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I’m pleased to have had work added to the ‘Agit-Prop Army’ of images on Occupy Design’s Time To Act webpage. Submit your posters and memes for the Climate Movement to help their campaign on the streets of Paris in December and on social media throughout 2015.

As Occupy Design say:

Time is running out. Climate Change is happening and without a serious global plan to replace our profit driven, fossil fuelled economy our very existence as a species is threatened this century.

But the Climate Crisis is not just a threat but an opportunity to chart a different course, one that shifts the Economy away from Capitalism to one that is more just, democratic and resilient that we all can share.

2015 is a crucial year for the climate. In December, governments will come together in Paris at the COP21 UN Climate Summit to strike a new deal for the climate—we must make our voices heard, we know that they will not act unless we make them and we can no longer accept more of the same.

PearShaped

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Vector illustration and chunky lower case type make for the new look reductive graphics adorning McDonald’s take away packaging. Created by Leo Burnett design agancy in Chicago, (I’m currently unsure if this packaging has made it to the UK yet), it appears to be another opportunity missed.

I think it’s fair to say that McDonald’s has an image problem. Well, it has many image problems actually, but I’m specifically talking about the one that glares at us all from roadside gutters and courtryside hedgerows. Any repeat visitors to Dubdog will know that I’m talking litter, a particular bugbear of mine. The world over, McDonald’s is the top brand, or one of the top brands, found on fast food litter, (see this report from Australia, and this from the USA, and this by the UK’s Keep Britian Tidy). I first noticed it some 14 years ago and it prompted my McJunk project. McJunk was an exploration into the relationship between graphic design and disposable culture through a photographic study of McDonald’s litter, (download the introduction to the McJunk photobook as a PDF from here, or visit the McJunk website).

Discovering this new McDonald’s packaging today prompted me to hunt around the Internet for current research into littering and I found some key reports by Keep Britain Tidy, ( * links at bottom of post). In these I came across two specific points of interest that relate to my own graphic design related research:

  • Firstly: through focus group discussions it is claimed that people would be less likely to buy a brand that they saw being littered. While this could be one of a whole host of reasons why McDonald’s had a bad year in 2014, I’m somewhat sceptical—what someone states in a focus group in the company of others is not necessarily the reality of what they actually do. But even if this were true, and it makes business sense to take seriously such market research, you would have thought McDonald’s would take note and try to do more to convince people not to litter;
  • Secondly: many of those surveyed by Keep Britain Tidy stated that they thought the Tidyman logo made little difference to people’s littering habits. This I can well believe. Usually sidelined within any graphic design hierarchy—often on the bottom of any packet—as iconic as I think Tidyman is, the Keep Britain Tidy report suggests that as a nation we have become used to it if indeed we notice it at all.

And herein lies my major problem with this McDonald’s redesign. When the graphics applied to something do not affect whether someone is going to buy a product or not—McDonald’s takeaways are not bought off a shelf; you don’t see the packaging until a BigMac has been ordered, ‘cooked’ and handed over—graphics are technically not needed for marketing purposes. They are usually only there to encourage brand recognition or as decoration. Therefore, if you rethought the side of a take away bag, there is a perfect opportunity for McDonald’s to challenge their litter problem by educating consumers through graphic design. But alas McDonald’s chose not to take this opportunity.

As mentioned in one of the Keep Britian Tidy reports that I read, it is a depressing thought that litter problems will only get worse over the coming years with further public sector cuts. Such cuts mean local councils have to decide what services to shelve, and I suspect many authorities will rightly decide important issues such as social care trump litter patrols. And unfortunately public sector cuts are likely to continue. For regardless of who wins the UK general election this year, both Labour and Conservative have declared their intentions to continue with these cuts. Even if we have another coalition government come May, which is the most likely scenario, one of these two parties is likely to hold the balance of power.

A couple of years ago I put McJunk on a hiatus. With this new packaging launch and after reading several Keep Britian Tidy reports, it looks like it might be time to resurrect the project.

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McJunk, as found, on Shingle Street beach, Suffolk. Pre-2015 redesign.

Keep Britain Tidy 2013 Litter Report 

Keep Britain Tidy 2013: When it comes to litter, which side of the fence are you on report findings

PearShaped

When Occupy Design UK put out a call last week for Crisis Graphics in protest against climate change I immediately knew what I was going to submit—a reworked version of my 2002 piece Pear Shaped.

Originally created for a People Tree design competition, for which it won an award, I was never really happy with the typography. Occupy Design’s call gave me the opportunity to rework it, channelling a typographic treatment I liked in a piece of work by Ivan Chermayeff that I first saw at his Cut and Paste retrospective last year, (see Holiday exhibitioning pt 1). I’m not usually one for returning to my past creations but Pear Shaped suited the cause and recycling an old idea seemed appropriate. It is, however, an inditement of the lack of progress on climate change that an image created 13 years ago is still relevant today.

Occupy Design UK’s aim is to create an ‘Agit-Prop Army’ of images for the Time to Act on Climate Change protest in London on 7 March 2015. Time to Act’s intention is to put pressure on political parties to consider the environment in the run-up to the general election in the UK in May, with a further aim to build towards the COP21 UN Climate Summit being held in Paris in December.

Occupy Design UK’s call for Crisis Graphics.

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Occupy Design UK is calling for posters and memes to support a day of action on climate change on 7 March.

They say on their website: “The demonstration on March 7th aims to put pressure on political parties before the general election, and raise the profile of climate change. It is also intended to energise and strengthen the climate movement – not an end-point but a stepping stone, it will be followed by local action immediately before the general election, the Climate Coalition lobby of Parliament in June and planning throughout 2015 towards the crucial Paris.”

On the call for images, they say: “We want your Posters and Memes for the Movement to use as an Agit-Prop Army of images to bolster the campaign on the streets and on the Net throughout the year.”

For more details, check out Occupy Design UK’s website here.

Scrutinising an Innocent drink carton several weeks ago I noticed that it was recyclable “in certain areas” and that I was to check with my local authority to see if it could be recycled in my area. I didn’t of course, not looking forward to either an elongated phone call being passed through various different departments or trawling through an impenetrable menu system on my local council website. I therefore forgot all about it and sent the package merrily onto landfill. To be fair, I had previously checked several years ago whether I could recycle this sort of packaging in Ipswich and finding out that I couldn’t, I didn’t hold out much hope that this would have changed.

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Then when walking to work one morning last week I found myself confronted with a large graphic on the side of a bin lorry telling me that I could now recycle orange juice cartons in my blue bin. I was astounded for two reasons: firstly I was surprised that my local council was actually quite advanced; and secondly that this information was bought to me and that I didn’t have to hunt it out.

This is a prime example of design that works. Not only has it bought this important bit of information directly to me, but also to all the houses on the route of the bin round. In my neighbourhood the houses are no more than 3 metres from the road, with small front gardens and pavement the only things between window and residential traffic. This means anyone opening their curtains at refuse collection time will be delivered the same information. This is an excellent example of taking the message directly to its audience.

This advert won’t win any awards though because it isn’t necessarily a great piece of design. The non-threatening cheeky bin man sticking his thumb up giving recycling encouragement to locals isn’t exactly ground-breaking or particularly inventive, and for my money I find it a little patronising. It isn’t even particularly well laid-out. But none of that actually matters because this design ultimately works. This evening I cleaned out the first Tetra Pak style carton I’ve finished since seeing the billboard ready to put in my recycling bin tomorrow. For that this advert should win an award because fundamentally it does what all design should do: it works. In my own experience the message has been effectively delivered and I have acted upon it, regardless of personal aesthetic tastes and design criticism. There often isn’t enough research done into the effectiveness of a design after it has been implemented, especially for social design, (where as increased sales figures can justify a piece of design in a commercial setting). But in this case, job done. Give a yellow pencil to whoever created this advert and decided to stick it on the side of a bin lorry.

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