serious must look good

Do you know this feeling when your heart jumps in elation, because you saw one of your organization’s promotional or educational materials and they actually looked good? And does something die inside you as soon as you realize that what you see is the exception and not the rule? If it helps, I can tell you that many of us have been there.

Yesterday evening, my friend and I arrived in Łódź, a post-industrial city in central Poland, that is now doing its best to stand on its feet again. It promotes itself as a center for creative sector. For the next week, the city will be a host of Łódź Design Festival – one of the most important, and for me the most interesting and enjoyable design-related events in the country. Year after year, it wins my heart by including topics such as user-led spatial redesign, social responsibility, sustainable cities, etc. This year’s theme: awaREness.

Lodz Design poster

Having watched Urbanized (trailer) for starters, we moved on to OFF Piotrkowska* to relax. On our way, we popped into a poster exhibition. That is when I found myself experincing a mixed feeling of pride and grief. And here is why…

One of the very first things I saw in the room, was a poster for the “End Poverty 2015” campaign. [photo below; forgive poor quality]

As I later found out, this was a project for a competition organized by UN in the Russian Federation. More: http://bit.ly/OQEl9W

So we are actually able do it!– I thought. I loved it! And I loved it, and it hurt me that so often I see development and aid-related materials (or anything ngo-produced, unless it’s an ngo that deals with art) that are unedifying. Only on Thursday, I received a publication about HIV/AIDS and a newsletter about development, both done in a way that breaks all of the rules of graphic or information design, not to mention good taste (I know, de gustibus non est disputandum, but seriously?).

And so the nagging question is WHY? Why so often we don’t care? Do we really assume that the seriousness of the issue is enough to make people aware, to get them involved, interested? Would putting a sharp, professional and sexy (I use this word with premeditation) look on it really hurt the cause? I doubt it! As long as we do it consciously, we can only win with it. People are prone to be more attracted to what looks better and there’s nothing wrong about it! What is wrong is that we pretend that we don’t need to care about the looks. And we do.

***

There is hope, though. More and more ngos and ios are shifting towards good graphic and information design. I see it also amongst my own and it makes me proud. It’s a long road ahead, but we are slowly making first steps in the right direction.

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*Piotrkowska is the most famous street in Łódź, known for its beautiful architecture and dozens of restaurants and shops. OFF Piotrkowska is an artistic space with galleries, workshops, cafe’s and shops, created in brick, post-industrial buildings.

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