Join 3,438 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)

Tags:

Designers Fighting Nazis
January 14, 2008 10:30 AM   Subscribe

"it turned out the abstract compositions in the posters contained hidden letters. (The one above, for example, displays the letter A.) Hung side by side on the streets, they spelled out N-A-Z-I. A public outcry followed, and within six weeks the company was ruined." Can a designer punish a company that helped the nazis? Maybe. Maybe not. (via swiss miss)
posted by wittgenstein (28 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
this is brilliant! thanks!
posted by amberglow at 10:33 AM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is why I love MetaFilter. I'd never heard of this, and now I can't stop reading.
posted by scrump at 10:34 AM on January 14, 2008


Fascinating.

It's funny - I'd heard about this, and I'd accepted it at face value. I feel amused and just a little bit betrayed as well.
posted by Oxydude at 10:35 AM on January 14, 2008


See also, Tyler Durden at Staples, and Bert of Sesame Street's strange bedfellow.
posted by Pastabagel at 10:43 AM on January 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


But it also reveals something else: how desperately we designers crave evidence that our work has the capacity to truly make a difference

Of course designers make a difference, otherwise no one would hire them. The ipod changed the music industry because it was successful based in large part on its design and the design of the materials promoting it.

But I suppose this article was referring to political or social change. But isn't the original Nazi emblems, e.g. the swastika, and attendant banners and eagles, an example of design that changed the world? How about the old sickle and hammer logo on every communist country's flag in the world?

The problem is that design in the service of positive ideals is much less effective, because positive change requires more work than negative change, so a design in the service of positive change isn't likely to be enough to effect that change. Also, design inthe service of social change veers to close to propaganda design, which most people working for positive social change tend to avoid.
posted by Pastabagel at 10:55 AM on January 14, 2008


"But it also reveals something else: how desperately we designers crave evidence that our work has the capacity to truly make a difference."

Psyke!
posted by anthill at 10:56 AM on January 14, 2008


Dismaying yet still delightful! Very cool read, thanks!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:02 AM on January 14, 2008


Interestingly, there's nothing on wikipedia about the dude. I wonder if they knew it was a hoax, or if no one simply thought to make an article?
posted by shmegegge at 11:06 AM on January 14, 2008


The comments make it sound like it's a hoax. What gives? I wanted to see the rest of the images, so I looked through the comments, with no luck.

So is this a hoax?
posted by cashman at 11:06 AM on January 14, 2008


Oh - I guess I should learn to read the comments here better, first.
posted by cashman at 11:07 AM on January 14, 2008


Or, you know, the linked article.

But if you look a little further, you'll discover something disturbing: Ernst Bettler never existed. The designer, the posters, the company are all entirely made up.
posted by designbot at 11:09 AM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


I remember reading about this in Adbusters, I can't believe it's fake. +1 to my skepticism in life, thanks.
posted by Ndwright at 11:10 AM on January 14, 2008


Fascinating article, thanks for the post.

It says something very interesting about our psychology that we love of the idea of something like this enough for people to keep propagating it, without checking on the veracity behind it. It's the type of story we just want to believe - even me, the guy who routinely spends time debunking the endless email stories and scams that circulate in the office/
posted by never used baby shoes at 11:15 AM on January 14, 2008


...Wilson’s point was, actually, to poke fun at the generation of ‘New-Modernists’ that had sprung up throughout the nineties in the UK and to ridicule their love of post-war sans serif, Swiss-style graphic precedent.

Funny how small the original target was. I love that Adbusters was trolled, also.
posted by eddydamascene at 11:21 AM on January 14, 2008


That's what I get for skimming, and getting distracted by wanting to see the rest of the posters.
posted by cashman at 11:33 AM on January 14, 2008


But isn't the original Nazi emblems, e.g. the swastika, and attendant banners and eagles, an example of design that changed the world? How about the old sickle and hammer logo on every communist country's flag in the world?

Neither of those symbols changed the world. Either one of them could have been replaced with say, a picture of a crescent wrench without affecting anything.
posted by tkolar at 11:56 AM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Google Books version of the Dot Dot Dot article.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:10 PM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Always wondered if this one was real...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:16 PM on January 14, 2008


>> But isn't the original Nazi emblems, e.g. the swastika, and attendant banners and eagles, an example of design that changed the world? How about the old sickle and hammer logo on every communist country's flag in the world?

> Neither of those symbols changed the world. Either one of them could have been replaced with say, a picture of a crescent wrench without affecting anything.


Both the Nazi and the Soviet systems relied on mass spectacles to maintain state control, and the maintenance of a strong graphic identity was central to that. So while the logographical focus of the design could have been changed, a consistent design identity was vitally important. Not to mention the fact that a consistent design identity helps eradicate pesky individuality.

There's a Mitchell and Webb sketch that seems appropriate here.

As for design being more useful for evil than good, something Pastabagel mentioned - the Red Cros springs to mind as an example as powerful as the swastika. CND also had very fine design in the 1950s. And it's sad that the Red Flag is mostly associated with the Soviet and Marxist states in history, as it's also a longstanding and powerful tool of labour solidarity.
posted by WPW at 12:50 PM on January 14, 2008


Either one of them could have been replaced with say, a picture of a crescent wrench without affecting anything.

This is an interesting read. The swastika has a pretty long history as a design element, and its representation of the Nazi Party was largely influenced by Eastern spirituality. They could have used a crescent wrench, but there were reasons for using a swastika.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:52 PM on January 14, 2008


I find myself amused and irritated not so much by the fact that this is a hoax, but simply because they didn't have the courtesy to flesh it out fully and create the other three supposed images in the series. Those would have actually been interesting to see.

This reminds me a bit of the subliminal image that was inserted into some Coca Cola posters years ago. The page that link came from has a few more examples of similar hidden images in advertising.
posted by CheshireCat at 1:05 PM on January 14, 2008


Interesting stuff, CheshireCat. It makes me think of the bear hidden in the Toblerone mountain.
posted by WPW at 1:17 PM on January 14, 2008


Neither of those symbols [Nazi ones] changed the world. Either one of them could have been replaced with say, a picture of a crescent wrench without affecting anything.

Except for making crescent wrenches, or things that even LOOK like crescent wrenches, verboten in Western public life.
posted by JHarris at 1:32 PM on January 14, 2008


Great post.

I'm reminded of an Ed Ward essay that's one of the best pieces of rock and roll writing I've ever read. (Seriously, find the book if you can. Stranded: Rock and Roll for a Desert Island, edited by Greil Marcus. Lots of fine essays, but Ward takes the cake.)
posted by languagehat at 2:30 PM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]



It makes me think of the bear hidden in the Toblerone mountain.

The bear was added into the design in 2000. Also mentioned by swissmiss.
posted by globolin at 5:03 PM on January 14, 2008


I had figured the key to figuring out the hoax without research was that anti-depressants weren't around in the 50s, but it looks like the first was invented/discovered in 1951.

This isn't to say that I wasn't completely suckered by the first paragraph of the article, but, in retrospect, I'd guess it takes a 21st- (or late-20th-) century mindset to think it's not out of place to advertise antidepressants on street posters.
posted by nobody at 5:27 PM on January 14, 2008


totally cool. Thanks.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:43 PM on January 14, 2008


Neither of those symbols [Nazi ones] changed the world. Either one of them could have been replaced with say, a picture of a crescent wrench without affecting anything.

Except for making crescent wrenches, or things that even LOOK like crescent wrenches, verboten in Western public life.


Dammit. Why-oh-why didn't Hitler choose Calvin Peeing as the symbol for the Third Reich?
posted by straight at 11:23 AM on January 15, 2008


« Older Counting in groups of 12 the first performer claps...  |  The 10 Neatest Articles of 200... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments