Inclusive, not exclusive
From the editor's desk
The overabundance of online articles about the “latest trends in design” suggests a community obsessed with keeping up with the newest fads and their appearance. Awareness of other contemporary professionals, although often gained via exposure to auto-celebratory press releases, is important to understand where design is heading to. However, as design relates directly to people, a better consciousness of what’s going on among the vast public would be key to produce something relevant.
Investigating today’s landscape of human interactions rarely comes up in the vicious circle of design-related talks or articles. Stepping out of it reveals a differente reality. In recent times, the western world has seen a loss of balance between individualism and collectivism in favor of the former. Personal rights seem to be increasingly placed in front of the basic needs of a healthy society. The shift of political agendas from taking care of the welfare state towards protecting individuality is a sign of these changes, and recent studies are not indifferent to these themes. 1
As a direct reflection of this trend, graphic design and design products are perfectly tying in this kind of anti-social behaviors. The language adopted and generally accepted by the public is a key element and proof of this social trends. Today, exclusivity is the motto.
The offer is "exclusive”, the edition is "limited”. Selections are "only for you" and content is split between free and "premium". The poster designed for the broad public walking down the streets will be gifted only to the first 50 buyers. We have chairs available in 100 signed copies, only for collectors, and apps that subvert the basic rules of user interfaces so they cannot be understood by non-savvy users.
So what kind of conversation is being set up with the public and within the public through these products?
“Something exclusive creates the very same need to define a hierarchy between people, connecting the fear of being left out with the relief of consuming goods.”
Exclusivity speaks to one’s inner egoism. It feeds the will to avoid including others in the benefits one has or will gain. Something exclusive creates the very same need to define a hierarchy between people, connecting the fear of being left out with the relief of consuming goods. Thus, by leveraging the average person’s need of feeling special only as a cheap way to sell more goods, such unethical design works feed the anti-social attitude of excluding whoever is not perceived as unique.
On the other side, as a consequence, envy is generated. Envy and exclusion ensure this whole process will continue to be alive.
Because graphic design is not only about laying out typographical elements, accessibility could be extended from a technical level to a social one. Including instead of excluding. That is not to say anything should be readily available to everyone, but that limitations shouldn’t be used against people as a marketing lever. The more we care about our surroundings, about what kind of social relations our objects are going to create, the better our projects are going to be.
Santos Henri, Varnum Michael, Grossmann Igor. Global Increases in Individualism. 2017 (sagepub.com)↩︎