The “Disaster=Poster?” debate

MAR 11

A recent tweet from Eye Magazine linked to an interesting article written by the London Design Consultancy Johnson Banks, about graphic designers and our reactions to significant world events. It seems that as disasters or catastrophes play out through our 24 hour news media, the immediate thoughts of the graphic design community turn to the creation of prints and posters in a bid to raise funds to help.

The full article can be read here Disaster=Poster? – Johnson Banks. Having seen myself the events of the Japanese Tsunami unfold so graphically via BBC News 24, I guess my thoughts like some other graphic designers, has turned to the creation of a piece of visual communication that could show support and convey my own personal feelings about the event. For me conveying my thoughts visually means I can create something that stands alone and speaks for itself, but anything I create reflects to the world something about me. Creating a great piece of design could bring publicity to me as a designer and benefit me directly, but in this circumstance it feels inappropriate to make such secondary gains, when the primary purpose of any I were to do would be to raise funds and help those in need.

The debate it seems, has sparked much reaction to this dichotomy and I’m reading with interest the views of others on this difficult issue. It’s first important for me to state, that if someone is moved to use their talents and skills in a bid to help others, then I have nothing but admiration for their actions. I think difficult times bring out the very best in humankind and it’s the desire to support and help others, that will mean the people of Japan can overcome this disaster and move forward.

The work I have seen that has been produced by the likes of Signalnoise, Daniel Freytag and Max Erdenberger are from a purely visual perspective, very nice pieces of graphic communication. The worry and the central point of the whole debate is ‘should we not donate and help, regardless of whether or not we receive an attractive poster or print in return’. If we are affected by what we see on the news then we should donate to organisations already engaged in bringing help, so our money can have an immediate effect.

The Creative Review blog has also felt the need to engage in the debate, and offers it’s own views on the appropriateness of some of the work being produced.

What’s suprised me with the debate is the level of reaction it has caused. Some are very strong in their disapproval of other designers and see their actions as ‘fundamentally grotesque’ or ‘highly inappropriate’. I feel this type of reaction is far too strong. If the actions of these designers is just to do some shameless self promotion, they would probably only give a small percentage of the profits from the sales of these works to the charities they are aiming to support. To my mind these more extreme reactions to the debate reflect more about the attitudes of the commentators than the designers. Maybe they feel that they don’t trust the motives of the creators of this work, and that their gain, whether in cash to help others, or the self promotion it may bring, may be their loss. Who knows? Opinions are clearly very mixed on this issue, and I would state again that any designer who is motivated to help others with their ,then we should applaud their efforts.

Many could criticise me for attempting to gain some self promotion or value off the back of writing this post, but I stand by my decision to write my thoughts and have no intention of manufacturing any gain from sharing my thoughts.

My website is a public sketchbook, I write, create and upload to it, for my own interest. I don’t promote my website in any way and leave search engines to find the content that I have, and index it according to all the other similar content on the internet.

I’ve written about this debate as a way for me to articulate my own thoughts and feelings, and to offer my own personal perspective on the debate. It is after all unique to me and if another designer reads this post and is compelled to offer their opinion, then more people will be engaged, which ultimately has to be a good thing.

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