Sunday, April 24, 2011

Encuentros: Opening Minds

 Poster design © Taylor Barnes and the Encuentros Leadership Project, 2011

I just finished a design project near and dear to my heart for the Encuentros Leadership Project. I created a poster to help kids stay in school. In the process of trying to come up with an image that would simultaneously reach out to young Latino students culturally, as well as deliver a message to stay in school, it struck me once again the power of design in public places.

This poster will go up in hundreds of classrooms and meeting places where it will become part of the subliminal background of these student's lives. This particular image delivers a positive message but what about the multitude of negative and racial stereotypes they will visually encounter on a daily basis? As a designer I feel a responsibility to put as many positive images into the world as I can.

Once, when I had my multicultural publishing company, Miller Brewing approached me to design a line of images that would target young African Americans for a fundraising event. It posed an ethical dilemma since I knew they did extensive advertising in the African American community, where alcoholism among young black men was a problem. I risked discussing this moral dilemma with the Vice President at Miller Brewing and in the end we decide to minimize the presence of their logo since the money was going to provide college scholarships to historically black colleges. I remember feeling awkward bringing the subject up but in the end we were in agreement that we wanted the money to go to a worthy cause. At least it was a decision I could live with.

One of the reasons I love graphic design is the power to affect people's lives and become part of the fabric of their memories. Of course it could also drive us to drink - and smoke - and a million other things we shouldn't do. Designer's can't always afford to take the moral high ground (since we still need to pay the bills) but when we can, we should.