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Stop. And think.

Emily Hoffmann | Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Rarely do professors introduce a reading assignment with the following words: “You will not be tested on this information. I just want you to stop. And think.”
Perhaps some (and likely, most) of us would brush off this reading. If the material will not be on the exam, analyzed in a paper or quizzed in class, then forget it!  
That was my plan when an upper-level visual communications design professor used those words to introduce “Do Good Design” by David Berman. Regardless, when I found myself on a plane the next weekend, the book thrown in my purse at the last second and very few other assignments to do post-syllabus week, I opened the cover. To my surprise, I read straight through the assigned chapter to the one after.  
While you may dismiss this book recommendation, thinking it’s for designers only, please keep reading. Berman uses the introduction to elevate everyone to the role of designer. We live in an era that encourages creativity, personalization and design in everything we do. Each time you build a playlist, edit your profile on any number of social media platforms, take a survey or – God forbid – use Comic Sans for a sign on your door (the design snob in me might not knock), you join the design world. With everyone empowered and interconnected, Berman believes “that the future of our world is now our common design project.” The direction of the world is up to us. We can continue to sell sex, deceive consumers and praise the Miley movement, or we can stop. Think (remember, Madonna did this already), and do better. Do good.  
It’s a quick read, thanks to interspersed pictures (this is a design course, after all), whimsical comments scribbled in margins as if made by the editor’s Sharpie, and jaw-dropping analyses of the advertising industry and consumerism. A call to action, “Do Good Design” wastes no time in grabbing readers’ attention. How is this for a daily news update: today alone, 1,200,000,000 doses of Coca-Cola were ingested; 882,000,000 Marlboro cigarettes were shipped outside the United States; 41,000,000 McDonald’s customers were served; 14,000,000 BIC pens were disposed of; 6,200,000 kilos of plastic were molded for bottled water; 3,000 promotional messages were seen by the average American; 73 species became extinct – the list goes on. And Berman wrote this book in 2009; I stutter to begin the question of what four years may have done to those numbers.
If we had joined Berman’s call to action, perhaps those numbers may have changed for the better. I can’t help but pause, look up from my computer screen, take a sip from my plastic bottle of Diet Coke and stop. And think. Well played, professor. Well played.

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