Branding & Social Responsibility
Weapons of Mass Deception: Good design and doing good
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State of Design Festival, BMW Edge, Federation Square
Melbourne, Australia | July 2009 (30:46)
(Video: courtesy SLOW-TV)
Design thought leader David Berman discusses the power and effectiveness of good design, and therefore the need to incorporate notions of social responsibility into design principles.
“…the David Suzuki of graphic design.”
– Cassie Janca, Algonquin College
“…a passionate, awe-inspiring and moving dissertation.”
– Matt Warburton, Past-President, Society of Graphic Designers of Canada
“So much hope and joy in that talk last night, David. Really recharged my batteries!! Thank you.”
– Devin O’Bryan, Savannah, Georgia
“…a wake-up call: a punch in the face…extremely inspiring.”
– Sarja Hasan, Virginia Commonwealth University
“I found great resonance with David Berman’s ideas. I’ve sent copies of his book to a number of friends.”
– Vint Cerf, Father of the Internet, VP Google
“We were left enlightened by his information, ideas, and projects … we hope to invite Mr. Berman for another visit.”
– Matt Woolman, Acting Chair, VCU
“…his seminar, entitled ‘Social Responsibility & Graphic Design: how logo can we go?’ electrified the crowd of more than 500 designers from 44 countries around the world.”
– Sara Curtis, Applied Arts Magazine
Are we aware of the influence we wield as professional communicators in the new economics of globalized branding and messaging? And once we are, where lies our responsibility, our opportunity, our ethics, our culpability, our balance?
In this powerfully-illustrated presentation, David provides a broad definition of sustainable design, bridging environment, cultural, social, and financial outcomes in a quadruple bottom line approach.
He demonstrates how global branding strategies are the most powerful tools used today to encourage over-consumption amongst growing Developing World populations, resulting in the largest long-term threat to global harmony and the environment. Communications professionals have more conspicuous power than they realize, and play a core role in helping some corporations mislead audiences in order to invent unfulfilled “needs” in larger and larger markets. In a World where design has become a recognized corporate asset, creative people have the opportunity to use their persuasive skills responsibly and to accelerate awareness of the messages the World really needs shared. Recent developments regarding professionalism and ethics offer hope. Designers and other professionals need to choose what their still-young professions will be about: creating visual lies to help sell stuff, or helping repair the World by bridging knowledge and understanding.
“Thank you for bringing your very important message to our conference. You have given our students a role model of the responsible designer in action. They will not forget!”
– Mary McLaughlin, Chair, VCU-Qatar
“…perhaps the most compelling of all the presentations [at the Brno Icograda conference] came from Canada’s David Berman…electrified the crowd of more than 500 delegates from 44 countries around the world.”
– Sara Curtis, Applied Arts Magazine
“Very inspiring… and a lot of humour: perfect!”
– Christian Grossen Rasmussen, Copenhagen, Denmark
“[David’s] message has meaning because he is sincerely concerned, aware and informed about the problems and perceptions of design practice around the world.”
“I very much appreciated David not only stating the problems but also giving a possible solution on how each of us can make a difference. Due to his profound knowledge on the subject, his positive thinking, his humour and especially his readiness to question his own statements…pure inspiration! Thank you.”
-Selma Prodanovic, Brainswork, Vienna (Austria)
“…it changed my goals and vision and the idea that I’d have to work for [a] tobacco or beer company to make money.”
– Chad Casey, Richmond, VA
“Excellent – he is very passionate, and that is inspiring.”
– Kristen Murray, VCU Student
“…he said what a lot are afraid to say.”
“Excellent event. David is spot on.”
– Sheikha Haya Al Khalifa, Manama, Bahrain
This keynote speech can optionally be followed by an interactive exploration of the issues raised, moderated by the speaker.
Duration: Your preference of 35 to 90 minutes, plus optional interactive period.
Prerequisites: None. The presentation will be tailored to fit the audience: it has been enthusiastically received by designers, advertising agencies, branding experts, media studies, communications professionals, academics, students, writers, production and lay audiences interested in ethics, social responsibility, consumerism, or branding.
About the Expert Speaker:
David Berman has over 20 years of experience in design and communications, working for clients as diverse as the Canadian government, IBM, the Aga Khan Foundation, The World Bank, and the International Space Station. David brings both graphic design and information technology expertise to his information design work. As early as high school, he created and produced a magazine which was distributed in four countries. While training at the University of Waterloo in computer science and at Carleton University in psychology and typography, he became deeply involved with the student press. David also worked in the federal government as a computer systems analyst before turning his hobby of design into his career.
Early in his career he developed a lasting interest in plain language and plain design. His work includes award-winning projects in the application of plain design and plain language for the Ontario Environmental Farm Plan Workbook. Other notable projects involving plain language and design principles include work for the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency and the Ontario Literacy Coalition.
Many consider his knowledge of typography, which he has taught as part of college curricula, to be unmatched in the National Capital Region. He has worked extensively in the adaptation of printed materials for electronic distribution, including Web design and software interface development. As a designer, communications strategist and typographer, David was senior consultant in new media, information design, advertising creative, and marketing strategy at Herrera Berman Communications Inc, amongst Ottawa’s most experienced design agencies.
Since 1984, David has worked to establish a code of ethics which embraces social responsibility for graphic designers throughout Canada. The Society of Graphic Designers of Canada ratified his version nationally in May 2000. He served as the first elected president of the Association of Registered Graphic Designers of Ontario, the world’s first accredited graphic design organization, from 1997 to 1999. He drafted the association’s constitution and Rules of Professional Conduct and authored Ontario’s accreditation examination on ethics and professional responsibility. In 1999, the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada named him a Fellow (the second youngest to have achieved the country’s highest professional standing in this field) for his work on the Code of Ethics, accreditation and other national issues. In 2000, he was elected Vice President Ethics of the Society. David has recently become a National Professional Member of the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers (CAPS). In 2005, he was elected to the board of Icograda, the World body for graphic design, and now serves as vice-president and treasurer.
David is dedicated to realizing design’s potential to help improve the human condition and the global environment. He speaks at international and local conferences and writes about the important role designers can play in enhancing social conditions around the world, as opposed to applying their skills to help organizations mislead their audiences.
David has lectured at the largest design schools and conferences in Europe (including the Bauhaus), the Middle East, China, and Australia, and the top ranked public design school in the United States. David’s ideas have appeared in the Financial Post, HOW Marketing, and Applied Arts magazines.
Here are some quotes from David’s talk, which you are free to use in articles about this topic. If you need more quotes or supporting visuals, please contact us directly. If you are planning on republishing any quotes or other material, we request that you show us a copy in advance of publication (not to censor anyone, but simply to check for accuracy).
“There are more than one and a half million graphic designers in the World today. Imagine what we could achieve if each one of spent just ten percent of our professional time on projects that will help build a better future together: that’s over six million hours a week!”
“There is so much power in visuals and when you use that power to deceive people, then those cleverly crafted messages and images become carefully leveraged visual lies … the eye is the largest bandwidth pipe into the human brain and we visual communicators are the people who design what goes in … We have a responsibility to not mess with that power.”
“The cigarette companies out there want my daughter to start smoking within the next five years. I, as a parent will help her choose wisely. And hopefully, by making wises choices Hannah can live a long and healthy life: who knows perhaps she will see the 22nd century! And when that century comes and people look back on these times, what will they say was the defining issue of the times when we were alive?”
“The environment is the biggest issue of the day and the single greatest force today pushing environmental damage is the drive towards worldwide over-consumption. It is that simple: humans consuming too much is what causes us to tear at the earth, to dirty the oceans and to litter the sky with waste.”
“The largest force driving over-consumption are groups in the Western world convincing the vastly larger, faster growing populations of the Developing World to consume more, and the most effective way to quickly do that convincing is powerful brand advertising. The most powerful weapon in the corporate artillery to create demand quickly in new markets for their products are branding campaigns: professional communicators such as designers are the people who proudly think up clever visual lies intended to link deep emotional needs to the consumption of often unnecessary products.”
“We visual communicators have so much good to share: rather than sharing our chemical and style addictions, we could be using our professional skills to help communicate health information, conflict resolution, democracy, technology.”
“Whether the lingering images are the violence of Saturday morning cartoons, whether they are Internet pornography, whether they are images of beauty that convince South American peasant women to buy cosmetic products rather than food….the design of memorable imagery can have a lingering effect on everything to do with human interaction.”
“For something like cigarettes, no foreign country or foreign planet is going to come along and make a better cigarette. Rather, the competition for cigarettes (and for other products that simply hurt us) is a well-educated public (which is exactly what visual communicators have the capability to help manifest: a well-educated public consuming accurate, clear, useful messages).”
Who Should Attend: Practitioners, students and instructors of design, visual communications, advertising, media studies, and people interested in ethics and social responsibility.
Reviewed April 12, 2012
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This event qualifies for MAS and CAS credits under the Master & Certified Advertising Specialist Program. For details, please contact the Promotional Production Association of Canada: www.promocan.com
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“Over 95% of the designers who have ever lived are alive today. Together, we have the power to define what professionalism in the communications industry will be about: helping increase market share or helping repair the World.” – David Berman
Sample publicity poster for this keynote speech (Beijing 2006) (English/Mandarin) [360KB] Sample publicity poster for this keynote speech (London 2004) (English) [1300KB]
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