By Absar Ahmed
In our age, Designer’s role is very important, rather terrifying. Designers are responsible for the changing face of our culture in almost every aspect. On one hand designers are, like others, a part of the culture. On the other hand they hold more critical and catalytic responsibilities than others.In order to understand designer’s role, and where they stand in the cultural evolution, first we have to define ourselves.
How do we define ourselves? Through input and information. Through newspapers, books, magazines, television, radio, phone, advertisements, internet etc. And, the codes we use to make sense of all that, is language. These codes can be variable, in different cultures or even in the same culture at different times. These codes are either ‘signifiers’ or the ‘signified’. Further more, those signifiers and signified either have denoted or connoted meanings, which both the communicator and the receiver can understand.
We (designers), as messengers or communicators use those denoted or connoted meanings. We have the responsibility to formulate the messages. We are the translators of invisible ideas into a tangible form. What we transmit is received by someone else. Our output becomes someone else’s input.
We take absolutely abstracts concepts, such as emotions, sensation, feelings, expressions and desires etc. and change them into visible form. We are given the responsibility of formulating the message because we are believed and trusted to have all the skills necessary for that. In fact, the power of those skills or tools is horrifying. We use our powerful skills to change the matter, from intangible to tangible, invisible to visible, imperceptible to perceptible. Then we sell these forms.
Our main goal is to persuade someone at any cost. Because, we are highly skilled at persuasion, we can make people ignore other choices available to them. We can easily exploit people and we do; since we can not afford the freedom of thought.Language is continuously evolving. It evolves from the culture. And, because it also defines culture, we are using it to destroy culture. We take an original language from a target culture, incorporate its selected elements with our own language (the language of advertising and promotion) and feed back. This way we are freezing thoughts. We are also replacing and dictating the cultural values, evaluating bogus ideologies and creating stereotypes. We are reversing the process of listening. We are making ‘signifiers’ the ‘signified.’
All language is fluid and so as our ideas and beliefs. We cease the development, when we try to freeze our views. And, when we not only freeze our views, but also attempt to persuade others of their truths, we start dictatorship. Information is not just information. Information is also how a fact is presented, how we inform, and, are informed about a fact. This means, we have choices as to how to form a fact and therefore as to how a fact should actually be perceived. This way information becomes censorship and we control people’s mind or at least attempt to do that.
It is we (designers), who decide how to transmit the signal, how to present the message, how to make noise to attract people, how to make contents presentable. We are making more noise than signal. Mostly, the presentation of signal obscures the signal itself. The box becomes the content, thus making the message ‘content-free.’ Whilst I am writing these lines, a group of my class fellows will be working on an advertising brief, which asks them to advertise and sell happiness. Do you really believe that happiness can be sold or bought?At this stage, honestly, I do not feel confident enough to suggest anything because I believe, I still have to find a way out of this chaos. Although, I am convinced that we need to learn listening, in order to understand speaking.
Language and culture are continuously evolving. Which means, signifiers and the signified can always change or shift their meanings. However, to force them to change their meanings, just to freeze someone’s thoughts can never be (or at least should not be) justifiable. We have to move towards receiver to become broadcaster, since we are not only the broadcasters but also the receivers. We must stop selling things that we are obliged to give away. We are also supposed to train and educate, not only exploit and dictate.
Ways of seeing by John Berger (London)
About Looking by John Berger (London)
Image Music Text by Roland Barthes (London)
Mythologies by Roland Barthes (London)
Please also visit