MAJOR PROJECT REPORT
SAMAN SOHAIL MA GRAPHIC BRANDING & IDENTITY 2011
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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS INTRODUCTION BACKGROUND, WHAT?, WHY?, BRIEF
JOURNEY, METHODS, SURVEY, CONTEXT, ANALYSIS, ORGANISATION, OTHERS
TESTING, OUTCOME, CONTENT, RELEVANCE
CRITICAL REFLECTION BIBLIOGRAPHY
Thank you to my parents for giving me this amazing opportunity and my sisters for the constant support. My awesome London family for providing me with a perfect home filled with love and warmth. I would like to thank my tutors for their whimsical but interesting viewpoints and feedback throughout the duration of this project. Peers and friends on the MA GB&I course. We did it. My special friends Anushka, Zareen and Alizey for all the laughs, late night calls, stressing, complaining, travelling and an overall amazing year.
INTRODUCTION BACKGROUND WHAT ARE STEREOTYPES? WHY STEREOTYPES? BRIEF
“There has surprisingly been little empirical work on the origins of our stereotypes. In part, that is because these seem so obvious. After all, stereotypes are salient part of our culture. We see them exemplified on television and in the movies, and sometimes parents, teachers and other socialization agents deliberately or inadvertently preach them under the guise of conveying the wisdom of age. They are part of the culture air that we breathe.” (David J. Schneider) Studying design and its related fields bring in-depth studies into cultural and social patterns. In order to design for the masses, one needs to understand psychological needs and limitations within a targeted group. It is the brand’s job to determine and understand its consumer. My research has taken me into a study of groups within our society today as well, but these groups do not necessarily represent consumer markets, they represent sections of stereotypes. While consumer studies are a detailed study of people, stereotypes are generalizations, simplifications and mostly assumptions. It does not require a dictionary definition or a study of any sort to know that stereotypes are often overly simplified beliefs or representations, sort of like a vague recall of a more complex character, whether it is a person, an object or even a brand. There are a number of theorists who have discussed stereotypes, Walter Lippmann being one of the pioneers of the subject area. Lippmann was essentially a political writer and intellectual who discussed stereotypes within political agendas and how they affect “us”. Richard Dyer (1993) in his analysis of Lippmann’s writing, asks “who exactly are the ‘we and ‘us’ invoked by Lippmann? - Is it necessarily you and me?” (A theory that springs notions of inner groups and out groups within stereotypes). While Lippmann’s theories overall describe stereotypes as ‘shortcuts’ and ‘ordering processes’ which are not necessarily bad, on the other hand, academic Tessa Perkins (1979) writes that stereotypes are erroneous and rigid but often based on historical and sociological truths. 6
WHAT ARE STEREOTYPES
Definitions are the most crucial and basic part of understanding a word or a concept. The definition of stereotypes is, however, so varied across different theories and mindsets that it is difficult to describe it in one word or sentence. Below is a look over some of the definitions mentioned in The Psychology of stereotypes (Schneider,2004): “A stereotype refers to the folk beliefs about the attributes characterizing a social a category on which there is substantial agreement” (Mackie, 1973) “A belief that is simple, inadequately grounded or at least partially inaccurate and held with considerable assurance by many people” (Harding et all, 1969) “Whether favourable or unfavourable, a stereotype is a exaggerated belief associated with a category. Its function is to justify (rationalise) our conduct in relation to that category” (Allport, 1954) “Stereotype is a stimulus that arises standardized preconceptions which are influential in determining one’s response to the stimulus” (Edwards, 1940) We can gather from these that the word ‘belief’ is a recurring factor in most cases. This can obviously mean that they are: Self-made or based on real facts Individual or group perceptions True or false As the concept is universal, its true meaning can be argued forever. In my opinion, however, the last description (Edwards, 1940) most accurately describes my project and outcome as it talks about ‘stimulus’ (visuals in the context of my project) that triggers preconceptions.
“I notice increasing reluctance on the part of marketing executives to use judgment; they are coming to rely too much on research, and they use it as a drunkard uses a lamppost for support, rather than for illumination.” David Ogilvy I am a Muslim girl originally from Pakistan, lived all across the Middle East, hold a British passport and studied in the United Kingdom. Living out of my own country in a place where everyone is often of a different culture or colour, I have obviously often felt stereotyped for one reason or the other. Although this project is not about me, this was a topic I have always wanted to explore in terms of design. I believe that it is appropriate today, more than ever, as we live in a world where cultures overlap and most countries have some kind of an international population. Furthermore, stereotypes are not only race, gender or culture based; they can also be a style or music choice, which in turn makes them consumers as well. In the age of the Internet, ‘target audience’ is hardly a valid term. With information spreading far and wide, brands never know how their product will be used and preferred. Target markets are a good way for a brand to know how to present itself. Often times, brands begin to stereotype their consumers or other social groups usually for humour or in order to get the message across as quickly as possible. Infact, in recent times we have seen brands- new and even old- fail miserably in the market due to lack of consumer research. Brands need to understand that stereotyping can often border on offensive, especially if it plays with emotional aspects such as culture or religion. Although some people may be open minded or more accepting of these faults, there are always consumer and social groups who often do not tolerate stereotyping. On the other hand, there is also the case of existing brands sticking to stereotypes and not being able to diversify out of their original brand market as people associate them and their products with a certain consumer stereotype. A good example of this in recent times is various cosmetics brands like Dove, which is consid10
ered a very feminine brand because of its branding and visual material, diversifying into the male market by introducing a new hair care range.* I am also interested in the potential of graphic design to visualize a very theory-based sociological and psychological area; I believe that, although we may be unable to resolve the problem, at least, as Bruno Munari says, we can somehow publicise it, as knowing and identifying a problem is the first vital step towards awareness and thinking about possible solutions. It is not so much that graphic designers are powerful, but that stereotypes and time worn symbols are the designersâ€™ tools. We are sensitive to negative and offensive stereotypes but generally speaking, we rely on commonly understood signs to communicate to our vast audiences. (Heller, 2004) Brands explain a lot about the social structure of the time in which they exist. Evaluation of visuals in todayâ€™s brands will lead to a documented cultural and social study for educational or reference purposes as well. Brands can use this information to re-evaluate and re-think their consumer profiling and realise that users are more complex than just black and white.
STATEMENT OF INTENT
How can you encourage branding creatives to realise the importance of their audiences past existing stereotypes? To encourage branding creatives to realise the importance of thoroughly researching their audiences past the initial stereotypes. To show the wide variety of stereotypes that exist in modern society To produce a guide to stereotypes in an attempt to show creatives “what not to do” when considering certain groups. Carry out my outcome in a way that my above intentions become obvious through the end product with a more visual solution.
AIMS & OBJECTIVES
Traditionally as designers, before we design, we are required to explore and research our target market and its preferences in relation to our brand. In modern society, with the spread of information we often do not realise the potential of our designs, where technology would take them and who would use/view them. Identifying a main audience for a project is therefore becoming increasingly tricky and it is very easy to base our work on existing knowledge about our audience. I aim to achieve the following through this project. To highlight the importance and quick-wittedness of stereotypes in the context of branding and marketing. To create a humorous ‘reference guide’ of stereotypes that exist various parts of modern society, in order to highlight the fact that they are often misjudged and misrepresented. To produce a witty piece of design and highlight that the term ‘target audience’ has much more depth than popular belief suggests. To give a new meaning to the word ‘target audience’ and change perceptions of branding creatives through a guide that essentially tells them ‘what not to do’. 12
METHODOLOGY RESEARCH JOURNEY RESEARCH METHODS SURVEY CONTEXT IDENTIFICATION AND ANALYSIS
ORGANISATION OTHER RELEVANT PROJECTS
My research was started off by looking into the topic of stereotypes in general as well as in the context of branding, exploring basic and common stereotypes such as culture, religion, gender and age. These areas gave me a basic insight into my topic and its relevance and theories in the past and today. I deduced that in some ways or the other people are much more tolerant of stereotypes these days than they were in the past when it is imposed in a non-abusive and impersonal manner. Since the there were volumes of research to be done in each area, I quickly got interested in religious stereotypes, mostly looking to real-world research and observation including taking to people and interacting through various forums online. I got a lot of responses involving mainly mostly Islamic stereotypes and loosely the Arab culture stereotypes. The context of this research was mainly media like news, books and television. Critical feedback at this point: Through further exploration, it was obvious that the topic was becoming less visually resolvable. Through feedback I realised that although the topic was controversial, it lacked substance and a freshness element. My topic was required to be more refined and clear in meaning. Going back to initial ideas, I started to dissect definitions of stereotypes in terms of objects, activities, clothing and what makes a stereotype in general. What are the characteristics that people have in order for them to be a stereotype or group? What objects or activities do we relate to particular stereotypes and why? During the summer, I explored stereotypical traits and characteristics theoretically and visually. This allowed me to identify certain areas and topic within the subject of stereotypes that I wanted to work on or research further, for example: modern stereotypes, subcultures or only stereotypical objects etc. I also started to collect visual, type and colour references for the overall look and feel of the final outcome. After doing preliminary research and some experimen14
tation to come up with outcome ideas, it was important to investigate further. A survey of 65 people or varied ages and backgrounds was conducted to analyse the following: What they thought were popular stereotypes. What stereotypes (if any) they had related to certain objects shown in the survey. What objects they could think of and relate to stereotypes. This was a turning point in my research as a lot of material came up in the survey that I could now explore visually. The survey proved that people recognise and form stereotypes across various groups, whether religious, cultural, style-based or gender based. Because we are exposed to all these groups at once and one person can belong to more than one stereotype (age, culture, religion and so on), my final outcome had to reflect all these sub-categories. After much experimentation and further investigation, I decided to develop a project that would address all sorts of stereotypes and also make it relevant to branding. At first, I started to mainly research sub-cultures in modern society and started profiling these people, their personalities and their lifestyle choices. Still keeping it relevant to branding, I initially developed a website called the “Stereotype Supermarket”. The main goal of all my visuals was to keep it relevant to my subject and at the same make it humorous and as light hearted as possible as well. As I experimented with the website further and got helpful tutor feedback, I realised that idea of doing the website lacked substance, it readily became a “stereotypical” solution for the project. I used this time for contemplation and even more research into subcultures as well as going back to initial research about basic stereotypes.
As my outcome, I have made a “Visual guide to stereotypes”. Mainly for branding creatives and designers, it is a guide that importantly illustrates ‘what not to do’ but never states it and also humorously tackles the subject of stereotypes in a visual manner. The main point I have made with this project is that we as designers need to explore our audiences more than just what they seem on the surface. This is important for us in order to add more substance to our work and communicate better through the brands we create.
Pepsi vs. Coke (stereotypical comparison) Pepsi endorses pop stars whereas coke has built its image as a higher end product by producing limited edition bottles (these were designed by famous fashion designer Roberto Cavalli)
intolerant happy backward hated ignorant divided annoying nice
clever greedy successful rich hated
Muslims Christians Jews
*Religious stereotypes based on Google search algorithm
A heavily robed, evil looking Jafaar from Disney’s Aladdin. Moustapha Akkad’s movie The Message shows the story of Islam and how it was spread across the world. Screenshot from 1960s American sitcom “I dream of Jeannie” references exotic Arab culture through costumes.
Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought. Albert Szent-Gyorgyi My initial research was web based where I would type in keywords about stereotypes and just educate myself and form preliminary opinions. Once I had a number of ideas to work around, I started to do visual research through books and the web. At this stage, I conducted and experiment with Google’s “auto-complete” feature that gives the user the most popular search queries. Based on what the user is searching for, auto-complete will complete the sentence/word for them. This brought about surprising phrases about different religions that I recorded for this experiment. At this point my findings were limited to general ideas of stereotyping and existing visual material that I found was quite scattered and a lot of visuals were just mostly from stock libraries. Moving on, I also considered ideas in branding through reading journals and some public brand strategy documents. The next phase in my research was when a lot of interesting theoretical and philosophical ideas started to come forth. I studied various theories in a variety of contexts including political, and sociological. I analysed the theories of Walter Lippmann, a pioneer in the subject area, Richard Dyer who further analysed Lippmann’s work and theories and Tessa Perkins, who was an academic and also produced a paper on the topic of stereotype theories and reasons. After more and more thorough research and experimentation through the summer, my research question slowly started to take shape and as mentioned in the last section, a survey was designed and conducted with 67 people. Further on, all my research was based on sub-cultures by reading various books, forums and talking to people first-hand. I also collated earlier material about religions, cultures and all other kinds of stereotypes.
As mentioned earlier, I carried out an anonymous online survey to collect more project-specific information while my final output started to take shape. Survey was divided into the following three parts: General information (age and ethnicity) Description/name of some stereotypes the person knew of. These could be popular, personal (their own opinions) or community based. Pictures of two objects were shown and the person had to relate it to a stereotype (if any). They were then asked to list objects they associated with certain stereotypes. To end the survey, I asked for a final comment or any references they would like to share with me in relation to my topic. This survey was specifically designed to get the exact information I needed to precede my project. As the stereotypes in my outcome were supposed to be based on popular belief and not my own, the answers I got from this survey, supported by my own research, shaped the content of my final project. Following is an analysis of the results.
Which of the following age ranges describes you best? <18
Which of the following describes your ethnicity? AFRICAN CA CAU
Can you name/describe some stereotypes you can think of. These can be popular/personal/community or based. Anything you can think of. Italians - speak loud, pasta eaters, French - frogeaters, English - snobs, Americans - aggresive & stupid, Arabs generally unpleasant people, Poles - liars, lazy benefit seekers, Lithuanians/Latvian - don't speak any languages, women of easy virtue, Estonians - very slow people, Russians - alchoholics, violent, authocratic Religious: Jewish orthodox- marry their relatives, hateful about other Jewish people, Judaists - killed Jesus, Catholics - pedofiles, Muslim - terrorists, dreadfully treat their women, Russian orthodox - corrupted. Emos, punks, skinheads, rockers Dumb blondes, muslim burqas Black Americans are good at football Japanese are genius Loser nerds/geeks, shrewd jews, terrorist muslims, stupid americans, rich arabs, dumb blondes, angry sikhs, immoral russians
Does the following item remind you of a stereotype? theif, black, skateboarder, gangster, criminal, youngsters, hooligans, drug seller, chav, teenager, mugger
CEO, posh, rich, highclass, american, luxury, preppy, elite, old person, wealthy businessman, upperclass
Please name some objects that you associate with certain stereotypes. Chicken - black people, thick rimmed glasses - hipsters, tea - british people Xbox, nerd glasses, dreadlocks Hoody, Hijab, Asian chopsticks Goth: Victorian style attire Gothic rock / death rock music dark color makeup Blacks with a joint bimbo with huge boobs kids with nintendo blacks: gold chains, loose clothes, weapons on body Hoodie, head scarf, turban
I have conducted my research in a number of contexts so far in topics ranging from branding, movies, books, design and media (television, news). In design contexts, I have mainly focused on branding and how brands present themselves through various stereotypes. Richard Dyer (1993) notices “Lippmann refers to stereotypes as a projection on to the ‘world’. Although he is not concerned primarily to distinguish stereotypes from modes of representation whose principal concern is not the world, it is important for us to do so, especially as our focus is representations in media (or design), which are aesthetic as well as social constructs.” As Dyer talks about the media having an aesthetic as well as a social responsibility, I applied the same principal can to branding in my research as brands and design mould our society and culture, often in terms of living standards. We depend on services and products and refer to them as “essentials”. The ways they look shape our society’s visual memory, aesthetics and decisions. The theoretical context of my study has mostly come from journals that study social group patterns, studies about brand outlooks and how they are planned, for example the Duke Journal of Gender, Law and Policy* and Journal of Advertising*. I have also researched books about visual stereotypes and how groups are presented to us in our daily life, such as Images That Injure (Pictorial Stereotypes in the Media)*. Most of my initial resources came from media and popular culture based references, but often times the theories can easily be applied to branding and design. This is because design and brands play an equally important role in building people’s perceptions about other cultural groups.
IDENTIFICATION AND ANALYSIS
“Progress means simplifying, not complicating” Bruno Munari During my exploration, I came across a student-led publication that had based a whole issue around the topic of stereotypes. The introduction discussed the following, which I found to be very crucial to the organisation of my research: “Identity categories do not exist independently but rather intersect with other such categories. We are multifaceted beings and define ourselves along a variety of dimensions: age, sex, race, religion and so on.” The first step in researching a broad topic like stereotypes was to develop an ordered list that I could follow. This list would also go on to become the content structure for my book. The list was arranged in order of importance in life: Gender Ethnicity/culture Religion Age Music Choice Style Sub-lists that I made for each category followed this list. I then compiled old research and found that I already had a lot of information to work with, but continued to explore each of these sub-categories further and narrowed down what topics I will be covering in the book. To keep the book relevant to designers, I also explored various typefaces used for each of these categories by looking at shop windows, websites, books etc. each section finishes with suggestions of what kinds of clichéd typefaces are used when designing for that particular stereotype. This also encourages the designer to explore newer typefaces and not the obvious clichés. 22
OTHER RELEVANT PROJECTS
1/ Mapping Stereotypes by alphadesigner With the strap line “the geography of prejudice” This is a series of world map posters with “stereotypes according to..” different countries and different aspects for example the world according to America and world according to penis size.
2/ Visualising gender stereotypes by Valentina Dâ€™efilippo (LCC Major Project) This project explores gender stereotyping and is filled with interesting visuals and a wonderfully designed survey. The outcome was a book based on gender stereotypes.
OUTCOME TESTING THE DESIGNER’S GUIDE TO STEREOTYPES CONTENT RELEVANCE
Throughout the making of my output, I tested web, books and charts, trying to decide which one works best to make my point. Through much feedback, and deliberation, I settled with the idea of the book, as it felt more visually exciting and appropriate for the output. Also, together with my printer, I did a lot of test prints to come to a decision about appropriate papers and sizes.
Showing a clear position within a project that mostly consists of visuals can be quite tricky. I experimented with drawings, photography and illustration. Settling on the illustrative style, as it is flat, simple and leaves much to the imagination and lets the readers make their own decisions. I also took this is a challenge to myself as it was a visual style that I had never attempted before. I did a lot of tests with scale, colour and repetition in order to find what was best to show the significance of certain visuals. Testing these with every visual I created, it was agreed with tutor feedback that each visual should be treated differently. Most of them are repetitive; these were usually very obvious and popular stereotypes; while some of them are treated with scale, they are mostly simplistic but signify some sort of importance as well.
Since my book is designed in a certain order, it also does not have page numbers or a table to contents so the reader goes through it as intended. I also created an overall checklist in my proposal that I kept referring back to throughout my research, output and design: Does the project answer all the guidelines within the brief? Test the idea with a small group of people. Is the work accessible enough to be understood by your target audience? Critically analysing and improving through feedback.
THE DESIGNER’S GUIDE TO STEREOTYPES
My final outcome is a book called “The Designer’s Guide to Stereotypes”. Essentially, a visual record of stereotypes in modern thinking, this book states what designers should not do. It is also a reflection upon how we might be treating and judging faceless audience. More than anything it is a subtle nudge and encouragement for designers to design and investigate past stereotypes.
The overall language of this book is very visual and graphic based and text is rarely used. The content is divided into the following chapters and subchapters: Gender Male Memale Ethnicity/culture Asian (south and east) Middle Eastern African American European Religion Muslim Christian Jewish Buddhism Hinduism Age Baby Teen Young adult Old age Music Choice County Metal Pop Hip Hop Punk Style Modern style stereotypes Typefaces (based on the above categories)
Today, more so than ever, personal preferences and consumer choices have become of essence to brands. We also know that as humans, we always have traits that make us part of a group and give us a sense of belonging but breaking away and finding our own is equally as natural. As we progress in life, so does the material world around us and we, as designers need to be sensitive to this change. Apart from just being a reference book for designers, it can also serve as an interesting and visually rich book for those interested in art and design as well as a reference for social issues ad ideologies of our times.
One of the most important things I have learnt from this project was the importance of research, research and more research. As designers we need to understand that even though some or a lot of aspects of our research do not feed into our final designs visually, it does refine and shape our opinions for the better and in turn makes us better designers. Although I do admit that taking on the huge subject of stereotypes was very risky, but I have learnt so much from the research, feedback and experience through this topic. One of the most important things I achieved as a designer in my opinion was the translation of theoretical material into visuals.
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