Blog Category: Visual Advocacy

The First Step is Giving a Shit, Then You Do the Hokey-Pokey

By Erika Goering,

Design with Intent

User-centered design is a method of designing for function and ease-of-use before anything else. The problem with this is that the designers involved are encouraged to not impose their biases onto the design process. This ties in with what we’ve already been talking about in class, which is whether it’s appropriate or even necessary for a designer to be an advocate for what he/she does. I think it actually boils down to whether a designer is passionate about design or not. A designer should always be an advocate on some level; design is problem-solving, and to solve a problem well, you must first give a shit. My point is that user-centered design is supposed to integrate seamlessly with the user’s needs and lifestyle. That’s something to advocate for, even if you leave your other personal biases out of it.

So then, is neutrality even possible as a designer? Can a designer truly be neutral? We’re always advocating for something; whether it’s “big” or “small.” I would argue that the only way to be truly neutral is to be apathetic. To be a designer is to give a shit about something, from the smallest aesthetic element to the largest conceptual project.


The Designer as Producer

The power of the future lies in the hands of designers who are also entrepreneurs. They can change the market. Hell, they can change the fucking world. I’ve always believed that straddling the line between design and, really, anything else is the key to success. For me, I try to keep one foot in design, while the other foot hops between development/programming and entrepreneurship (I do the hokey-pokey). This cross-discipline dance brings some new perspectives and innovation in each field I’ve stepped in. (That’s what it’s all about.)


Graphic Authorship

An author is a creator with a voice. Which, yet again, ties into our semester-long conversation on design as an involved activity, rather than a passive, apathetic experience.

Authorship implies ownership, and ownership leads to a feeling of pride for one’s work. As the reading said so well, author = authority.

Another take on graphic authorship is the literal author who writes about design. In which case, all of us hold this position. (I mean, we all have blogs, do we not?)

  Filed under: KCAI, Learning, Read&Respond, Visual Advocacy
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Rosedale Middle School Audience

By Erika Goering,


How can we lower the obesity rate among Rosedale Middle School students?


  • Middle-school-age kids (from 11–13 years old) in Rosedale.
  • They know the basic facts of nutrition and exercise, but they are not ready to implement the knowledge they have been given.


  • 51% of kids in Rosedale are obese.
  • Average income is $37,000
  • 89% of kids are on the free lunch program.
  • Kids who eat school lunch are 29% more likely to be overweight.

Social Behavior We Want to Change:

We want to change the eating habits of middle school kids by exposing them to healthier choices.

How We’ll Measure the Results:

We’ll be able to see whether the obesity rate lowers.

  Filed under: KCAI, Learning, Visual Advocacy
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Social Dissent and Graphic Propaganda

By Erika Goering,

One of the reasons why I love graphic design is because we have the ability to voice our opinions through our unique means of communicating. We are experts at representing a concept with something visual or usable.

Dissent is the force that drives this intense visual design. When people disagree, their opinions intensify. This tension can be great for design, and even greater for progress. Having that deep desire to change something in society is what perpetuates progress and improvement.

Protest graphics and propaganda media are really strong ways to make an opinion known. Sometimes so strong, in fact, that people become highly offended or agitated. Hitting people in the gut, so to speak, is a very effective way to make a memorable impression.

Specifically, the Constructivist movement gave striking visuals to a strong point of view. The relationship between Constructivism and political/social awareness was a symbiotic one; messages became stronger as visuals became more intense. And creating & using symbols for groups of people gave designers visual elements to represent the people they focused on.

But have we become desensitized to the bold, striking visuals of propaganda posters and Constructivism? Our culture is becoming increasingly louder, more intense, bigger. We’ve begun occupying the digital space, where we can now target who we want to speak to, as well as how.

Guerilla marketing and grassroots efforts can take us back to those roots of propaganda posters and small-scale activism. But extending that to a digital, online space can potentially be the happy medium between mass media and highly targeted awareness. And with the Internet, our natural human persistence is even stronger because of our ability to post in multiple places and “go viral.”

  Filed under: KCAI, Learning, Read&Respond, Visual Advocacy
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Two Approaches to Social Design: Focused Advocacy & the Big Picture

By Erika Goering,

Response to Good Citizenship and Design Thinking: A Useful Myth

The  main points made in the two readings were very different. One leaned heavily to the belief in focused, perhaps even biased design. The other was all about looking at a design problem as a component of a larger issue. Both of these strategies have legitimate importance, and I think it’s always wise to keep an open mind about which approach is the one to take for a particular project.

I will emphasize that it should be on a per-project basis and not a one-size-fits-all approach.

Social design and visual advocacy, as with any topic in design, is a highly varied and variable subject, and should be handled with care and consideration specific to the project’s own needs.

There is a time and a place to present your own focused set of values to a client or project. Concentrating on your own beliefs and values works very well when you have a vested interest in your design and its circumstances. Inversely, “big picture” problem solving is a good way to reach outside of a niche and find/address the other working parts of the social machine.

These two readings are hard and soft, subjective and objective, local and global, respectively. And there’s a legitimate purpose for each in their own realms.

Objectivity doesn’t mean soulless or distant. There will always be a piece of you in what you design.

  Filed under: KCAI, Learning, Read&Respond, Visual Advocacy
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