A number of authors have discussed how consumerism effects the legitimacy and the deeper importance of graphic design. Garland, K. 'The First Things First Manifesto (1964);
Poyner, Lasn et al (2000) ' The First Things First Manifesto 2000'; Poyner, R. (2000) 'First
Things First Revisited' and Beirut, M. (2007) 'Ten Footnotes to a Manifesto' have all considered how designing for consumer purposes effects the meaning of graphic design. For example Garland first proposed the anti- consumer agenda when he wrote the first things first manifesto, 1964 where he states 'we are proposing a reversal of priorities in favour of the more useful and more lasting forms of communication. We hope that our society will tire of gimmick merchants, status salesmen and hidden persuaders, and that the prior call on our skills will be for worthwhile purposes.' This is also supported by Poynor, Lasn et al in 2000 when they propose ' a reversal of priorities' just as Garland had, they go on to a similar proposition 'in favour of more useful, lasting and democratic forms of communication- a mindshift away from product marketing and toward the exploration and production of a new kind of meaning.'
The intention to switch to an ethical and purposeful design is agreed by both of the authors. The images above relate to more to Beirut (2007) 'Ten Footnotes to a Manifesto' in which he discusses the works of the other authors and how feasible they are in reality. On the one hand images 1 and 2 are examples of work with an ethical/ social message, but image 3 supports an entirely unethical message, and speaks to the consumer.
Beirut poses the idea that you can be neither one of the other 'like many cultural institutions, they are supported by the philanthropy from many large corporations...' outlining the fact that there is no clear good, and this can be said for the images above, on the one hand the company is promoting the fact the workers have rights, they aren't slaves and they have a fair job , (example 1) it is saying that american apparel is against unfair treatment of its workers, a good social campaign, as is example 2 where the company had a campaign for gay rights and so you could say that the company is for social rights and that they are good according to Poynor, Lasn et al who state 'there are pursuits more worthy of our problem-solving skills. Unprecedented environmental, social and cultural crises demand our attention.' which is true in image two's case, gay rights is a big social issue in america, and Garland also supports this idea and takes it further by suggesting 'the other media through which we promote our trade, our education, our culture and our greater awareness of the world.' implies that a different media can help a greater cause.
However image 3 is highly sexualised like most of the advertising campaigns for american apparel, it takes a voyeuristic look on the products advertised. The photographs in the adverts are almost overly sexual and feature what look to be underage girls, american apparels target audience is young adults, this kind of imagery is not promoting a socially 'good' message and is almost making this sexualisation acceptable, and so in designing for this company are the designers contributing to this derogative message, according to Poynor, Lasn et al they are. 'Designers who devote their efforts primarily to advertising, marketing and brand development are supporting, and implicitly endorsing, a mental environment so saturated with commercial messages that it is changing the very way citizen consumers speak, think, feel, respond and interact. To some extent we are all helping draft a reductive and immeasurably harmful code of public discourse.' But Beirut challenges this idea in footnote 2, when he discuses the fact that it is easy to be culturally/ ethically and socially moral when you are a distinguished designer and money is not a problem. Could it be that the designers of image four and many similar adverts of american apparel use these images just so they can pay the bills.
A point the opposing authors both agree upon is that style is recognised on all design over substance, Poynor (2000) 'What seduces us is its image."The image reaches us first as a visual entity- shape, color, picture, type".' and then again in the work of Beirut (2007) 'They embrace the products of Disney, GM, Calvin Klein and Phillip Morris not because they like them or because the products have any intrinsic merit, but because their designer puppet masters have hypnotised them with things like colours and typefaces.' This can be seen on the advertisements of american apparel, the design work is actually clever, its modern, and minimalist, the implementation of a grid structure makes a neat and clean arrangement of the page. The type itself is eye-catching and again follows a modern aesthetic. The idea behind the imagery itself is also quite interesting, in the way it doesn't look like a professional photograph, its quite laid back, and casual which is enticing for the young target audience, going back to the previous two statements, it can be seen why and how this has an effect. But all of this is towards a overly sexualised series of images that are crude and promote a derogatory message. And so in a sense its an open ended question of what is good and bad ? and to what extent ? Does the fact that american apparel support workers rights and gay rights outweigh the fact they objectify women in their advertising ?
'What a disappointment to learn that this revolution is aimed at replacing mass manipulation for commercial ends with mass manipulation for cultural and political ends.' Beirut (2007) what is really better ?