Market-teen

As good artists, graphic designers tend to focus on the aesthetic aspects of their design.  They study concepts like alignment, color, consistency, constancy, figure-ground relationships, legibility, and other important components of the Gestalt principles of perception.  However, graphic designers need to remember the usual main purpose of their artwork and designs.  This general purpose of graphic designer’s art is usually to advertise.  Advertising is defined as the act of persuading an audience to do something; something like purchasing a product or service, changing their beliefs or even perceiving someone or some company in a certain way.  Therefore, advertising is not just fun cool designs, but most importantly the ability to persuade an audience.  However, how far can advertising go?  Where does the line between caring about customers and caring about sales is drawn?  Is one more important than the other?  Is advertising purely focused on sales potentially harmful to customers?  This is what Frontline’s episode on “The Merchants of Cool” seems to explore.

Reaching Teens and Reaching Others

A company’s main purpose is clearly to have enough sales to support it.  The same seems true for small companies, as well as the top companies, like the media giants such as Viacom, Disney, Vivendi, News Corporation, Universal and AOL Time Warner.  Perhaps this is why these big companies target the most profitable market, which seems to be the teen market.  The fact that teenagers have excess money to spend, and they influence their parents’ spending decisions, make teenagers a very profitable market.  These and other companies have even been using different tactics and venues to reach teens that they don’t use to reach other target audiences.  These big companies go to great extent to reach their audiences.  They actively study teenagers, they question them through focus groups and they even go as far as spending one-on-one time with ordinary teenagers in their homes to gather information about them.  The value of the teenagers’ opinions and preferences is so high, that they even let those same teenagers control what they are fed through different media outlets.  No other target audience receives such undivided attention.

An early MTV station ID

Image via Wikipedia

MTV and Their Revolutionary Advertising Ideas

The name of the television network MTV, stand for Music Television, and it was first launched in 1981 for the main purpose of promoting music and music videos.  In reality, the network should have been called ATV, for Advertising Television.  Advertising was the main purpose of MTV.  Sure, they advertise music artists and music videos, but they secretly advertise a variety of other products 24/7.  They advertise sponsoring products like soft drinks, clothing, and movies mostly created by the MTV parent company, Viacom.  As a result, the company is using this network to advertise the company itself and all the products and services the company sells.  It is pure advertising genius.

Advertising and Audiences

Getting this close to audiences can be very profitable for these big companies, however it can be very harmful to the teenagers in America.  While the advertising companies get closer and closer to their target audiences, they gain valuable insight into their worlds.  They learn how to relate and how to attract and persuade the audience to do pretty much anything they want them to do.  This situation is obviously very lucrative for these businesses, but what about the audience?  The audience, such as teenagers, are left with no privacy, no sense of their own.  Teenagers become so persuadable that they do not even notice that they are being influenced and persuaded, and they do not notice how this is happening.  This can pose a serious problem when teenage girls are persuaded to act more mature than they are, to dress sexually and provocatively, and ultimately become targets of sexual harassment, abuse and molestation.  Teenage boys are influenced to act immaturely and engage in activities that are harmful to their physical well being by shows such as “Jackass”.

Conclusion

Personally, I think that advertisement, such as the one used by these big companies mentioned above, are sadly very effective.  I believe that if these same companies would use their influence on teenagers in a good way, we could educate teenagers about what is right and what is wrong, instead of poisoning their brains with these wrong ideas of what being “cool” means.  Advertisements such as those by “Above the Influence” still use trendy elements in their ads, but they are presenting an idea that is constructive to the society in trying to keep teenagers out of drugs (Abovetheinfluence.com).  In this case, all the research about teenagers and what they find “cool” or “trendy” can help influence teenagers to stay out of drugs.

The video of the Frontline episode regarding “The Merchants of Cool”, definitely expand on my belief of what is wrong with society today.  How can we expect the future leaders of the world to be good ones, if all we are teaching and feeding them is ideas that smoking is “cool”, having lots of sex is “cool”, and doing drugs is “cool”.  However, as hypocritical as it may sound, we are consumers, and even though I do not agree with the impact of these advertising techniques on teenagers and their development, I don’t think that it would impact what kind of products I chose to purchase.  I do believe however, that when the time comes I will teach my children not to fall for those advertisements and not to think that those things are “cool” just because the commercial or MTV said so.  They should form their own opinions of what is right and wrong through the teaching of their parents, school and religion, and not through the media.

Frontline: The Merchants of Cool [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/cool/

Marketing & Stereotypes: The Abercrombie & Fitch Story

Nowadays it is human nature to attempt to classify people, products and brands into different stereotypes.  A stereotype is a standard classification that individuals commonly classify other people, products and brands.  People are stereotyped because of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, and even the types of products they buy and clothes they wear.  Stereotyping is not something that should be practiced, because it is wrong to assume an individual’s personality or beliefs based on their looks, clothes or products they purchase.  Even though stereotyping is not something highly recommended by society, people still stereotype other people based on such shallow observations.  One example of stereotyping based on clothes is the stereotype or label of “Preppy”, “Preppie” or “Prep” given to individuals who wear clothes sold by stores like Abercrombie & Fitch, Hollister and American Eagle.

The word “preppy” actually came about in the 1950’s, and it derived from “preparatory schools”.  The White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, or WASP term was highly associated with the term “preppy”.  The WASP community was mostly high-class individuals who attended such prestigious schools and dressed in a laid-back, yet luxurious clothing of brands such as Lacoste and Lilly Pulitzer.   This style was then re-launched by stores like Abercrombie & Fitch in a more affordable price for teenagers of modern days that belong to the middle and higher social classes.  The preppy kids back in the 1950’s where actually members of high-class societies, went to Ivy League colleges and universities and private preparatory schools, they owed yachts and boats, and could afford expensive taste such as Ralph Lauren.  The preppy kids nowadays do not form part of such high-class and do not own expensive boats or attend prestigious colleges and schools, but they can afford to look like they belong to the same high-class as the 1950’s preppy kids because of stores like Abercrombie & Fitch.

Abercrombie and fitch Paris summer 2011 advert...

Image by cattias.photos via Flickr

Abercrombie & Fitch Users and Stereotypes

I do believe that users and consumers of Abercrombie & Fitch clothing identify with the “preppy” stereotype.  The Abercrombie & Fitch crowds are labeled by others as “preppy”, and they do not consider this an insult, but instead a compliment.  “Preppy” kids are usually the popular kids in high schools who are concerned with looks, popularity and material possessions.  Even though some of them do not belong to high social class, they like thinking that they look that way.  The reality is that Abercrombie & Fitch is not actually a real “preppy” store, because they are not as expensive as the real “preppy” clothes like Ralph Lauren, Lacoste, Tommy Hilfiger, etc.  However, the style does look like the more expensive stores.

Abercrombie and fitch Paris summer 2011 advert...

Image by cattias.photos via Flickr

Stereotypes and Sales

The “preppy” stereotype helps Abercrombie & Fitch sales.  Mainly because most middle-class teenagers who wish to belong in the popular group may not be able to afford the real expensive “preppy” brands like Lacoste.  Therefore, they will choose to shop at Abercrombie & Fitch because the clothing looks like the more expensive clothing and has the same “preppy” style, but it is much more affordable for teenage kids with a middle-class allowance.  The more they wish to fit in to the popular crowd the more clothing they will buy from stores like Abercrombie & Fitch.  The “preppy wannabe” crowd purchase clothing from Abercrombie & Fitch basically because of the way it makes them feel.  The clothing makes them feel like they belong in the “preppy” crowd.

The image of Abercrombie & Fitch today.

Image via Wikipedia

Stereotypes in the Advertising Campaigns

The Abercrombie & Fitch advertising campaigns most definitely intentionally designed to target the “preppy” and “preppy wannabe” crowds.  If we look at their advertisement and images placed throughout their stores we can appreciate the intent of the ads through their design, and specifically the scale of the photographs being displayed at each store.  Most of their advertisement feature clean-shaved, clean-cut, muscular, slim body, Caucasian, good-looking people.  These are the typical characteristics that fit the “preppy” individuals.  Another major effort from this company to keep the advertisement targeted at “preppy” teenagers is the fact that they hire people who fit into this stereotype to work in their stores.  There have even been lawsuits against the company because they would not hire a Muslim individual, according to her, because of her headscarf.  There was another case of another teenager who claimed they would not let her work outside of the back storage of an Abercrombie and Fitch store because of her prosthetic arm.

Geeky Friday

Speaking of Ethics…

Report Cards for Real Life

Report Cards for Real Life

Report Cards for Real Life

Because sometimes people Fail at life… and they should be lucky enough to have an honest friend who is willing to let them know about it

Ethical Issues in the Graphic Design Business

During our careers, whether as graphic designers, web designers, fashion designers or any other career, we will most likely have to learn about ethics in the workplace.  Ethics do not only play a role in our normal day-to-day activities, such as attending a wedding, tipping our waiters and receiving guests in our home, ethics also are a part of our business life.  There are several ethical issues that can arise in the workplace, no matter the type of work.  Ethical issues are subjects or events that could create questions about what is right and what is wrong.  Even though there are many ethical issues that could rise in all types of jobs, there are also ethical issues that could rise in jobs that are only related to design.

Ethical Issues in Graphic Design

A Graphic Designer, especially a Freelance Graphic Designer, encounters numerous of different people and companies that they will probably do design work for.  However, the graphic designer may or may not agree with what that particular company or individual stands for or wishes to advertise.  This raises a question of right or wrong, an ethical issue, for the designer.  Graphic designers should know from early on in their career who would they not design for and who would they design for, keeping in mind that what a graphic designer creates is a message for an audience.   For example, would you create campaign posters for a politician who approves of abortion; would you create a logo for a rock band that believes in and follows the devil’s teachings; would you create a package design for a company that sells cigarette shaped candy to children; or would you create a website for a pornographic site.  The decision will always be up to the graphic designer and will most likely depend on his or her own morals and belief system.  Ultimately, if a designer does not agree with it, then he or she should not take on the work.

There are several other ethical issues that arise in fields such as advertising.  Since most graphic design products fall under this category, graphic designers would most likely have to face those same ethical issues faced by advertisers and advertising agencies.  For example, a graphic designer could be offered to produce an ad, but then he or she could find out that the information in the ad was a product of false advertising.  False advertising means to promote a feature or characteristic in a product that is in fact not true.  In this case, the designer would also have the choice to produce the ad or simply walk away.

Another big ethical issue that a graphic designer could encounter is the issue of copyright and piracy.  Copyright is the legal right that the creator of a design (or any other work) is granted.  The creator or designer owns the rights to the design.  Just like writers have ‘writer’s block’, graphic designers sometimes also have phases in which they are not particularly creative.  This could lead to using someone else’s work and ‘revamping’ it to seem as though you created the whole thing.  This is an illegal practice called piracy.  Graphic Designers should definitely avoid doing this unless they give full credit to the copyright owner, ask for their permission, or use copyright free images.

Design & Culture

Graphic Designers are usually taught about the technical aspects of the career, the software, the design elements, the design principles, and so forth.  However, graphic design is not only about the creativity and ability to create a ‘pretty’ design.  Graphic design is also about the audience for which the design was created.  Many students, and even teachers, forget the audience.  By doing so, several cultural issues may rise.

Culture is defined as the collection of customs, social behavior, and ideas of a specific group of individuals.  Therefore, what might seem as a successful design here in the United States might seem offensive or even harmful in other countries.  For example, a design that includes a hand giving the “thumbs up” may be appropriate for an American audience, but this sign is considered a rude gesture in some Asian and Islamic countries. A recent animated footage which includes the 2012 Olympics had to be removed from the organization’s website because it was causing epileptic seizures to viewers who suffered from epilepsy.  We must always be careful not to insult offend or harm the viewers of our designs.

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