I was lucky enough to get a copy of “Do Good Design,” David B. Berman’s engaging plea for designers to use their powers for good, right as the year wound down. Why was I lucky (besides the fact that I work for Pearson, the publisher of the book)? Our work schedule is slow this time of year, so I had plenty of time to curl up and enjoy the book. It’s also the start of a new year, a time we traditionally set goals for ourselves. Berman’s book provided me with a great, invigorating read, and a desire to do something good in the year ahead.
Berman has been a professional designer since the ’80’s, and his message in this book is simple: If we, as designers, can convince most of the people on the planet to engage in dubious consumption habits for our clients’ profit, why can’t we put the same energy into delivering positive messages? For example, on the streets of Tanzania, the price of a bottle of Coke is about the same as the cost of an anti-malaria pill. Coke is the best-selling drink on the continent, yet 1 million Africans die of malaria each year. Designers are excellent at convincing a continent to consume Coke. Berman asks, “But rather than sharing our cycles of style, consumption and chemical addictions, designers can use their professional power, persuasive skills and wisdom to help distribute ideas that the world really needs.” Hear, hear.
The book is a pretty quick read, with plenty examples of basic human traits (greed, sex drive) being exploited by designers to change cultural attitudes and sell products. He also has some great examples of designers who use their powers of persuasion for good. Berman suggests that designers develop (and adhere to) a kind of Hippocratic Oath, promising to first, do no harm. I believe that it is entirely possible to live a life doing good for others, and still make a living. You don’t have to sell your soul to sell a product, service or idea. Berman’s book is just the kick in the pants (or head) to convince yourself that there is indeed a better way to ply your trade.
So, make a resolution to use your creative, innovative skills for good this year. Do good for the world. It’s where you live.