I’m not a graphic designer. I can throw a bunch of stuff together and make something that looks halfway decent, but don’t think of that as design.
I try to notice good design when I see it, though, and in this age of history it’s all over the place. Not everywhere, mind you – there will always be people with no use for designers, who think they can throw something together using Microsoft’s word art and save themselves some money. But it seems like designers have far more work now than they did 20 years ago, because aesthetics matter in this age.
Even if you’re a small business, a poorly designed sign drives away customers. Having an appealing logo matters much like having an appealing name – both are abstract representations of an actual thing, and as such influence people’s perception of the thing itself.
Big companies realize this, and as such use their logo to change people’s perception about them. Think of BP. Here’s a company that makes billions extracting carbon from the ground to sell to consumers, who in turn burn it. If global warming is real they – and their customers, which is all of us – profit by causing the environment harm. But we’d rather not believe that.
BP realized this, so they went green. Literally. They changed their logo to a green and yellow flower. To look at that logo you’d think BP exclusively made windmills, solar panels and kittens who adorably gather static electricity.
Most of us know, on some level, that our fossil-fuel-based lifestyle is unsustainable. Even if we don’t destroy the environment – which we probably will – at some point we will run out of oil. That’s just the reality of any finite resource.
So when we see BP’s flower logo we trust it. It’s not conscious, but something about that logo makes us think BP has a plan, that they’ll eventually move on from oil so we don’t need to worry about anything.
The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico did that logo some damage, but BP sticks with it. It’s on screen during commercials about their efforts to help people in the gulf, commercials that feature windmills and fishing boats and animals not drenched in oil.
It’s cheaper to buy the perception of caring than it is to actually care, but that’s not my point. My point is that design is powerful, and it is. Take it seriously, and think about it critically.