Can you think of a time when Target was just another Walmart, and Apple computers were just bulgy colorful things reminiscent of the start of an anticipated space-age millennium? Now think of those products today and how they got to where they are on the “It” meter through social validity. It didn’t happen over night.
New brands take time, and at the hands of very skilled graphic designers, a rebranding project can change the psychology behind a product, person or concept. A modern, effective and clever design that starts appearing everywhere will get people talking. If it looks aesthetically pleasing, it converts into a trend – that’s what happened to the World War II-era British public safety poster. You may have heard of it – “Keep Calm and Carry On.”
Graphic design is an art, it’s a business, it’s marketing, it’s fashion – it makes sense that wanting to make something cool usually requires an equally cool design that will mentally be connected to a concept.
I’ve written about how women are increasingly apprehensive to identifying themselves as feminists before, so if I suddenly started seeing a thoughtful poster around campus I wonder if things would change. Would more girls and guys Instagram it, and spread the word? Can graphic design make feminism cool? As vapid as it sounds, if it looks pretty it’s got my attention - and yours too.
That’s exactly what’s happening in the United Kingdom, with the magazine Elle UK initiating collaboration between award-winning advertising agencies and feminist groups. If anyone can make feminism cool, it would have to be the creative minds behind Nike, John Frieda and Ikea’s ad campaigns.
Elle UK requests feedback on the project through their hashtag #ELLEfeminism, but feelings are mixed. While gaining wide support by high-ranking officials like Jo Swinson, Member of Parliament for East Dunbartonshire and Women and Equalities Minister, not everyone feels the need to rebrand a concept that isn’t meant to be a brand in the first place.
It’s sad to think that in today’s day and age, things need to be trending in order to be deemed relevant. While women’s rights and general equality should be issues people are concerned with every day and struggle to reach equal status, it isn’t. Feminism is a word that has taken on negative connotations, mostly because men and women who are not educated on what feminism actually is put them there, but that isn’t going to change if we don’t do anything about it.
Elle UK launched a project that made feminism relevant to youth culture. Other people are doing it too, like Tavi Gevinson behind Rookie, or websites like XoJane and Jezebel, they’re just not doing it as visually as Elle UK.
Graphics have a way of speaking to people without dishing out a thesis on why a person should get behind something. An effective design that resonates with society through colors and visual factors is effective, and a magazine trying to promote feminist organizations and ideas shouldn’t be receiving backlash for it.
Imagine what Barbara Kruger’s “Your Body is a Battleground,” art piece would look like if it’s signature message were typed in Comic Sans. That’s why graphic design is important, and why it can do a very small, albeit significant part in bringing up a conversation that’s long overdue.