This week, my second online course began - History of Design. For this week’s readings, I have to admit that I was about 95% close to not even glancing at the preface or epilogue of our book, Meggs' History of Graphic Design, Fifth Edition. I don’t know why I did, but I somehow went searching for the epilogue, and in finding it, noticed that it was a short thing, and decided to skim to just to be able to say that I had. I ended up reading this page four different times and its preface partner twice, I loved their words so much.
Having just “graduated,” I’ve been doing lots of thinking about what the hell graphic design even is. What does it even mean that I am (almost) a “Graphic Designer”? Then I read this epilogue and, eventually, the introduction.
The first line that resonated with me was, “People are seeking new visual means to relate to their cultural, economic, and social lives.” I thought to myself, “Yes, I have observed this lately – and I do it myself daily.” This reminded me that I possess a skill that others demand – and one that gives me quite a bit of power.
The epilogue went on to say, “As shapers of messages and images, graphic designers have an obligation to contribute to the public understanding of environmental and social issues.” For whatever reason, this line clicked with me. We, as graphic designers, help people understand and be aware of information that may otherwise go overlooked or unacknowledged. Ultimately, then, we, as a collective whole, decide what’s important enough to spend our time visually organizing and synthesizing so that others may know and understand. We "give order to information, form to ideas, and expression and feeling to artifacts that document human experience" (p. 572, Meggs). We do the grunt work to make these connections accessible and visually relevant. And we shape that connection so that it says exactly what we want it to say.
And that’s the thing of it all. We say exactly what we want to say. And people listen. The sum of these connections amounts to our world’s currently-being-written history. We are shaping what people pay attention to, and how they go about paying attention to it (for example, having a positive or negative attitude towards a specific idea, such as eco-friendly cars).
We, as graphic designers, are evaluated based on how “clearly our designs impart ideas, aesthetic concepts, or specific graphic forms” (p. VI, Meggs). This means that our very livelihood depends on our ability to transfer our ideas to others. “Great” graphic designers are defined by their ability to withstand “the test of time and continue to inform and inspire new generations" (p. VI, Meggs).
That’s a huge responsibility, and one that has been abused for hundreds of years. Too often, the power of design is used for evil in marketing. I’ve seen what the abuse of this power has done to the world, and I want to use it instead to help change the way in which people view their reality. If evil intentions were this successful with said power, imagine what this power could do if backed by love and positive energy, instead.
I believe that it could change the world. Again.