Michal Maciaszczyk (GMD)
Over the course of the last year, we all had way too much time with our own thoughts and surely many of us spent it on "living on the internet". Like everything else, it has its pros and cons. The internet helped us to stay in touch and allowed me to continue my work remotely. But as a graphic and media design student, I realized an alarming increase of my screen time during the Covid-19 pandemic.
I was interested in how it influences my everyday well-being and mental health in general. Unfortunately, with more online news I followed, the more anxious I felt. Consecutive spikes in sickness, huge numbers I didn't really understand, government assurances that were changed every now and then. Overall, I very often felt this strange feeling of stress, anxiety and lack of control over what I couldn't really change.
Black Lives Matter movement assigned to Nike's products. The equality movement is not a fast-fashion slogan.
The peak of this complete online confusion came at the time when everyone was posting black squares on social media to show their solidarity with the Black Live Matter movement. All my woke friends became experts in the topic. One day I saw a Nike advertisement - 'For Once, Don't Do It' and on the same day, my friend posted that all white people are racists. It made me feel confused and concern at the same time. Based on gained knowledge, Nike’s campaign is nothing more than a good real-time marketing move and most of my friends opinions are nothing more than modern populism. Even if I support the idea of this movement, the pace at which the movement was capitalized simply shocked me.
That was the moment when I realized that it's so hard for me to find focus and also I figured out that my online presence affects my mental health. As the result, I decided to significantly reduce my media consumption.
The rainbow Apple logo during Pride Month, real support for the LGBT community or marketing tricks?
Politicians, designers as well as marketers, they are all specialist in what emotions to arouse to achieve their goals. Is it possible that they do not have scruples to count on someone else's harm? Sadly, I doubt they care very much. That's why a somber Instagram post is meaningless when it comes from a multi-billion dollar company. Knowing something about branding and marketing, I know very well that such campaigns are not put into action unless they are to be profitable. This is the truth about capitalist reality we all live in - profit over everything.
Big brands are speaking up on social equality, but are they taking action behind the scenes?
Does Nike’s campaign change the world for the better? It is certainly meant to look like this. I don't think I am the right person to judge, but what I see (as a designer) is definitely using someone's pain to gain profit. Nike is not the only one, almost every big company change their colour for the pride month but what does it really mean?
I remember Tinder's #singlenotsorry campaign. This corporation used the person of Chider Eggerue (@theslumflower - a feminist and author of valuable books) to promote their dating app by benefiting from feminist woman’s image. It supposed to be a celebration of single culture and the important role being single plays in people's lives but here is my question...
how does choosing women based on their picture based profile relate to the philosophy of feminism? In marketing, a big brand always stands for great cause, but in many cases it's just a cover-up for their worse parts. I am sure that anyone who uses Tinder before can also relate to the same feeling, it is an extremely toxic environment. It may be true that Tinder want to convey something positive but it's definitely true that, like social media, Tinder causes body confidence problems because you are continually aware of your online competition.
To explain my confusion, I must say that I do not deny actions of activists but just question the pure intentions from corporations...
Using the same narrative in a new context. 'Western civilization saves the whole world' - humanitarian catholic aid in Africa (old) or the enlightenment of ethnic minorities by conviction to western, progressive values. (new)
Hence my thesis in the context of - profiting off the pain. I do not judge activists for their decisions - everybody needs money to maintain, but what’s the solution in my case? Where do I see myself as a designer? What do I stand for? The creative industry seems just ruthless and manipulative. If I once knew my views were progressive, now I don't believe in any of these political illusions.
At a young age I moved out of Poland where the Catholic Church has influence on the government's decision. After a few years of living in London, I can see that the opposite is not so different. I recognize the same sociotechnical methods where people blindly believe in certain 'saint' and undateable values without any chance to question it - as is the case with any religion.
In London there is completely opposite but somehow similar way of mass indoctrination. In this case, there is a constructed narrative which draws from something as positive as social activism. (In Poland, the equivalent of this could be catholic social service organizations such as Caritas.)
Such activism was the main reason why I joined UAL, because I still believe that we (designers) could change something for better through our actions, but I don't accept to believe that our efforts are just a corporate product for sale.
Corporations are increasingly involved in contentious social debates – such as race discrimination – that are not the business of business. Companies will always be dependent on the market needs, therefore social justice initiatives shouldn't be capitalized by venal sponsors.
Unfortunately, I see it everywhere... ignorant celebrities promote body positivity, fast fashion brands pretend to be sustainable, liberal politicians use LGBT community for their political propaganda and many many more. No doubt, activism became a profitable trend. It all became very popular in the time of social media rise and the rich wanting to profit on it. In my opinion it is earning money based on someone else's harm or discrimination. What does it have to do with change for the better?
The family model according to Volvo in Poland and in the rest of Europe. Brand values should not depend on the audience.
This is one of the most interesting examples showing the scale of the problem. Marketing specialists decided that the same content must be conveyed in a different way depending on their target audience. In the same post, Volvo Cars in Poland changed its original post with gay couple into a 'traditional family' which in Poland represents popular ‘traditional values’.
Something that is ultimately obvious to me as a marketer seems to be a scam to me as a human being.
Here is the problem that affects me as a designer. Big brands such as Apple portray themselves as great supporters of the rights of sexual minorities but see no conflict when selling their products in Saudi Arabia where the penalty for homosexuality is being beheaded.
Again, I am not here to judge or reveal the truth, I am simply trying to find right approach to my specialization. Isn't it that activists are trying to fix something and when we succeed, it is sold as a ready-to-wear product?
I'm not a fanatic and I am not looking for any conspiracy theories but clearly something is wrong here. I just don't know what to make of it all. It deeply hurts me when I see it in the world of art, there is a certain set of topics considered right to present, does it not kill the freedom flowing from art? Can I be correct and wrong at the same time? Is it not obvious that positive discrimination is still discrimination? If politicians would be disastrous artists, why are artists so keen on politics today? Is political art the only art that matters now? How interesting it is! How much I like to delve so deeply into such complex topics!
How should I approach my profession when a large company offers me a lucrative contract? I know that some brands are trying to change something for the better, but how do I know what to choose. During my year in industry, I faced my first moral design choices. On the other hand, I don't want to get paranoid, nowadays everything is political and maybe it can't be changed. Either you have to be on the right or on the left side... It's a pity choice because the world of art and design has always been an escape from what this machiavellian mindset represents.