Writing on the Wall
June 2, 2010 10:59 AM   Subscribe

Good 50x70 is an annual poster contest run by a worldwide partnership. Each year they ask seven charities to prepare briefs on major global issues, and then invite anyone to submit original posters that address the issue. The call for 2010 posters is now on; explore the archives from previous years to see posters on health care access, the War on Terror, women's rights, child mortality, water scarcity, global warming, and more.
posted by Miko (22 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Oh, designers, I love you so much, but really.

Stop making posters. Go plant trees.
posted by rokusan at 11:23 AM on June 2, 2010

punctuating what rokusan said.
posted by infini at 11:34 AM on June 2, 2010

Aside from the people who visit this niche website, who sees these posters?
posted by tuck_nroll at 11:39 AM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

50x70 pixels amirite

posted by DU at 11:54 AM on June 2, 2010

Combining the snark above, it'd be nice if people got out and got involved in health care politics, armed with signs and educational material leagues better than the Tea Party HURF DURF OBAMAHITLER.


1. Ask permission;
2. Make postcards;
3. Send them to your local and state/provincial representatives, hand them out on the street, or do whatever.

What we have here is a bunch of people that have invested time and effort to create (with varying success) tools to help people communicate. Maybe you feel that their time would have been better spent otherwise, but I respect the effort and talent involved in creating the tools.

Design won't change the world by itself, but there's nothing saying that these designers aren't also planting trees and working in soup kitchens, as well as helping promote worthwhile causes by giving people a toolkit of images and symbols they can use to help support a message they care about.

They've done more to promote awareness of health care injustice than I have today, or this week, or this month. So I can't really piss on them while blowing time browsing MetaFilter.
posted by Shepherd at 11:57 AM on June 2, 2010 [3 favorites]

I forgot to say thanks for the post. Thanks for the post, Miko!
posted by Shepherd at 11:58 AM on June 2, 2010

I understand that it may seem like people who design posters aren't doing much. And yet when you witness the power of propaganda as practiced every single day by the government and the private sector, it's clear that it does do something. And in (even recent) American history, poster campaigns have created an impact.

So while I deride do-nothings as much as the next person, I'm not sure that this is a worthless activity, especially since most people are unlikely to encounter these messages unless Bono is wearing them. As far as whether the posters are ever displayed: good question. Some posters are available for download, so you could post some yourself if it's an issue of concern to you, and the charities themselves can request any poster they would like. Good 50x70 does offer workshops and networking.
posted by Miko at 12:00 PM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't get the criticism either - these are some eye-catching designs on issues of international interest and the results are made available for free. What's not to like? I'm certainly thinking already about how organisations I know in Scotland can get using some of these.
posted by imperium at 12:02 PM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I take very strong exception to rokusan and infini.

Stop making posters. Go plant trees.

Caring, political discourse should be encouraged and nurtured as part a holistic approach to public life. We get enough discouragement from the world of work, which often telling us to stop making ideological posters and go make money. Snark and emotional trampling does not help.

Even better, 50x70 makes the designs available for use by charities and NGOs. This is *fantastic*, since we usually don't have much resource for marketing, especially charities whose donors force us to minimize overhead.

Thanks Miko - this is fantastic!
posted by honest knave at 12:05 PM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

These things always remind me what a lazy designer I am.
posted by The Whelk at 12:16 PM on June 2, 2010

I work as a professional graphic designer, and while I agree that what Good 50x70 is doing here is beneficial, my question above is a genuine one; who sees these designs?
Often I've taken the opportunity to do a project pro bono for a good cause only to have the final piece posted on some marginally trafficked website and only seen by other designers. I guess I'd feel better about it if I knew these pieces were being shown to the NGOs they're intended to promote, but from what I can tell this is designers making posters for other designers.

charities themselves can request any poster they would like.

This is a step in the right direction, though.
posted by tuck_nroll at 12:20 PM on June 2, 2010

This one looks like a movie poster for a Rob Schneider vehicle.
posted by munchingzombie at 12:24 PM on June 2, 2010

I wasn't expecting much. Seems like there's a lot of mediocre stuff out there and that the importance of the issue is inversely proportional to the quality of the design. Not so, here. Good stuff, thanks.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:33 PM on June 2, 2010

I spoke from the past experience of having been on the UNESCO Design 21 juries for both the climate change communication design contest as well as the use protected forest wood among other such competitions and initiatives and seeing the outcomes of those beautiful results. (or rather, the lack thereof) Shall I disclaim that I'm a member of their Advisory Board in order to underscore my point?

I was flippant I agree and that may not convey my thoughts as well on a platform such as Metafilter.

However, truck_nroll makes the key point regarding my thoughts far better than I have done so today:

Often I've taken the opportunity to do a project pro bono for a good cause only to have the final piece posted on some marginally trafficked website and only seen by other designers. I guess I'd feel better about it if I knew these pieces were being shown to the NGOs they're intended to promote, but from what I can tell this is designers making posters for other designers.

All too often I have seen design to improve life or for social impact or whathave you win numerous awards or accolades by designers but never quite make the actual impact or improvement they were intended to do so.

This not only diminishes the value of powerful communication design but also ends up making the design industry, of which I am a part and parcel of, seem frivolous dilettantes "helping the poor" or some such.

I'd rather a youngster take an initiative like this one "Design for the First World" and actually make a powerful and much needed point in today's world than yet another altruistic, pink fuzzy glasses, do goodish design movement.

I won't say any further but have seen only too many of these confabs dissolve internally into ego trips and power tussles resulting in little or no impact.

that is all.
posted by infini at 12:37 PM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Infini and RTR are more polite that I was, but it sounds like they have had similar experiences with such competitions: there's about a 95 percent circle-jerk when it comes to actually doing anything. I've also acted as a judge for poster competitions, and yes, the holier-than-thou bullshit level can really get neck-high sometimes. Imagine a hundred hipster musicians all congratulating each other about their latest "We Are The World"-style benefit song. It's like that.

I respect good design, even good design that won't ever be seen in the wild, and there's nothing wrong with celebrating good work in any field. It's only when one adds the airs of making some sort of social difference with it that my bullshit detector starts to blink.

I have other designer friends who refer to this sort of pompousness by saying that so-and-so is "busy changing the world". Maybe that cynicism has cut into me a bit too deep to be objective about it here.

To be positive in an effort to not crap on the thread, sorry... (the effort, it burns): there are some nice pieces of work here that are worth a look.
posted by rokusan at 1:15 PM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I understand the critique. As someone distant from the art and design world, I am probably not as jaded. I, for one, would really like to see this kind of work out in the street more often.
posted by Miko at 1:39 PM on June 2, 2010

To honor the biggest sporting event of the year, ESPN and New York ad agency Wieden + Kennedy made 32 original posters, one for each participating country at World Cup 2010 hosted in South Africa.
posted by netbros at 3:24 PM on June 2, 2010

Imagine a hundred hipster musicians all congratulating each other about their latest "We Are The World"-style benefit song. It's like that.

miko, I hear what you are saying and I realize that cynicism comes easy, especially in this venue and with the experience of what rokusan has said so well but I find myself having gone beyond the "lets do work that counts for someone" and more into "can we transfer skills and knowledge on effective communication or a more user friendly product or a tad better construction to those who need it the most"?

there's a billion creative entreprenuers across the world who work without any formal education in design or related fields and they're hungry for knowledge. what if experienced designers took a year's sabbatical and went to one of these communities - kind of like a peace corps for designers, to quote a friend - and simply shared their learning and knowledge? now that, to me, would be "design for impact"
posted by infini at 10:26 PM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

that, to me, would be "design for impact"

A great idea. Who's going to start it?
posted by Miko at 5:53 AM on June 3, 2010

See Design for America. The new website isn't up yet, things have been moving much too fast, but we're hoping to file for 501(c)3 in the next 6-9 months. Currently, the students and their pro-bono coaches from the design community, plus faculty at NU have tackled hand hygiene problems, water waste in institutional settings, barriers to childhood diabetes self-care habits, etc.

A handful of NU folks (faculty and students) set up a design studio separate from curriculum and that studio focuses on interdisciplinary, design projects that produce a social impact. To make it work, projects have a number of constraints (local, observable, scalable, etc.). A human-centered design methodology and set of frameworks is taught to student participants, and professional designers from the community act as process and subject matter coaches for the projects.

In this way, student enthusiasm and manpower is partnered up with design experience (and the designers are thrilled to have an opportunity to work on social impact projects, faculty see opportunities for applying theory and data gathering for research), and that partnership benefits hospitals, not-for-profits, local eco-oriented projects, etc.

Most projects have been product, service, and/or work flow design projects (with some change management and communication design). The type of design used depends upon the data uncovered during the user research phase. Currently, the teams take a design project all the way through user research, ideation, concept testing, prototyping, and looks-like and lo-fi works-like prototype testing. At this point, a plan is created with the client for a hand off, but more frameworks for implementation and follow-up are being designed into DFA process (in fact, during a strategy meeting this week, the students decided that if we couldn't figure out a way to make implementation a part of the DFA program, they would consider the program to not be worth pursuing. And these are students who have given over ALL of their free time and the money they've won from design awards to the fostering of this group).

Two other studios have begun at Cornell and Dartmouth. Around 8-10 additional higher education institutions have approached us for help in starting new studios (Stanford, IIT/ID, etc.) We've had interest from institutions in a number of countries (so we're looking into how that would work..."Design for India?")

It's exciting, and it is an enormous amount of work that is moving very quickly. Right now, we've had a lot of enthusiasm from many different groups, and we're pursuing grant money to fund more studio support initiatives. But designing for impact is complex and multifaceted, and there are many potential barriers to impact that may have nothing to do with the quality of the solution that has been designed. Even having the time to do the projects AND circle back around and tell the stories AND have the man hours to go back and gather data on the implementations and results is ridiculously difficult. Oh, yeah. And work and go to school and sleep during the same period. But it is so, so, so worthwhile.
posted by jeanmari at 9:33 PM on June 3, 2010 [3 favorites]

I should also mention that Design for America is driven in the belief that everyone can be a designer. Everyone can be taught design thinking, design methods and frameworks. That there are no "designers" who stand apart from other members of the teams. All of the students--in engineering, medicine, biology, psychology, music, art, whatever--receive the same instruction in design methods and then bring their major expertise to the projects. As one of the students, Yuri, stated, "DFA is about democratizing design." So, the solution isn't to turn designers loose on social problems. The solution is to give everyone who wants them the tools to design their own solutions.
posted by jeanmari at 9:45 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

But designing for impact is complex and multifaceted, and there are many potential barriers to impact that may have nothing to do with the quality of the solution that has been designed.

Romdoul Kim who is with INSTEDD in Cambodia said in a conference presentation in March that the biggest challenge to implementing programmes meant for social and economic devt was politics - the slideshows are all down from the site else i'd link to it - interesting to note that Alison Arieff ends this article today with:

The low-cost innovations in health, shelter, energy and transport for the 5.8 billion people globally with little or no access not only to most products and services but also to food, shelter or clean water have become the sort of things young designers want to engage with today. (Though creating smart business models for this work may be the most challenging of design projects they could undertake.) “Why Design Now?” might well have been called “What Should Designers Do Now?”

posted by infini at 11:55 PM on June 3, 2010

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