The following is a reading response to Green Patriot Posters, a chapter within Andrew Shea’s Designing for Social Change: Strategies for community-based graphic design.
To be completely frank, none of the cases in the text interested me at first glance. They all seemed rather small-scale and specific, something that is uninteresting to me and also does not pertain to my fictional design practice. Perhaps this small-scale nature is prevalent in all the cases so that the writer can dive into detail without alienating the reader, or because large-scale operations would not be interested in taking part in this research project, or because the theme of the text overall is small-scale things – I’m not sure.
The only one I found remotely interesting was the Green Patriot Posters case. It revolves around a national (however the scope is narrowed to Cleveland for sake of the text) ad campaign about global warming awareness. The campaign was designed by Michael Beirut of Pentagram.
The ads were placed on public buses and depict a green silhouette of a revolutionary war soldier with bold text that usually states something like “This Bus Is an Assault Vehicle in the Fight against Global Warming”. As Beirut explains, he wanted to decontextualize environmentally friendly activities as something irrelevant, forgettable, and passive and give it a new coat of paint which instead portrays a heroic and brawny persona.
After an assessment on how well the ad campaign performed, it was clear (at least in my eyes) that it proved to be somewhat of a failure. It was found that most people ignored the ad altogether, and those who did pay attention were either confused to its meaning or dismissed the environmentally-friendly message, something that the ads were designed to combat.
In retrospect, Beirut stated that he and his team should have spent more time learning about the city and how to best communicate a message throughout it. This case serves as a message that no matter how good an ad campaign might seem, it holds no value if it is ineffective in the community in which it is meant to act in.
In my opinion, the ad was interesting. I do agree with the fact that environmentally-friendly messages are often easily dismissed, which logically is strange but I think we all are perpetrators. In the modern age, I believe it becomes more and more difficult for advertisers to get society to pay attention to them in a traditional way. I don’t know the last time I looked at an ad on the side of a bus and dwelled on its contents for more than a few seconds. If anything, this reading applies to me, or any designer, that will be trying to get an audience to listen to them and act based on their message; whether its to buy a specific product or donate to a good cause.