Jennie Nusbaum

January 27, 2011


Tibor Kalman said “Design is just language and the real issue is what you use that language to do.” I would like to use my thesis as an opportunity to use design in a way that addresses social issues that often times slip under the radar. We as designers have the necessary tools to communicate these ideas to large audiences through powerful and smart imagery. Publications such as COLOR magazine and Good magazine are prime examples of design being put to positive use. These publications are influential not only in their content but also in their global interaction. The spreading of these ideas becomes the most vital but difficult part of awareness design. Whether it’s passing by a poster, reading it on a t-shirt, seeing a sticker, or downloading a PDF (Guerilla Poster Project) getting the chance to plant that seed is when the design is fulfilling its purpose.

Using design as a means to bring awareness to global issues is not a new idea. Some examples are The Haiti Poster project, The Graphic Imperative exhibition, AIGA’s, and All these organizations use design as a means to wake people up to social truths. I am also interested in seeing how these methods of communication can reach an international audience. One genre of social consciousness I would like to steer away from is this idea of purchasing for a cause. Often times you’ll see companies like Gap(red) or Breast Cancer Awareness that create a sub-category of products to support these ideas. Not to say there is anything wrong with that but I would like my designs to speak for themselves without the persuasion of an exchange for a good conscious.

I think designs with a cause have a harder time trying to get their message out there due that the fact that there is nothing being offered back to the viewer other than an idea, a nudge to say ‘hey, chew on this’. Sometimes strong design is seldom seen in awareness posters because many of these issues are addressed to us in such black and white terms that people would rather pretend they aren’t happening rather than do something about it. Maybe if awareness posters were as well designed as Apple campaigns people would be more motivated to act upon it.

Thinking about the role of a poster as the easiest way to pitch your ideas to the public brings about some questions. Can a poster be more than just a 2-d printed piece? What if the poster let viewers walk away with something to hold onto beyond a mental state. Perhaps you have an AIDS poster constructed with condoms, a Republic of Congo poster with rip-away dye cuts of eating utensils with information to donate food, or a poster made with dirt and mud to acknowledge the death and destruction of the landslide in the Philippines this past month. Posters can educate and offer aid if designed beyond the wall.



HENCE! Social awareness through design needs to be publicly engaging in order to impact the viewer on an insightful level, in the hopes they will act upon the message.



cause: a person or thing that acts, happens, or exists in such a way that some specific thing happens as a result; the producer of an effect

social responsibility: Acting with concern and sensitivity, aware of the impact of your actions on others

globalization: describes the process by which regional economies, societies, and cultures have become integrated through a global network of political ideas through communication, transportation, and trade

Retrospect: contemplation of the past, upon reflection

phenomenology: “the process of letting things manifest themselves.” Phenomenology attempts to enable people to see clearly something that is right before their eyes but obscured; things that are so taken for granted that they are muted by abstract observation.

influence: the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others

insight: penetrating mental vision or discernment; faculty of seeing into inner character or underlying truth.

Contextualization: is the process of assigning meaning, either linguistic or as a means of interpreting the environment within which an expression or action is executed

engage: to occupy the attention or efforts of (a person or persons)



Tibor Kalman (July 6, 1949- May 2, 1999) influential graphic designer well known for his work as editor-in-chief of COLOR magazine. Started firm M&Co with Carol Bokuniewicz and Liz Trovato doing work for the Limited Corporation and the Talking Heads. Kalman was also the creative director of Interview magazine in the early 1990’s and also founded Smith & Milton in London. Known for being a graphic design rebel.

Finn Magee is a young designer who I would consider an underground artist. There is not much information about him online and his website is a collection of work and the explanation rather than the ego of the artist which I can appreciate. Nevertheless, Magee creates innovative posters with elements that come to life. Many of his designs use surprise, humor, and juxtaposition to engage the viewer. Finn does commercial as well as promotional awareness pieces.

Frank Baseman works at Baseman Design Associates. Co-chair of “Revolution:Philadelphia”. Co-Currator of The Graphic Imperative: International posters for peace, social justice and the environment.

Nicholas Blechman works at the New York Times book review by night run Knickerbocker design. Blechman edits and designs underground political  magazine NOZONE. He’s a member of Alliance Graphique International. He is author of “Fresh Dialogue One: New Voices in Graphic Design”,”Nozone IX: EMPIRE” and, “100% EVIL”.

Chris Hacker works for Johnson & Johnson developing it’s strong brand identity and sustainable package design. He is active in “green” awareness.

Randy Hunt is the founder of Citizen Scholar inc. a design consultancy that works with nonprofit organizations. Randy is also the founder and director of The Amazing Project: “a non-profit organization which publicizes and promotes the actions of amazing people and connects them with supporters & volunteers.” He also contributes to Speak Up, AIGA’S VOICE, Lemon magazine, DESIGNY, and Massive Change.

Alan Jacobson head the environmental graphic design firm AGS. Alan is known for being a pioneer in innovative sustainable design. He has won the SEGD (Society for Environmental Graphic Design) for his help with community-organization in Rwanda. “The goal is to pioneer new understanding and new thinking about how humans react and communicate in their surroundings, and to manifest the ideas in people centric solutions.”

Kristin Johnson worked with non-profits dealing with solar power as a catalyst for new health. She worked as an intern for Milton Glaser. Johnson has worked with Pentagram, Graphis and Workshop. Kristin became emersed in the green sustainability movement using her skills of design to make a statement.

Lara McCormick is the creator of Stop and Start Over which is a program that helps addicts recover from addiction.

Seymour Chwast , Mark Randall, Scott Stowell, Lisa Strausfeld, Seth Labenz & Roy Rub


“AIGA Cause and Effect.” Cause/affect. Web. 27 Jan. 2011. cause and effect AIGA

COLORS MAGAZINE. Web. 27 Jan. 2011.

Designgive : Cause for Design. Web. 27 Jan. 2011.

GOOD Home Page – GOOD. Web. 27 Jan. 2011.

Heller, Steven. “Tibor Kalman — AIGA | the Professional Association for Design.” AIGA | the Professional Association for Design. Web. 27 Jan. 2011. medalist-tiborkalman

“Sdposters.” Cargo. Web. 27 Jan. 2011. sdposters

Lupton, Ellen. Why Design Now?: National Design Triennial. New York: Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution, 2010. Print.

CMYK volume 48 “The Power of a Poster” Vol. 48. Special poster Issue.

The Graphic Imperative. Web. 27 Jan. 2011.

P R O J E C T  M  :  T H I N K  W R O N G. Web. 27 Jan. 2011.

Bierut, Michael, William Drenttel, and Steven Heller. Looking Closer. New York: Allworth, 2002. Print.

Finn Magee 2010. Web. 27 Jan. 2011. Off the wall examples

CAUSE/EFFECT. Web. 27 Jan. 2011.speakers.html#alt Daily updated, downloadable PDF posters


Reading Log

“The Power of a Poster.” CMYK Volume 48 Special Poster Issue: (74-75). Print.     January/23

Lupton, Ellen. Why Design Now?: National Design Triennial. New York: Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution, 2010. Print.  January/25

Mark Sinclair. This Book Was Designed to Help. Design fund raising collaboration. Forward (pg 3)     January/25

Bierut, Michael, William Drenttel, and Steven Heller. Looking Closer. New York: Allworth, 2002. Print.(230-232)    January/27

(4 following background history of Sudanese conflicts)

Case Study

1.) When Tibor Kalman was the editor for COLOR magazine he published an article in Michael Bierut’s Looking Closer book. He says “Color takes outside advertising and it’s format change from issue to issue. One of it’s fundamental aims is to challenge assumptions about what a magazine can be.” He talks about the first issue of COLOR where they show a photo of a newborn baby on the cover. There was heavy controversy over this primarily because of the appearance of the infant. ” If we had been photographing this baby for a pretty moms’ magazine , we would have cleaned the baby with retouching. Instead we chose not to.” (Looking Closer 231). Kalman continues to explain that this is an example of contextualization. COLOR magazine is breaking a social norm by showing an image of a raw newborn, which in many ways is a metaphor for what the publication does. COLOR uses photography to get a point across, although shocking, what better way to make people look. To cause a reaction is to plant an idea. Getting people to consider these truths in all their natural flaws is the true beauty of designing for awareness.
COLOR baby cover

2.) Finn Magee is a designer who began as a product designer but has strayed into the world of advertising. He is interested in how we consume objects and ideas. Magee is known for his innovative poster design often using humor and juxtaposition to get a point across. Finn Magee’s aim is to promote awareness about the actual needs of the consumer and citizen. Although the content does not exhibit the depth of which my social based topic goes, the way in which Finn makes his posters come to life is something I would like to explore in my thesis.
designing beyond the wall

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3.) AIGA’s cause/effect website is very helpful giving me resources of designers who have explored similar topics to this. Many of these designers focus on social issues of their interest and use their tools to create awareness for it often time by teaming up with a non-profit or specialized organization. Many of the artists were exhibited in The Graphic Imperative which is a huge influence in this thesis. My goal is to find a way to blend this mission of social communicate with a new engaging presentation. Because there are many topics which are of urgent attention I want to chose maybe 5 to 10 to focus on in my thesis exploration.

AIGA cause/effect event explanation

4.) Apparently someone has already thought and executed the idea of creating a large AIDS campaign posters made solely out of condoms. Check it out!
promotional-condoms-fight-against-aids This is almost exactly what I would like to do with this thesis. How can an ad interact with the viewer? What can they take away from it, What will make people marinade in these ideas instead of shrugging them off? Ideas like this are a good way to engage the audience.


2 Responses to “Jennie Nusbaum”

  1. art4610 Says:

    The observations are generally strong. Look into making them more specific by incorporating dates, contexts in which these observations exist, and possibly stating some of the designers that appear later in your paper.

    For the thesis the only part that throws me off is “publicly engaging” part. When this is said I start to think about the poster as something to be touched. Which would add a new level of interaction, but I didn’t get the impression that that was what you wanted to do from the observations.

    For research if you are interested in Massive Change, check out Bruce Mau, who directed Massive Change. He does a lot on public issues. For interactivity I noticed you put Lisa Strausfeld but didn’t note anything about her. She does wonderful interactive digital work that I think you would find beneficial.

    Check out Peter’s thesis as well as I believe he is doing interactive social issues.

  2. art4610 Says:

    you have a strong position and the need to bring attention to this subject is important. i think using unconventional materials will make these pieces much harder to ignore than a sheet of paper. have you thought about which device you are going to use in order to bring attention to the social awareness issues? such as humor, shock, empathy, etc. just some thoughts for you.

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