Marketing Monkeys


Dan Myer dy/dan » Blog Archive » Sinister Storytelling takes on criticism from Tom Hoffman about the recent Annual Report contest, and whether it’s about storytelling, or merely marketing. He feels that trying to ape corporations with our personal reports will lead something less than substantive.

So which is it?

A mere means of pushing a product. or, one of the first pieces of visual propaganda used on a mass basis

ABC_Barbara_Hale from PopKulture’s photostream on Flickr – Photo Sharing!

British Slave Ship Poster (from LOC via Wikipedia)

I’ve had my own criticisms about the contest, and the posting of numbers without an underlying narrative point, or a worthwhile point. I think Tom’s points are good ones and worth considering when doing projects like this. My take-away from what he has said is, yes it looks nice, but what are you saying? What is your message? What are you asking people to do? Was it effective?

If your answer is, “Well, I just shared that I know how to type and can generate lots of words, because I wrote 300 posts last year,” that might not be impressive. If that is part of a small series of metrics showing you wrote 300 posts, and they were well read and received, that is because it says you are part of a community, and you are giving something of value to that community.

I think it’s not the design itself, but your motives and your execution. Look, “Joe Hill” and “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz” are both catchy tunes, and both were used for marketing. I don’t hold with thinking that says propaganda is bad, because it’s been a critical part of a lot of movements I like and respect.

What does doing a report on ourselves have to do with that? Well, first reflection is NEVER a bad thing. I looked at the contest as part of that process. I also looked at it as practice in making good visual data graphics (although I lamed out on that, I think I may do more as I’m working with more numbers in the coming months). If it is marketing, then it is more in the realm of persuasive, writing (which can involve narrative). Students are required to learn about and create persuasive writing. It makes sense to also think about teaching them how to persuade people using visual media, not just words.

I think teaching students how to make documents in that family of visuals is a worthwhile expenditure of school time. Will everyone make something eloquent or important — not always. In creating pieces like that though you can learn to appreciate good visuals even more, and question ones that are either inaccurate, or just pointless.

And design is not just about corporatism, look at the Bauhuas, a substantive design movement, grounded in social theory about eliminating class distinction in design.

Bauhaus, Dessau, Germany from Rashunda’s photostream on Flickr – Photo Sharing!

I’ll reflect in my next post about how I have used what I’ve learned and done in both of Dan’s contest to communicate to my peers, my students, and my parents about what I’m doing in my lab.

Further reading on this subject:

Unbrand America from Ende’s photostream on Flickr – Photo Sharing!

TED | Talks | Paola Antonelli: Treating design as art (video)

Creating Lifelong Learners » Blog Archive » Design and Storytelling in Film

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