Three years ago, when graduating from university, I wrote a plea to designers and communicators around the world. Although that plea was kept private, its convictions have stayed in my mind throughout every venture and decision, acting as my moral code.
I’ve decided to share this plea for all communicators around the world to hear, and hope that it guides them as it did me.
What is your role as visual communicator in this world? Have you ever stopped to examine what our abilities entitle us to do, the significant influence it gives us over our viewer? Should we be responsible for how these abilities are used, and for the ideas they purport?
These key questions are far too often overlooked in our profession, and the moment you take a look at them, it is hard to turn away.
Living in a world where the complexity of information is growing exponentially, there are divisions being formed between those who are aware and those who are not. Critical awareness is the result of a shift in perspective that allows you to see the way a given issue operates. It provides the ability to participate in rational debate and empowers its host to stand up for what they actually comprehend, not just what they believe in. (Smart Bubble Society aims to raise this critical awareness in our audience).
Above almost all other areas of study, scientific, social and political issues are becoming some of the most misunderstood arenas of debate. As visual communicators, it is our tools that can help bridge this gap of awareness. We must recognize our innate responsibility to teach, simplify, and demystify these issues. The moment you commit to this understanding is the moment you admit that you are tasked with an extremely important role in this world.
But how do we shift our priorities? Currently, most of us lend our skills to convince our audience to buy things they do not need, or to educate them with information that has no true relevance to our global society. How have we come to this place of ethical ignorance? When tasked with design problems we must ask ourselves, is the message I am communicating morally acceptable? Is it truly relevant to society? Unfortunately it is all too often that these questions are not asked and our values are brushed aside in the name of furthering our careers.
Has this skill we posses, this tool to educate and inform become a communicative force, out of our control? Let’s be honest with ourselves. Our profession serves a ruling class. Just like ancient scribes in early human civilizations, we are used to facilitate an agenda that more often than not strays far from socially positive or progressive ideals.
Many years ago at York University, David Suzuki said: “Scientists have failed to demystify the climate crisis.” Well I wish to say to Dr. Suzuki: It is not the scientists who have failed, it is the communicators, the ones who wield the mediums that carry these messages.
Why is it that for so many years the scientific proof of human-induced climate change was so hard to find? Why was it stuck in textbooks and massive reports, far removed from the well-publicized and prevalent mediums of our times? The science behind our current understanding of the climate crisis has been around for thirty years, yet we as communicators have only recently begun to champion its cause. Where were our simplified charts, our information graphics and our visual metaphors?
We should be facilitating the understanding of these complex issues, and it should be morally mandated. Had we communicated better, would we now have a cleaner environment? Would fossil fuels still be our number one energy source? Could we have solved world hunger and created a planet that works together as a community, as it should?
What’s clear is that our skills allow us to deconstruct problems and find solutions. DECONSTRUCT problems in our world, in our society, and in our communities. Let us focus on our moral and ethical responsibilities to society, and help create a new era of critical awareness and understanding. Our services can no longer be the puppet of commercialization. We must rally under one absolute guideline: that what we communicate must offer something positive to society, and to the world.