Propaganda is interesting. You see all sorts of media pushing political beliefs that they want you to unquestioningly and blindly follow everywhere. You see it in tv shows, you see it in movies, children cartoons, college lectures, commercials, and political speeches. While you see it in all these places, it’s usually easy for someone who’s paying attention to sniff out when they are being indoctrinated. However, when it comes to something like graphic design it can be hard to notice sometimes, which on the part of the designer is completely intentional. Anyone can hear a professor or movie directly tell you one political side is good while the other is bad, but much of design is subconscious. It’s oftentimes very brief, something you only look at for a short time and move on. So through the design itself, it needs to be able to make an impact almost instantaneously without the viewer having to do much thinking – the perfect tool for propaganda intending to indoctrinate.
I mean, you need only look at advertising for many food brands. They almost have it down to a science what will work to make people crave that product upon seeing the advert. If you see a can of beer in a movie enough – watching the main character walk out of an explosion, grab a can of beer from a scared extra on the side of the screen, down it, say “damn that’s good”, then proceed to fight a monster and save the planet – you might suddenly get the strange urge to stop at a store and buy some beer… huh, how random. While one might see that kind of product placement in a movie and realize they are trying to be sold something, there are many who don’t notice it. Even then, the person who did notice it is STILL likely to crave the product later on.
We’ve all experienced it too. I know I’ve seen a Dr Pepper advert on the side of a website and about an hour later I started having that taste memory sensation in my mouth where I could almost taste the sweet sugary goodness of the fizzy soda while being all too eager to drive down the road to the 7/11. Now with something like fast food or sodas, often we understand how it works and it can be relatively harmless for most of us. Now what about a political belief?
As we see from history, as well as very very current times, propaganda can be horribly destructive. Personally, I feel propaganda as a whole, but especially that of design that is intended to subtly infect your mind with a certain political belief, is largely evil. I’m one to believe in individual liberty, personal freedom, and I am of the mind that people should be able to make choices for themselves without the influence of manipulative activism. Using propaganda, and thus design, in this way acts only to show the true weakness of an ideology or idea. To try to influence people’s subconscious minds to side with you and to use it to indoctrinate children into one side or the other makes you no better than communists or nazis. I find it disgusting when food brands do this, I find it inhumanly evil to do this with a political ideology. In this collective effort by designers, it would unilaterally manipulate masses to love Big Brother.
One may argue and say they would just be trying to fight for the right thing. That they would use it to push for what they believe in. How else would people know about these issues? Points like these, I feel, prove my point at how insidious propaganda can be. Naturally, YOU are good and fight for truth and justice and goodness for all. So as long as YOU have that power and influence over people’s minds, things will be better. So long as we all think what YOU say we should think, we will all live in a happier better society. Who cares what dissenting opinions arise, you are of course the arbiter of objective morality so long as you have the power over people’s minds… right? What’s that phrase about what having absolute power does? That influence design can have on people is dangerous because it completely takes away people’s freedom to think for themselves, but the true danger is that since it’s subconscious one might truly believe they did think it for themselves regardless.
Ideas should be fought by winning the hearts and minds of people through rational discussion, not violence or mental manipulation. Both of these are the main tools of the tyrannical to eliminate dissent. In my opinion, those that would use the power of design for propagandistic purposes to push their political will onto others are the least deserving of any form of power. The absolute worst thing that can happen to design is for a single political voice to dominate the entire industry… At that point everyone suffers.