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Recently, my/our esteemed design anthropology leader, Dame Dori Tundstall, wrote what she described as a ‘love letter’ to her students after a discussion that was had in a previous class. I wasn’t there for the class, but I know the students involved and have read this ‘love letter’ and feel a reply is worthy of my privileged Caucasian time.

The full ‘love letter’ can be found here –

I would like to firstly say that writing a “No offense but….” Statement where you then go on to sledge the very people that are engaged in your course that are patently and actively aware in the shortcomings of ‘individualist’ design and are actually doing something about it is highly counter-productive. (Although very American.  Just sayin’.) If there is a group of people more active in wanting to change the creative status quo I think you’re going to have a tough time finding them. The friends that I have made through Swinburne DA are some of the most intelligent, engaged and progressive people I’ve ever met. We are all united in our disdain for the status quo and the way in which design is used as a tool to reinforce it. We are all ‘on your side’ so I’m still puzzled as to what the point of the letter actually was.

The largest issue I have with the letter is the very idea of a link between culture and melanin levels, this notion of ‘white’ culture. Frankly I find the idea very much an “us and them” concept that can only further marginalise and stereotype. Not to mention the fact that I reject it just as much as I reject the notion of ‘black’ culture or ‘yellow’ culture. Hardly a ‘thick description’ wouldn’t you agree, and lacking in the nuance and importance of everyone’s individual and unique experience of culture that is espoused in the course and so fundamental to DA itself.

I’d like at this point to directly address some of the statements made in the ‘love letter’:


1) The pursuit of our own happiness has left us isolated / pursuit of happiness over that of people whose skin is darker / fear of losing yourself

I’m generally of the belief that ‘the pursuit of self interest’ is a human trait, and not monopolised by any one particular skin colour. It’s a mechanism of global capitalism to ‘divide and conquer’ and we are all guilty through association in that respect, even ex-corporate consultant African-American women working in academia on six figure salaries.


2) “Let go of your exceptional talent for using your great intelligence to maintain hierarchical dominance”.

Again, I don’t really see the connection between melanin levels and hierarchy. India has an awesomely shit caste system. Korea and Japan were recently rated a couple of the most sexist and racist countries in the world. I would suggest that if you asked everyone in Swinburne DA their opinions on hierarchical social systems, I doubt you’d find anyone waiving any pom-poms.


3) Reject our cultures to flee from a ‘talent for dominance’, only to reproduce them elsewhere.

This statement alludes somewhat to Australia’s and the US’ break from the UK as being some idealistic search for utopia, only for the two counties to ‘become the thing they hate the most’. I would debate that there were no plans to create a utopia in the first place, just simply a transference of the same ideas in a more resource rich and tax-vague environment. If I was being facetious, I could liken it on a smaller but much more contemporary scale to the descendants of former slaves rapping about ‘get rich or die trying’, or ‘life ain’t nothin’ but bitches and money’. Which segues nicely into your next point…


4) Lost so much of our own history that we are appropriating that of  ‘fellow brothers and sisters of darker hues.’

Statements like this confuse me because when I look at a world I’d prefer to live in through the lens of DA, all I really see is an embrace of other cultures and a hybridisation for those that live cross-culturally. I don’t really see cultural appropriation as being an issue, largely because, well, all culture is appropriation. Culture is in a constant state of flux, and as we move to a world that is much more diverse, interconnected and inter-mixed, I do not yearn for the well-defined past. I can see and understand conservatisms’ fear of change and the propensity for the capitalist system to want to decrease complexity and make us all the same so that it’s easy to sell us widgets, but these concepts are past concepts as far as I’m concerned. Whether our next phase is a rich and diverse multi-verse of experience, or a 1984-esque dystopia, is up to us all – not just those that are sadly melanin deficient.


5) Our self hatred expresses itself in the death and destruction of those we don’t see as peers.

Again, this is a human trait. ‘White’ people hardly have a monopoly on ‘death and destruction’, but I will confess that European imperialists sure did do a particularly good job over the past 500 years or so. Luckily for us though, post-Vietnam the imperialists come equipped with Levi’s and Burger King so we all get to die in much less obvious ways, regardless of the colour of our skins.


It’s very difficult for me – as I’m sure is the case with almost everyone in DA – to make statements ‘from inside’ of the system we’re all involved in in one way or another, largely because I see us collectively as outcasts of the mainstream status-quo. I’m less interested in the starting conditions and more interested in where we’re going, and whether it can if possible be slightly less shit than where we are. On a collective global scale, even an African-American woman working in Australia, having the opportunity to forge a new course, a new stream of design, living in Prahran on a six-figure salary is coming from a place of privilege (Which surprises me for someone who did their thesis in Ethiopia) So really, it’s what we do with what we have that’s the important part of the equation – ‘who is the most privileged’ is not really a discussion that I think is that important. (Especially when you make more money than me, are more educated than me, have more opportunities than me, live in a better suburb than me etc. etc..) What we’re doing with what we’ve been lumped with is much more forward looking in my opinion.

Don’t get me wrong, I also understand that we all have baggage both personal and cultural, and this reflects on how we see the world and ourselves. As an extremely white person – to the point of being ostracised as being too white by other white people – I’ve always been drawn to the Lacanian sense of ‘the other’. I find other cultures and people with more melanin than me beautiful and fascinating. I’m jealous of anyone who laughs at the sun. I want to do all the things that I’m genetically not suited to do. But this is not because I hate myself or lament the fact that I just so happened to have popped out of the womb in a comfy bourgeois existence, but it’s because even though I pretend to hate people, I kinda think we’re all a bit interesting.


So back to the crux of the letter – what of this idea of ‘whiteness’? Me personally, I don’t really recognise colour as having any particular cultural trait/s. I reject the whole idea. (Is that too ambiguous?) Do the remnants of a European imperial past echo across the globe, whether it be American style global capitalism or Australian….whatever we do that isn’t sucking up the the US? Of course. Were these original European imperialists of slightly less melanin content than those of say Africa or South Asia? Yeah, mostly.


So to this I leave you Dori and dear reader with the question – In the ‘Asian century’ (let’s face it, it’s really going to be an ‘Asian millennia‘) will it be any different? Personally, as a person that would be no longer ‘basking of the glow’ of Western imperialism, (If I’m still alive, that is) I certainly won’t be bemoaning any perceived privilege of ‘yellowness’. I’d encourage my son and his offspring to share the same value system as I do, which doesn’t involve dividing people up by the colour of their skin, by judging people on situations they have no control over or the cultural choices that they make.  (Although I would recommend finding an Asian wife and learning Mandarin!) Dominant systems will always be dominant systems and I believe that its the job of design anthropologists to find equity and egalitarianism in these systems and change them through the design process, so that long term (very, very long term), we’ll all kind of look somewhat ‘mid brown’ and will no longer have to have inane conversations about notions of ‘whiteness’ or ‘blackness’.


As Keanu Reeves I believe once said, “I have a dream…..”



Here, have some freebies.

The design industry is in some ways in a messy race to the bottom in the modern context.  Historically, being a designer was a professional industry, where your resume, folio and reputation – as well as your communication skills in canvassing clients – was all part of your toolbox.  Which is kind of ironic if you’re in communications, because if you can’t communicate what you do and what your advantages are, then you probably should go back to the drawing board.


I stumbled upon this article today, linked from a colleague.


There’s been a couple of instances where I’ve done pitches, and I am au fait with the current trend in ‘crowdsourcing’ and think they’re both bottom-feeding trends that need to die.


It’s not hard to sympathise with new graduates stuck in the ‘Can’t get a job without experience, can’t get experience without a job’ catch22, but with the nature of intellectual property being what it is, giving up your professional time for free and putting IP out there for anyone to plunder may make some sense in a sort of desperate unprofessional way, but in the long term as Tom Foulks points out, even from a client perspective it is more than likely going to lead to negative outcomes.  These are his three main points:


• The creative will be naïve and hastily pulled together. It will be based on a very narrow understanding of the client, its market and the true nature of what is required. Creative like this is dangerous to share within a business as it can lead to commercial decisions being made on the basis of taste rather than commercial sense. This ultimately may lead to commercial failure.

• Free creative isn’t necessarily free creative. The cost of producing this work will be recovered through the subsequent work the client does, the consultancy will likely resent giving its work away for free and this dysfunction will undermine and ultimately destroy the commercial partnership. A failure in such a vital strategic relationship may lead to commercial failure.

• The quality of any creative produced will only reflect the amount of time the consultancy has spent on the pitch. In any successful consultancy this will not be a great amount of time, unless the consultancy is struggling to win work. This will lead to poor decision-making as it is likely that the client will appoint a poor-quality consultancy with lots of time to spend on a pitch over the strongest consultancy, who was busy with fee-paying work in the lead up to the pitch. Ultimately this will affect competitiveness and may lead to commercial failure.’


All very good points as far as I’m concerned, and somewhat refreshing too, because I think there’s this assumption that the drive for free pitching is an advantage for the potential client.  Few seem aware of the potential downsides.


Okay, so what about ‘Crowdsourcing’ or websites like Freelancer? I always like to hold the concept of crowdsourcing up against arguably the most respected and well entrenched profession – that of the medical profession – when drawing parallels or attempting to make arguments regarding “Should design be doing this”.  Can you imagine getting 3 doctors to give you free diagnosis, only to pick the one that tells you what you want to hear?  So that you can use all three pieces of diagnosis, use bits that you like, but then only pay for one?  Or even worse, not pay for any and go shopping for a lower price from an Indian or Bangladeshi doctor or whatever?  Or worse again, use that info, not pay for any of it, and self medicate via the internet.  That’s what crowdsourcing is opening the design industry up for.


I find the whole thing smacks of desperation and as a professional you shouldn’t be doing anything unpaid unless its for an NGO or similar.  To hear a client-side perspective on the whole ‘pitching’ thing that’s overwhelmingly negative should be another nail in the coffin.

Piff – “Does Money Make you Mean?”

Piff – “Does Money Make you Mean?”

This isn’t exactly a rigorous scientific study, but it does go some way to explain why capitalism doesn’t work, and why a balance is needed between the concepts of individualism and collectivism. However, this is only the basic framework under which we construct a society so everyone can prosper and be happy. I firmly believe though that the world needs to be slowly but completely re-written if we are to be in symbiosis with the planet and ourselves, and not simply an infestation that is simply a danger to ourselves and everything we come into contact with.

Experience the Future!

This article is quite lightweight, but gives a nice shiny overview of Experience Design (As opposed to UX which at the moment seems to have been completely co-opted by IT):

I thought it was interesting how Delta airlines in the US has completely revamped it’s gate lounges from instead of being just rows of seats to actually being more like a lounge.  Now it just needs some trees for carbon offset and it will be slightly more ‘Design Anthropology’ and slightly less ‘User Experience’.



This is probably the quotable section from the article, supporting John Wood’s article “Why User-Centered Design is Not Enough” via Core77 last year:


Experience innovators recognize that consumers can’t tell you about the things they need or want but haven’t yet imagined. Nor can consumers articulate how they will do things differently in the future. For instance, customers will tell an airline they really want quick boarding and on-time departures.


That’s fairly obvious. But Delta came up with an approach they call “delocation” as a way of taking services out of their typical location and improving the travel experience in unexpected ways. Delta brought the lounge directly to the gate, creating an enhanced experience among travelers who had never thought of the gate past its function as a waiting area and were often too rushed to visit the airline lounge. The Delta concourses at LaGuardia and Minneapolis have banquette seating, embedded iPads, gate side ordering, and specially curated shops and restaurants to create new levels of service and ambiance. The space takes advantage of Delta’s ability to partner and deliver on its essence of “making flying better” in a way consumers might never have articulated in a focus group.

Seeya later, 2013!

Okay I noticed that it’s been about 6 weeks since I posted so I probably should do a end-of-year wrap-up while it still is 2013.

On the University front, things went well. Of the 7 subjects, I got x1 Credit, x3 Distinctions and x3 High Distinctions.  Acceptable for an old dog learning new tricks, I feel. Not that it’s about marks, because I’m sure nobody cares and really for me it was about learning for it’s own sake and stepping outside your comfort zone, which are actually the hard parts.  My brainpower wasn’t really as stretched as I thought it would be (although at times it did take me a while to get my head around things), it was more a case of both my ability to accept learning about things that don’t have any immediate relevance to my life or career, dealing with academia and all it’s weird disconnects from reality, and having to read and write more in 12 months than I have in my entire adult life. It was a challenge, but I coped pretty well, so kudos to myself for that, I guess.

There were three real joys from the whole experience that I’d like to talk about.  The first is definitely the people.  Because it’s a real ‘catalyst’ course, you get people from many walks of life that have all come to this one point from different directions. That diversity but also empathy is very enriching and rewarding.  I realised that I don’t get to talk about design as much as I would like to.  Sometimes having a ‘job’ in a particular field makes you somewhat institutionalised or reluctant to discuss broader contexts, or to examine aspects not directly related to (or funded by) said job.  The University environment and especially the fantastic people that I met this year has just been awesome in that respect.  It’s a strange mix of introspection and self-referential institutionalism, but also a great environment to let your mind wander.

The second areas that I really enjoyed this year, was to investigate, research, and justify some of the ideas I’ve had ratting around for many years.  I always maintain that there is no shortage of ideas, just them means to implement them, and being able to attach ideas to research or projects for my course has allowed me a depth of investigation I wouldn’t normally be able to apply to them.  Which is great for dinner-table arguments because I can now back up my opinions with the opinions of others!

The final aspect about University life that I enjoyed was the way in which peripheral/co-curricular learning was just as or if not more beneficial than the course itself.

Designers know that they spend about 10% of their time designing and the rest of the time doing the boring stuff, so the question for me now is how to make that fun 10% better, or even better again, turn that 10% into as close to 100% as possible.  Learning about design research (or perhaps more accurately ‘research for design’) and lean entrepreneurship – as well as the positive principles of design anthropology – have had a dramatic effect on how I view design, and how I’m now enacting design.

As a pleasure seeking human (aren’t we all) I’ve pretty much spent my design career on the 10% and doing everything to avoid the other 90%.  This has both been an active and a passive mechanism though, as probably from 1995 to 2005 I was actively employed as an ‘ideas guy’ where I could indulge my love of ideas and creativity (‘concepting’) and leave the annoying stuff like bringing ideas to market or designing a roadmap of how those ideas could turn into a product range up to someone else.

The problem with that is, of course, is that management may not know what to do with these ideas.  They might not even understand them.  Marketing people can be reactionary – they can be reactive: ‘we need to do something like that too, fast’ – and if your concept or idea doesn’t fit into an existing framework it could be overlooked. Perhaps no one person or department can recognise an opportunity when it’s presented to them, or perhaps the fear of picking the wrong idea leads to a sort of ‘analysis paralysis’.  What I’m trying to illustrate is that ideas don’t have an easy road to fruition, and these days it’s not so much the idea as the ‘road to fruition’ that’s interesting me, whereas in the past I was of the attitude that if I was having fun to dream up stuff and getting paid for it, then if the ‘powers that be’ didn’t ‘get it’ then that was their problem.

Unfortunately however I’ve got the ‘double whammy’ to contend with (designer AND entrepreneur) where that kind of thinking just doesn’t apply any more, and to be frank I wish I had recognised that back in 2002-4 when my bike project Thylacine Cycles got off to a less than ideal start.  As with most things I guess, with the tools that I have now, I probably would’ve stopped doing Thylacine by 2005 or so, even though the best years were still to come.  The issue is, is that there is a real balancing act between having the drive and the passion to make an idea happen, and being over-invested in that idea to the point where you can’t be objective regarding it’s viability.  Even by 2007, Thylacine wasn’t even really close to being a full-time business, yet it was taking up the vast majority of my time and resources. Problems with freight and unruly suppliers were making life very difficult, and local support aside from about 5 people was virtually non-existent.  Attempts to fix issues weren’t working, but I was too vested in the project to pull the plug and concentrate on other things and things didn’t improve despite my best efforts.  By 2012 I had landed myself a very reliable and professional builder but it was too little, too late.

So what are the lessons learned of the past 10 years or so, culminating in my return to Uni this year and me sitting here writing this?

Well, the big one is attempting now to shift my thinking away from ‘the idea’ towards the ‘validation of the idea’ itself.  It’s just not enough to think that as a designer your idea is ‘cool’ and that’s enough evidence you need to pursue an idea either commercially or mentally for that matter.  Remember….there’s no shortage of good ideas – right?  But what there is a shortage of, is knowing the difference between a cool idea, and a cool idea that’s something more.

Of course, you can only do that for so long before you start getting annoyed.  As a designer, if you’re interested in making something for production, you want others to enjoy it as much as you do.  Otherwise it’s called ‘a hobby’.  (However, you shouldn’t discount the hobby, because often it’s the commercialisation of hobbies that leads to great businesses and products, and hobbies that involve actually making stuff is good for your design soul.)


Okay, so then, what’s the plan for this year?

Well, I wish I knew!  I’m still interested in pursuing employment possibilities, and still interested in taking White Label Badminton somewhere, and using it as a driver to test lean entrepreneurship (god I hate that word) ideas. This is going to be a bit of a battle because the market is super conservative and collectivist, which I find in equal measures both fascinating and annoying.

By the end of the year I’d like to say I can make a pair of traditional brogue shoes from scratch, by hand (even though it’s not really a style I’m interested in.  But it’s nice sometimes to do something just so that you can say you can). I want to explore my idea of ‘post-industrial’ minimalist shoemaking by making a few of the designs I have kicking around, as well as make some Summer orientated sandal type things before it gets too cold to wear them.

I’d really like to get more interested in photography.  I’d like to get a camera solely dedicated to sports shooting so I can take some shots of badminton and cycling, and whatever else tickles my fancy.

My friend Brett and I have convinced eachother we’re going to make a lugged road frame or two, so we’ll see how that goes.  His wife is due in 6 months or so so we’re under a bit of a time crunch there!

In September we’re planning on going to the US for a month or so, and after that we’re going to start planning the extension to our house. I’ve been sketching ideas and collecting information for about 5 years now, but this year I’ll step that up. I did a project at University about modular architecture and the Australian vernacular and some of that will inform what we do with the house.  I’m interested specifically in what I like to call ‘raw architecture’ – architecture that is raw and unfinished, with an honesty in materials and processes and a real sense of story-telling and of placemaking. I think the future of architecture is not one of either living in some sort of machine or something resembling a hospital, but something that reconnects us with nature and our social needs.  Architecture has been fetishised to the point where we’re being lead to believe we need to live an ordered life in a white box full of shiny things, which is something I wholesalely don’t subscribe to.

As with all plans of course I expect all of this t come completely haywire, but regardless, it’s good to have something to look forward to!


I wish all my family, friends, and colleagues –  both past, present and future – all the best and a prosperous 2014!






The Culture of Winning

One of the things that fascinates me about culture is the way that apparent subtle differences in theory play out to be rather larger in practice, and also how ones reaction to those differences changes with attitude.


My current example is quite petty in a way, but goes on to illustrate the challenges of working in a cross-cultural sphere.


Last night at my weekly badminton competition, the team we were playing against had a fill-in who, like the fill-in before him in a previous week, is clearly a higher grade player than B grade. I was lucky to get 10 points off him, and to be fair, I think if he was fired up I’d be lucky to get half that.  My team mate got more, but by this stage they had won every game and he was clearly ‘being kind’. It should probably be noted at this stage that the team we played against is second on the ladder and gunning for the top position.

Now, in the Western tradition, despite the fact that no rules have technically been broken, bringing in a fill in that you know is better than the person replacing them is something you just don’t do. It’s rude, unsportsman-like, and a whole heap of other negative adjectives. However in a more Eastern context, because you’re not breaking the rules, what you’re doing is being clever, and levering an advantage. The rules aren’t there to tell you what you can’t do, but in a way, hint at what you can.

So whilst in the Western tradition you are breaking ‘unwritten rules’, if as a Westerner you enter into a sphere where Eastern cultural mores are the norm, what do you do?

Clearly you can’t fight against it, because the reason you’re upset or disappointed by the lack of adherence to what appears to be common sense to allow everyone to be happy and feel as though they’re playing on a level playing field just doesn’t even register with the people you’re showing your displeasure towards. I’d even hazard a guess and say that it may even register as a weakness – you don’t accept an advantage as such, therefore you’re not ‘up with it’ and not a contender.


That of course is the great paradox of competition sport – there is only one winner, so those that aren’t contenders better have something to look forward to every night, or else what’s the point? Most weeks I want to play the best I can and have a fair shot at playing against people on my level. If I wanted to get smashed every week, I’d just go play A-Grade. There’s a sense that because we’re not in the top 3 teams, that somehow there is the assumption that we’re happy to assist the second team get to the top by being okay with the bringing in of a substitute of a higher level for us to lose against. That we’re happy to sacrifice our enjoyment to help them, because winning is everything, and rules are only there to be worked around.


In the Western context, these and other notions are very confusing, culturally. We generally come to sport as ‘recreation’, as something to do for fun. Even club level competition is not really that serious. If you don’t train specifically for your sport, then in essence what you’re doing is recreation, not competition.

Historically, the badminton of 80 years ago was firmly planted in British notions of recreation, of physical activity for fun, fitness, and leisure – but also British notions of behaviour, ‘manners’ and sportsmanship.  Up until about 30 years ago, that was still the case, but with it’s prominence in Asia it is now in a way very much an Asian sport, and as a result, the culture has shifted in subtle but impactful ways. In entering that sphere – and designing in that sphere – it’s definitely a real-world challenge to behave and design cross-culturally, and accept attitudes and behaviours that might be completely foreign to your own.

Brand Ethics

This week in Global Brand Strategy, we looked at brand ethics – what they are, what they mean, are they just a load of crap, etc..


It caused a bit of consternation amongst my fellow students, and why not? It’s not exactly been a great time for ethical brand behaviour, what with the GFC and all.  Greed is good, unless it’s not part of your brand strategy, in which case it’s bad. Yep, we weren’t expecting a deregulated banking industry whose sole purpose is collecting money to go so horribly haywire.  What were we thinking?


Anyway, back to brand ethics. I think the reason people get their knickers in a knot about brand ethics is a combination of ‘when it goes wrong it goes horribly and publicly wrong’, and that when it does, it reminds us that by definition, a non-living entity can’t really have ethics, and we feel somewhat ‘deceived’. It’s as if we want our brands to be impervious, solid, and dependable.

Well, they only have themselves to blame, really. How many times have you heard the phrase ‘Stay on-message’ in the past year or two? Brands spend a lot of time simplifying and condensing who they are, what they are, and what they stand for, for the very reason as to communicate succinctly exactly those premises. Brands are a simplified versions of ourselves – almost caricatures in the way they’re designed, structured, and the way they communicate. They allow us to live out parts of our personality in a glossy, techicolour ‘dog-and-pony show’ style.


So when brands screw up, many of us feel personally affronted. We’ve ‘believed the hype’, we’re in many cases emotionally and socially invested in the brand – and because of their glossy, condensed hyper-selves – we feel especially let down.  I suspect that many people hold grudges against brands for longer than they do people, as I know myself I didn’t buy Nike until last year after the child labour scandal of the early 2000’s, and I still have in the forefront of my mind when I’m in the supermarket the Nestlé infant formula scandal of the 1980’s. It’s all a bit silly really, because at the root of every human endeavour – including organising ‘work’ under a ‘brand’ – is those pesky, fallible, and often ridiculous, humans.  Everything we do is a reflection of us, of who we are, and brands are no different.


Where the problem lies for many, is the notion that human ethics are ‘real’, and brand ethics are only a ‘construct’, an illusion created to sell more stuff. However, any group of people working together whether structured or organically come together under a framework of behaviour, of what’s expected, what’s acceptable, and what isn’t. Any group of people inherently has a code of conduct, a set of rules, a set of ethics. The only place where a brand differs, is that it’s ethics are quite implicit, and may only be applicable within their given sphere of influence, or even ‘selective’.  For example, if you’re Bushmaster Firearms, you’re all about ‘Defending freedom’, not ‘Arming the insane’ or ‘Helping third world despots since 1988′. If you’re McDonalds, you’re “Lovin’ It”, not “Cramming half a day’s calories into one meal”. 


Brands are therefore only a group of people working under a masthead, under a certain framework, with a certain goal. It’s no different to any other organisation, social group, or anywhere else really where two or more people get together and decide to act in a certain way. Where the real problem lies I believe, is when there is active deceit involved.

I posted in my Uni blog yesterday a post about a Japanese badminton racket brand Yonex and their propensity for ‘pseudo-science’ in generating world record smash speeds that can’t be duplicated on the court, and have made no difference whatsoever for sponsored players in world rankings. I’ve decided that I don’t really have a problem with this as the notion of ‘story telling’ is fundamental to the human condition, and that because there is no active deceit, if people believe the claims or believe it’s actual science then really they’re the one with the problem. Yonex isn’t lying, they’re just telling the story in a way that’s pro their business.

This ‘pandering to the human condition’, that is, taking advantage of the fact that we’re all a bit dazed and confused and emotionally stilted, is still for me a bit of a grey area. I think as a brand it’s hard not to strike a chord with people’s emotions, to tell a story, to speak of dreams, but at some point you’re not really helping to raise the standards and then there is larger picture ethical questions at hand. For example, it didn’t do McDonalds any favours in the ‘McLibel’ case to argue that Coke had health benefits because it ‘contained water’. Brands are dogmatic, single-minded beasts, so it’s really up to consumers to get them to move on the big picture stuff, but there should also be a certain level of responsibility shown by brands that they are dynamic and can change with the times if there is something greater at stake, like people’s health. Where this becomes a problem and counter-productive to society at large is when brands become so ‘egotistical’ and dogmatic that even when their own science says their product is killing people, they ignore it – such as with James-Hardy with asbestos and the tobacco industry.


To that I either say, change your business model, change your brand, or die. A brand is simply an target to throw money at at the end of the day, so if it ever gets to the point where things no longer do what they say on the tin, then it’s ‘adios muchacho!’ and time to move on.