The Role of Graphic Design in Advertising

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It is common knowledge that graphic design works parallel to false advertising. Consumers are exposed to a multitude of brands every day, each with the purpose to manipulate or convince the population into buying or supporting their products (Holland 2001. 3); it this competitive field that has led to deception within the media. The term False Advertising is applied to this situation, where deceptive information can lead to consumption and beliefs that “may not occur without the influence of the ad” (Xie 2015, 281). While this issue can be seen as an unstoppable side effect of a modern 21st century society, it is possible for graphic designers, whom are one of the many instigators to deceptive advertisement, to lessen the rate of misinformation being spread to society. Graphic designers act as advocators to the advertisement industry, specifically through their designs which are created to influence their chosen target market. It is this information that has led to a larger discussion of the designer’s obligation to become aware of how their work persuades the population. More simply put, the growth of 21st century false advertising has given graphic designers a higher obligation to evaluate their professional behaviours as they become a growing aspect of the consumerist society. This can be achieved through exploring how design has influence, how this influence affects consumers, and why designers need to be aware of the responsibility that is placed on them.

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Graphic Designers consider Ethical responsibilities when they compare profit and passion. Ethical behaviours and responsibilities involve the designer’s commitment and quality of work for a client, where the job leans to the financial outcome rather than the developing process to create a dynamic and exciting design (Karla 2003). This is a flaw in the design spectrum that leads designers to work for a larger profit instead of considering their enthusiasm for their career, or the values that their clients uphold. Consequently, graphic designers benefit from an awareness of their own professional values, as well as the obligation they hold to the consumers as an advocate. Designers have the responsibility to be aware of how their client will effect consumers (Perkins 2006); i.e. re-shaping models for a fashion magazine will provide a large profit for the designer, and yet it holds the outcome to effect the target market’s body image negatively due to high body standards. While this is a positive outcome for the client as the target market are manipulated to consume more to meet the standards set by such designs, it also rids the consumer of the joy in shopping to the extent that they are merely striving towards expectations rather than individuality. In summary, design should be utilised as a means of expressive and enthusiastic art rather than as a method to persuade others into consumption (Holland 2001. 112). Hence, professionalism is an important factor for a designer when considering their passion and finances, and the impact this has on consumers.

Likewise to looking at a designer’s response to their clients, it is also possible to view a design’s larger impact as a national brand. It is evident how graphic design has both positive and negative outcomes on consumers, however there is a lack of discussion on design and its effect on cultures and identity. An example for this scenario is the use of logos to support a company’s image. Logo designs for countries or travel companies are created to make the presentation of the country appealing to a large target market, hence influencing the flow of tourism in particular areas. This is described as a positive outcome, where globalisation and worldwide communications expand due to tourists experiencing new cultures (Lee 2012). However, even the most aesthetically pleasing logos can influence negative impacts towards the represented country (Perkins 2006). Designers encompass the key ideals and elements of the client they portray; this is the same method for countries, where the logo needs to represent the nation’s identity in a truthful light (Lee 2012). Despite this, many countries and travel companies instead use images and elements that appeal to consumers, rather than designs that truthfully present the values of the country This deceives the target market over the nation’s suffering, as a high amount of tourism leads to cultural appropriation, where tourists adopt and westernise the culture, as well as exploitation of the nation’s residents as they work to accommodate the new-found tourism industry. In order to lessen these effects on the country, the designer must take into account how their designs can offend or degrade the country’s citizens without disrespecting their client. In conclusion, there is a need for graphic designers to be aware of the larger impact created through their designs when considering how to fulfil a client’s needs.

It is important to explore multiple examples of how graphic design can counter false advertising. Keeping the previous paragraph in mind, design also effects consumers on a smaller daily basis, an example being the design of food packages. While this is an obscure form of deceptive advertising, companies use designs to distract their target market from the unhealthy ingredients within their food, displayed on the nutrition label. The designer is generally expected to place the nutrition label on the back of the package, leading to only 33% of consumers in America to consciously seek and read the label (Roberto 2014). This becomes a form of false advertising when the designer purposely evades the label in favour of aesthetically pleasing packaging. Beyond this, it is possible to use this example to present how a graphic designer’s professionalism can prevent deceptive advertisements in a consumerist society. Whilst there has been an initiative for Front-of-Package (FOP) labelling to make consumers aware of their diet (Roberto 2014), there is also an understanding that designers should acknowledge how their end product will affect the user; this leads them to take into consideration the ethical aspects of their designs for the target market. As unhealthy eating is a large issue currently in society, graphic designers use their understanding of professional expertise in order to keep the target market informed while still pleasing the client (Perkins 2006); i.e. understanding that unhealthy foods are addictive, and therefore creating their designs to balance out with the nutritional label, making it equally viewable against the design. This decision allows for a moral design that has an ethical impact on the consumer without hampering the sales of the client.

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