Design will change the world!

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by SwiftLives, Jul 19, 2013.

  1. SwiftLives macrumors 65816

    SwiftLives

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2001
    Location:
    Charleston, SC
    #1
    I'm a designer. And I freely admit that sometimes I'm guilty of the mindset that design will somehow change the world.

    But occasionally, artists and designers get so caught up in something that they don't even notice how far up their rectums their heads have gotten.

    Here's an example: http://homelesssigns.tumblr.com


    I understand the idea here. Fundamentally it's marketing. Give people a more eye-catching sign, and they will conceivably attract more attention and get more assistance.

    But to me, there seems to be a pragmatic level of this that's being overlooked. Instead of relying on typography and an interview to help these people, why not buy them a meal instead of a sign? Or help them find shelter? This project seems to skirt the line of exploitation, and that makes me very uncomfortable.

    Is there another side of this that I'm missing?

    Although, I have to also admit that signs are very pretty.
     
  2. vrDrew macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2010
    Location:
    Midlife, Midwest
    #2
    I don't think the purpose of the project is to make these people into more effective beggars.

    To me, it seems more about making passersby see the homeless in a new light.

    We've all seen (sadly) homeless people standing or sitting with a pathetic hand-drawn sign. And after a while you inevitably tune them out. They become an almost inevitable part of the urban landscape, no more noticeable than a lamp post or a parked car.

    These colorful signs - and the interviews that go along with the project- force you to notice them more as individuals. People with a story. And I think the project also makes you think about how much value we ascribe to packaging and marketing in our decision-making process.
     
  3. miloblithe macrumors 68020

    miloblithe

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2003
    Location:
    Washington, DC
    #3
    I think the purpose of the project has to be raising awareness about homelessness through tumblr (thus the interview questions), otherwise it doesn't make much sense. Unless you knew about the project, why would people give more to homeless people with fancy signs? I'd think the fancy signs would be more confusing than encouraging.
     
  4. citizenzen macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2010
    #4
    Hey! I'm a designer too.

    Putting on my designer cap, I see a couple of issues at play here ...

    People looking for a handout are supposed to look needy in order to illicit feelings of sympathy. Signs that appear "designed" betray that perception of need.

    On the other hand, I suppose it could be argued that visibility is more important, that it's too easy to look past a person with a hand lettered cardboard sign. I suppose it's possible that by making the sign stand out you compel people to notice the homeless person more and therefore increase the chances of a handout.

    I didn't have a chance to read the article, but was there any indication that the signs made a difference to the homeless people?
     
  5. SwiftLives thread starter macrumors 65816

    SwiftLives

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2001
    Location:
    Charleston, SC
    #5
    It isn't so much of an article as it is a photo essay on Tumblr. Admittedly, there are some very interesting interviews with the subjects on there.
     
  6. chown33 macrumors 604

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2009
    #6
    From the entry for The Pope of Harvard Square:
    I want to thank you guys for your donation of twenty dollars. It will really help me get through this week.​

    There's also a subtitle at the top of the page:
    A sign in exchange for donations and a hand painted sign.
    I take that to mean that the artists make a hand painted sign. They give it to the homeless person, along with a cash donation, and in exchange the homeless person gives the artists the original sign. In the later exchanges, it looks like the homeless person also answers a few interview questions, which I think adds a lot to the project as a whole. It provides a story behind the sign.


    On the whole, it's art. The purpose of art (if one needs a purpose for it) is to make you think.

    These signs make me think. As a prerequisite for thoughtful action, step one is achieved.

    If I saw a homeless person's sign that looked like one of those, I'd wonder what the story was behind the sign. Did the homeless person do it himself? Did someone do it for them? Is there a commercial venture now equipping the homeless with higher quality more commercially viable signage? What's the average return on investment (ROI) for improved signage? If market saturation is achieved (every homeless person has improved signage), won't that lead to a collapse in the market for homeless signage, requiring an innovation in the homeless signage design space? Where are the innovators in this design space?
     
  7. SwiftLives thread starter macrumors 65816

    SwiftLives

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2001
    Location:
    Charleston, SC
    #7
    That's a very good perspective, chown33 - one I had not considered. Thank you.
     

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