John P.

John P.

11 minute read

The Societal Influence of Graphic Design

The Societal Influence of Graphic Design

Graphic designer Dani Cowles has said, “Live in the leading—the spaces in between the rules.”

The literal meaning of this quote refers to the ‘think outside the box’ idea. This repeated phrase has led creative people to engage audiences for centuries. With imaginative concepts, skilled craftsmanship, and innovative tools, artists have made their names in many corners of the world. The space in between the rules is a poignant testament to this impact: the place humans are able to construct beyond boundaries is where they are bound to thrive.

Human nature has a special essence. Not only are we influenced by cultural traditions and religious values, but also social change. The transformations that societies undergo at the turn of each century is proof of this ability to evolve. Both positives and negatives of this somewhat flimsy narrative have been noted by commentators and anthropologists. So far, no unanimous agreement has been reached.

Facilitating Change

Powered by desires and creative notions, humans are experts at facilitating change. On numerous occasions, we have faced immediate revolutions as a community. These have not always been the positive change we wanted, but the necessity of such a narrative is well known. In many cases, facilitating new changes has meant giving up previous comforts for the sake of the evolution of mankind. Today, we have come far as a race in many different fields of life. The age is digital and these times are run by corporations. Their values have become our values and their aims are leading our lives. This is where graphic design has made its impression.

Are Designers Influential?

We live in the golden age of social media, marketing and advertising. In this easy-to-please online state, a few simple words and pictures can have a massive effect. Designs and logos can propel us to think differently, purchase a certain product or change our lifestyle. This is not contrary to human nature as we are bound by only our minds. If our perspectives are altered, so are our lives. Designers are able to make this change happen. They can take the norms of society and modify their foundations entirely. As a designer, you can steer people in a certain direction to change their mindsets. Here is how:

Making the World Better

Designers know that their work holds power over masses. Pictures are often equated with a thousand words. A well thought out design can do good to change the world for future generations. People are provoked to think about their actions and then make some sort of adjustment. An example of this is global warming. Through social media images and innovative ideas, humans have realized that the planet is dying. This awareness has led to drastic steps being taken to preserve the environment for our children. Design has made this happen.

The Ultimate End Goal

Sometimes you have to ask yourself: what is the end goal for me? What do I want to achieve before I die? It can be easy to get lost in the myriad of work and school. We are always on the go, trying to get from one place to another. Design can influence the way we move through life. Designers hold the ability to make us stop and think about the products we use and the experiences we have. Design is making us think all the way to the end and helping us start a conversation about what we want it to be like.

The Rise of Technology

Technology and data is on the rise. People are fear stricken that one day the technology we built may conquer us and destroy the world as we know it. While this is a fairly reasonable fear, it is also not completely true. There is nothing to be frightened of when this global phenomenon is having a progressive impact on mankind. Designers are using this to avail more opportunities for growth. The field of graphic design is making sure that even when everything is digital, we do not forget our humanity.

Enabling Human Expectations

When design is used with good intentions, their creators can spark a social change. Future societies will benefit from this as a combination of all these elements has great potential. The idea of designing logos and products are no longer black and white, but grey. They include systems and operations that enable human expectations for now, and for the future. As a society, we are not settling for less because of innovative design.

Responsibility towards Society

Graphic designers owe an immense responsibility to the society they live in. Whether they work for themselves, companies, or individual clients, they need to know that their actions have considerable consequences. Products and services are promoted through designs and ideas. Their advertisement lies at the heart of most graphics, and thus makes up the livelihood of many individuals. Fun packaging, catchy slogans, bright colors, big fonts, all of these are part of a designer’s job description. People will stop in their tracks to take a closer look, they will mull over the punch line of a joke or phrase, and they will be able to associate that memory with that brand or company.

It is those words, or images, that influence our decisions. We may favor a certain product over another simply because of the way it was advertised to us. Since the ad was so appealing, we may purchase it, even if both of the products show no massive differences. Whether this is ideally good or bad in the age of social media is another story. The point is, it has an impact. We can conclusively agree that the information we are fed through creative means will inadvertently change our minds about something. With the overwhelming amount of data present on the internet, it can be difficult to pinpoint why we made a certain decision.

Designs that Changed History

Designers used to be artists who thought a little differently. While traditional artists sketched on canvases and paper, designers used the world around them as an opus. They took concepts based on current trends and sparked a number of changes. The modernist graphic design movement was one such significant take on the art form. The design industry gradually progressed and became more connected with modern tech. Before this became the norm, there were some significant designs that changed the course of history.

Ancient Drawings

The oldest design form were the ancient drawings found by archeologists. Through their findings they uncovered designs as old as the prehistoric period. Not only was this an epic change in helping us understand the evolution of graphics, but also allowed chance for comparison. Early men would draw animal figures on the walls of caves. Whether they were for aesthetic or hunting is not known, but they served their purpose well. Historians found that ever since this early stage of design, graphics have continued to play a vital role in the progression of history.

In ancient Egypt pyramid engravings were invented. These were artistic illustrations that were used to convey messages and news, kind of like how we have phones and social media. China also featured some art calligraphy as early as 2000BC to feature old folklore and stories. In the 7th century, England saw the first book cover design take form for the book of Durrow. In Germany, the first block books were produced in the 15th century. All of these examples are part of the development that influenced important designs in the future.

War Propaganda

Propaganda graphic design came into the limelight during the two World Wars. Thanks to enlisting specialists and designers, this new wave of influence became quite hard to ignore at the start of the 20th century. These posters were steeped in ideas of nationalism and patriotism. However, they also had a harmful effect. The jingoism was straightforward in its goal to make younger men enlist in the army. But there were also other factors that played into the game. Wartime economies needed to stay afloat and this was done through the power of graphic design.

The Allied Powers and the Central Power needed to keep their war machines going. They used savings, bonds, loans and even volunteer work to keep their countries from going bankrupt. But nothing helped their conservation methods more than design. Posters were circulated with new initiatives to promote citizenry. The enticing graphics used alongside catchy slogans allowed these countries to survive those trying times.

Che Guevara

The revolutionary leader Che Guevara was immortalized in a simple design. Alberto Korda photographed his visage before the revolution came, but he had no idea how iconic it would become later on. In 1967, Irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick received a copy of the image from an anarchist group. Although Guevara was still alive at this point, he was a controversial symbol of the Cold War. The image was not made to print until his eventual murder, which changed history as we know it.

Fitzpatrick revisited the photograph to make something of it. Soon, it was developed into a commemorative poster. The designers used a paper negative with black and red prints and a big yellow star. The silhouette style became very noticeable and soon the poster was being reproduced and reprinted around the world. As the decades passed, the poster became commercialized. Today, it is adorned on T-shirts and phone cases, and is used as a symbol of rebellion by young people. What started as an homage to an oppressive regime is today used in desktop backgrounds.

The Obama Campaign

The civil rights movement was sparked off on a global scale by Martin Luther King. This was an iconic moment in history as it changed the lives of millions of individuals in the world. The initial movement heavily relied on enticing words and contrasting imagery to get their point across. The masses took in this change and the beginning of the civil rights movement in America was growing.

In recent years another operation sparked a social change. The Obama campaign in 2008 was a prominent example of how design can bring about change. In a prejudiced environment, only a few decades after segregation was abolished, Barack Obama became the first black president of the United States. The designer that was hired to make a logo for this campaign became a part of historical change. The logo was specifically designed to convey a message of determination and triumph. It depicted the struggle of one man with a goal in mind and all of his efforts were evident to the voters. The campaign had its desired effect on the masses and Obama carried out his duties for four consecutive terms.

The Use of Graphic Design Today

Graphic designs were used to combine ideas and images into an engaging piece for audiences. Text was used alongside these elements to inform and pass along messages. The communicative aspect of visuals used people’s psychology to understand their likes and dislikes. The uniqueness of the shape of a cheap logo or carefully selected colors were all designed to cater to a target audience.

Although this is the essence of design today as well, there are many other ways graphic design is being utilized on a socio-economic level.

Improving Conversion Chances

Since concepts are being transformed into graphics, visual engagement takes place in graphic design. The conveyance of communications has the ability to change the minds of your audience. Whether you are trying to make a sale, or are dealing with a dilemma, your design can improve the chance of conversations. For example, if you are an environmental law firm and are using graphic designs to tell people about the negative impact of oil corporations, you have the capability to make a difference.

Constructing Visual Narratives

Designers have a dedicated and important role in social justice. Posters and protest rallies are no longer at the forefront or campaigns and movements. Digital tools are being used to mobilize causes. Graphic design has helped to shape and visualize important issues around the world. The Black Lives Matter movement was born on the internet through a design poster that was circulated. Designers helped thousands of people inspire change and fight against police brutality. People noted how design and tech were coming up with new ways to construct a narrative and build a cause that called for social change.

Providing Imaginative Communication

Imagery is useful means for advertising. As a society, we are influenced by trends and celebrities. The effective way of having your voice heard on a global scale is to know how to communicate imaginatively. Graphic design companies have researched on consumer behavior to understand how their minds work. This was seen in the global spread of the MeToo movement in 2017. The logo of the movement was spread all over the internet and in a few weeks it became a symbol of hope. The recognition of the graphics and typography took the discipline of art to make impactful change.

Some Social Criticism

There has been some critique regarding the way we perceive design today. Advertising and graphic design are distinct from one another but are being used interchangeably. Advertising is a powerful tool that is standardized in the economy. It deals with products, services and promotions. Whether the framing device is being used for good or bad depends on social implications. Graphic design is an autonomous art form that is being structured as a tool for advertising. The diversity it brings to the field is no doubt impressive, but is it doing more harm than good?

The Lies of Branding

Branding is all about representation. Logo designs, packaging and online marketing are all used to make a business stand out to their customers. There has been much scrutiny behind branding techniques, especially when companies are dealing with their competitors. Businesses tend to get lost in the attempt of forming their identity and making promises to the consumer population. And so, they start to lie.

Graphic design hence creates a visual presence whereby these lies are propagated. The assumptions surrounding these products are built on what we have been fed through logos and posters. However, most of the time this ends up being a facade wrapped up in shiny packaging.

Manipulation of Emotions

Our society has faced many trials and tribulations throughout the years. Sometimes tragedies fall into our paths that leave a collective scar and nations are brought to their knees. When this happens, companies are able to take advantage of the circumstances and make their profits. Where calls to social action and change are being backed up by corporations with different agendas in mind, people’s emotions are manipulated. Graphic design is used to send positive messages with sinister goals between the lines. Where design could have served as a healing means, it nurtures more chaos in the community.

In Conclusion

It can be agreed the graphic design has had a huge influence on society. It has strengthened people’s awareness in the political and social sphere through imagery and text. Graphics have made historical and contemporary change possible through exploration of context and trends. With the increasing use of tech in design, the influence of design will continue to have powerful implications on future generations.

Author Bio Section



Sarah Jay is a creative content writer for Logonado Australia. She is interested in the fields of web development and graphic design. If you are looking for ways to get a cheap logo design or want to know the latest trends in digital design, she has probably covered it. In her leisure time, Sarah enjoys a good book and travelling.