those consequences are worth the remuneration that they have received for their work, maybe the answer to quantifying the responsibilities of graphic designers lies within the humanising of what is naturally a robotic function to most people, their work.
 
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[Pieces written in this blog do not necessarily represent Karrota's views and principles, but solely reflect the author's point of view]
 
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