Less Crazy Talk. More Illumination.

January 15th, 2010 by Justin Kemerling
DESIGN IN THE DEBATE [caption id="attachment_323" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Design work in the Health Care and Climate Change debates."][/caption] There is certainly a lot of shouting these days. From left, right, above and below. It's a strange thing, those moments when the white noise nonsense sends you spinning. Duck and run for cover. And please, let's just talk about the latest blockbuster. And maybe that new tech gadget that will make our lives better. Just not the politics that remind us all of the blowhards and windbags. The pundits and politicians, crooks and liars, droners and deceivers. It's just too painful. And not that entertaining, no matter how many sound effects a corporate news show adds to the discourse. America's great debates we've seen in the last year have been heated to be sure. At too many times incomprehensible. For the record, I don't watch all that much of the cable news networks, but what parts I do pick up on are enough to shock me into a coma. The things people will say, and the volume at which they'll say it. Everybody is supposed to want to have their say. From the all-powerful on one side to the average citizen on the other. Sloppy democracy at work. But it appears a good majority are opting out. Because the point people on our little operation of representative democracy seem to be crazy. I mean, if you want to get in on this debate, it would appear you have to either be really pissed or have just uncovered something so sinister the only thing that will save us all from it destroying every last man, woman and child is to unearth it in a spectacle of patriotic duty. Plenty of outlets will give you a brief glimpse of stardom for your offering. There is a lot in play. A lot of balls in the air if you will. Could it be we're muddling through a great transformation in terms of our collective priorities and values? It's possible. There are signs of it. Could it be that our society is finally shifting toward something more healthy, just and sustainable? Sometimes it seems so. But then the "debate" offers us a swift kick to the gut and we fall to the ground in pain while the specter of a socialist, fascist, neo-nazi death panel is waived in front of us. Most likely it was hatched by an art program in some liberal university dorm room on a coast somewhere that will indoctrinate all our school children over a side of organic carrots.  Ultimately, what we have here is a battle of ideas. One would assume a battle is going to be intense. But seriously, the cost to jump in seems to be your sanity. And we need active participants in our sloppy democracy, otherwise it's the all-powerful who win while the average citizen just becomes exhausted, which seems to be happening to a lot of us. What are we to do? Enter graphic design. That wonderful little tool of visual wit and starry-eyed idealism. My vision, once America has gone through its great transformation, with it's special ability to enlighten and inspire, graphic design will be used before, during and after exchanges of opposing views on a subject. To inspire full engagement, verify information and dissect further implications of the debate. (No, bullet points are not graphic design.) In an enlightened society, up there in importance with investigative journalism, illuminating design, yet another sign of healthy democracy. Now, what I mean by great transformation is that it's the average citizen who benefits from how our country works. Not the all-powerful. In terms of health, environment, workplace, economy and so on. Specifically, what our debate has been about lately; we have a public option in the insurance exchange, America leads in developing a clean energy economy while paying our climate debt, workers are allowed to join unions if they want to and the people are allowed to use their government to bring green jobs to lift them out of crisis. That Nebraskans approve of this historical health care advancement and our generation is excited about the idea of service and using design to make our communities better. At least, that's whose side I'm on. Yon can see these ideas reflected in the accompanying images. [caption id="attachment_329" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Exhibition focused on worker rights."][/caption] [caption id="attachment_330" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Artwork for GreenForAll.org."][/caption] [caption id="attachment_338" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Health Care campaign at the Wendell Potter event."][/caption] [caption id="attachment_343" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Workshop on service and design for social impact."][/caption] Design can make a piece of legislation understandable, a choice clear or an idea reality. In the debate we are having right now, it can turn on an entire community. There does become a time when complexity leads to complete immobilization. (Or crazy talk ends in blank stares.) The left/right, back/forth just keeps going on and on and numbs us to the need for our own critical thinking. By simplifying ideas while opening up the mind for deeper discovery design that becomes part of the debate can lead to more engagement and understanding by the participants. With all the infosnacking, sound biting and attention overload, we do need serious discussion. Design, with its ability to not drone on and on — to succinctly clarify, motivate or to simply spell things out — can lead us there. There is not only a place for design in our democracy, but it can fulfill a crucial function.  Refer to the following mini-manifesto: As people, we need communities that look good and feel right. As lovers, we need those communities to welcome everyone. As citizens, we need a universal declaration for those communities. As designers, we need to show what those communities will look like and inspire their creation. In our current debates, there is honesty and deception. Contrived and the authentic. There's agendas from all sides. From the oil and gas companies. The insurance industry. Powerful politicians. Powerful brands. Powerful ideas. Citizen groups. And the average citizen. It's a mess. Which is exactly what democracy is; a mess. But it is desperately needed and with as many people as possible. We need to be able to speak to our government and to each other directly in the most productive way. The work here is designed to participate in that capacity. Specifically, to inspire people to demand progressive policies from their government. In my view, it's those policies that will lead to a more prosperous decade than the last. I'm really pulling for a great transformation. And a beautiful alternative to the debate we've been subjected to for a painfully long time. Helped in no small measure by the tool of graphic design and all it's capable of. But it is the battle of ideas we are dealing with, so consider that whole beautiful alternative bit more starry-eyed idealism from this graphic designer. -- Justin Kemerling, Designer. justinkemerling.com

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One Response to “Less Crazy Talk. More Illumination.”

  1. Salli Says:

    Like this piece

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