What are the limits on or challenges to graphic design as a vehicle for social change?
First, design on its own can only go so far. Without the organizations and activists working tirelessly to make change happen, a piece of graphic design, however loud it shouts, is over and done with rather quickly. In the fight for social justice, how long you shout, in strategic intervals of intensity, matters most. If the people on the ground aren’t there, change doesn’t happen.
Second, I worry about design for social justice being drown out by the thousands upon thousands of messages created every day for big brands with big budgets. Brands that most often push their consumer-focused answers to invented problems in their hyper-commodified version of the world on the airwaves and Internet streams they seek to dominate.
Additionally, when brands do raise awareness for important issues dealing with community, humanity, love, and the planet, their product-focused solutions remain problematic. If people take a consumer-centric view of these problems, that these very real problems are solved by buying specific products, there’s a false sense created that our challenges can be addressed without actively participating in the creation of meaningful solutions that are more difficult, less instantaneous, and are not as easy to see.