If you’re doing it out of stupidity, very often artists will
let’s say, to make a piece. [“The student will say] well, that
take foreign languages, Cyrillic or Arabic or something,
doesn’t work because that’s actually a very sacred image.
and use the letterforms because they look good, and you end
You shouldn’t do that.” So that’s how it comes out. But it’s
up saying something stupid or offensive. The Japanese
not a matter, at least at this level, of pointing a finger and
do this all the time. They take English and they kind of rejig-
saying, “Don’t do that.” I think students are much more
ger it and every so often it comes off in an offensive manner.
aware of it now than they were 10 years ago, 20 years ago.
But around the world there are different standards and different cultures, and advertising is international enough where they try to appeal to those particular groups. That’s the kind of thing that is both questionable and acceptable depending on the context. When you work as an instructor at SVA and deal with students from different cultures, how do you advise your students on negotiating territories between visual metaphor and stereotypes?
We seem to be more aware of stereotypes used in advertising today than previously, but we still see so many appearing in advertising and design work. Your students are very aware of it, so why is there this difference between people who are aware and who aren’t? Stereotype is still a tool of advertising and popular art. You can’t get away from stereotypes. It’s just how the stereotype is used. The stereotype expands from the white family with two children and a car in the garage to a black family
I don’t. I have a lecture where I talk about this material from
with two children and a car in the garage. It really depends
a historical standpoint. The fact of the matter is in all
on context. In order to appeal to a broad audience, you still
the time that I’ve had the MFA design program as co-chair,
have to become more universal and often stereotypical. If
I haven’t come across any of that. It’s funny. People just
you use the word stereotype in a negative way, then it’s
kind of ... Either they have a very good reason for what they
going to be…“I’m looking at all this stuff that is bad.” If you
do, and if they have a very good reason, then I’m content
look at simply in a dispassionate way, as these are mu-
to see something done and then let the public become the
tiples, these are assumptions, these are generalizations, then
arbiter, or it just never happens. It’s strange, it’s just not
you take them each on their own merit.
as a big of an issue. I have one class where I ask students to bring in images that they would find offensive and they’re able to find them, but they find them as objects of humor that have just gone awry, where the person who did it just doesn’t have the skills to make the joke work. And a lot of what they come up with is really in more ignorance than it is malicious. We have so many foreign students, they can see what is wrong when a native-born student uses one of their images,