Communication Design Visually Impacts Reactions to Climate Change
My name is Shamach Campbell and my academic major is called Communication Design (COMD). Now, when a lot of people hear such a weird name for my major, they might start to wonder and say, “What exactly is Communication Design, or how does that relate to climate change?” COMD can basically be summed up as graphic design; for the most part, I draw up posters, create animations, and design ads for people. While COMD teaches you how to create these things and use all sorts of tools and programs at its core, it’s all about trying to communicate some sort of message to an audience through the power of design. If you can truly understand the psychology of your audience, these designs can express a message strong enough to get people to act. For instance, how many interesting signs and ads do you see on buses, subways, and magazines informing you about greenhouse gases or polar icecaps melting? The more people see these ads, the more the information gets passed around, and the more people act.
More often than not, when we’re not designing logos and websites, we get a lot of different projects such as one related to environmentalism. With projects like these, our job is to create ad campaigns to and posters for companies, while on paper it sounds as simple as slapping text on a stock image. There are many aspects and principles about it to keep in mind. According to an article titled “What can designers do to help tackle the climate change crisis?” designers must “avoid the temptation to be visually angry and preachy”, and instead try to be “clever, subtle and original” in sharing facts that make reading difficult.” Everyone knows climate change is bad, but there has to be a balance when presenting the message. If the message of the design comes off as aggressively preachy, people stop listing; by giving people something subtle and appealing to latch on to, more people engage.
Elements and Principles in the Process of COMD
The same goes for the opposite as well. Designing something too appealing and wild can leave the message muddled or unimportant. Take graphs and statistics, for example, most people don’t want to spend a lot of time trying to analyze and interpret so much information, but if you include things like visual hierarchy to guide viewers through charts, a decent composition to assist in the layout of information, and use the rules of color theory to draw them in, all that data becomes easier to digest. It doesn’t just apply to things like posters and magazines; it can also apply to physical trinket and objects that can reduce the factors that lead to climate change. One other type of class in my major is called Package Design. Essentially, it’s all about learning to create different types of labeling while at the same time designing unique packaging that does its best to reduce the overall amount of waste in the environment. In fact, a lot of designers will reuse or recycle an abundance of garbage and materials to create art or make some sort of statement.
If there is anything you can take away from COMD when it comes to climate change, it’s this: the key to create a big impact both on the environment and society is to make your personal engagement into a movement. In an article titled “Climate Activism for the Graphic Designer 101”, a designer named Eric Benson explains that it’s all about crafting a narrative. If the information sounds frightening to your audience, make your story more inspiring and plausible to get them to act. If you have trouble gaining audiences to listen, start locally and build from the ground up, but most importantly, the narrative must be empowering-have the call to action really drive the message home. So on the surface, COMD might be confusing or just a surface level in terms of climate change, but it’s mainly because of the classes they provide for people like me. COMD can hook in more people to do and care a little more for the environment.
Dawood, Sarah. “What Can Designers Do To Help Tackle The Climate Change Crisis?” Design Week, 2020, https://www.designweek.co.uk/issues/29-april-5-may-2019/what-can-designers-do-to-help-tackle-the-climate-change-crisis/
“Climate Activism For The Graphic Designer 101”. Medium, 2020, https://medium.com/swlh/climate-activism-for-the-graphic-designer-101-b662959f5d4e