Design to Share or to Teach: Social Action Posts

Idea by Jessica Jendres

Something doesn’t sit right with me when it comes to some social media posts that call users to action on social justice issues. Making a post look pretty so it can be shared more is a bit icky to me.

The sometimes jarring difference in graphic posts about social justice. Posts via soyouwanttotalkabout & courtneyahndesign on Instagram.

But as I say this, I understand that creating and sharing these pretty posts that talk about injustices can actually create more awareness of the topics at hand. It’s just that the type of people they attract are more times than not, using these posts to garner attraction to their pages. You can create a pretty pink graphic with gigantic shapes and gorgeous serif font talking about the injustices for women that will end up being shared across multiple platforms. Meanwhile a simple photo or one with plain text will be shared with half the amount of people.

It’s a gray area where while I enjoy seeing people talking about topics that need to be shared, in runs into the thought of hmm I know they’re sharing this post because it fits their page/personal aesthetic. This thinking is exactly why Black Out Tuesday from 2020 was so polarizing because on one hand, wow you’re speaking up for those with smaller voices. On the other, many people knew that once the day was up or a few months down the line, they would delete the black square because it doesn’t fit their page’s theme.

The interesting effect of Black Out Tuesday form 2020.

Canva’s rising popularity and ease of use might also be contributing to the vast amount of overly sweet justice posts. Never before could those with less design knowledge create images that can fit their theme and profile. This allows those that do care about keeping an image regardless of the topic, to create these vibrant, pop inducing posts that seem so out of place.

I land in the in-between category. I like the simple plain text posts as they usually share the most information and don’t seem like they were created with gaining traction in mind. But they are created in an aesthetic that is easily sharable.

My go-tos are:

soyouwanttotalkabout

wetheurban

Simple but highly effective social justice slideshows. Posts via soyouwanttotalkabout & wetheurban on Instagram.

At the end of the day, regardless of what colour or graphic is on the post, the message still stands. And the message still needs to be shared. To me it boils down to this standpoint: are you creating these graphics to teach people about topics or are you creating to gain followers and attention to your work, while also spreading awareness.

Rethinking Restaurant Menus

Idea by Jessica Jendres

Something doesn’t sit right with me when it comes to some social media posts that call users to action on social justice issues. Making a post look pretty so it can be shared more is a bit icky to me.

Using your phone for taking photos and picking your order. Via Unsplash.

The problem with this format is that a LOT of restaurants have not made their websites and by extension their menus mobile friendly. Which is a little understandable. While mobile devices are the leading traffic source for most websites, pulling up your phone during a dinner meal is still a little faux-pas for some people. Taking photos of your food is unavoidable at this rate but that’s usually the only time we bring out our phones while eating. So why would the restaurant industry focus on an aspect that doesn’t fit their mold well. It’s one type of frustration to feature hard to read text on your printed menus, it’s another type to have a non responsive mobile menu where you accidentally tap on an item while zooming in to read a description.


But as I say this, I understand that creating and sharing these pretty posts that talk about injustices can actually create more awareness of the topics at hand. It’s just that the type of people they attract are more times than not, using these posts to garner attraction to their pages. You can create a pretty pink graphic with gigantic shapes and gorgeous serif font talking about the injustices for women that will end up being shared across multiple platforms. Meanwhile a simple photo or one with plain text will be shared with half the amount of people.

It’s a gray area where while I enjoy seeing people talking about topics that need to be shared, in runs into the thought of hmm I know they’re sharing this post because it fits their page/personal aesthetic. This thinking is exactly why Black Out Tuesday from 2020 was so polarizing because on one hand, wow you’re speaking up for those with smaller voices. On the other, many people knew that once the day was up or a few months down the line, they would delete the black square because it doesn’t fit their page’s theme.


The interesting effect of Black Out Tuesday form 2020.

Canva’s rising popularity and ease of use might also be contributing to the vast amount of overly sweet justice posts. Never before could those with less design knowledge create images that can fit their theme and profile. This allows those that do care about keeping an image regardless of the topic, to create these vibrant, pop inducing posts that seem so out of place.

Digital menus have become second nature for some foodies. A lot of people (myself included) love to check out a restaurant’s menu at home on their computer before going out so they won’t spend extra time looking at every single item. (Pro Tip: Also saves the embarrassment of pronouncing a menu item wrong since you’ve had the time beforehand to learn.)

Simple but enough information to navigate. Via Scaddabush.

At the end of the day, regardless of what colour or graphic is on the post, the message still stands. And the message still needs to be shared. To me it boils down to this standpoint: are you creating these graphics to teach people about topics or are you creating to gain followers and attention to your work, while also spreading awareness.


*This is taking into account that those that do go out to eat at restaurants during this time have access to data, wifi or have a new age phone. Of course those with an older generation phone will not be able to access menus of this nature. Which is horrible in terms of accessibility even though it eliminates touch points for covid.

Look at the Music Industry for Fresh Ideas

Idea by Jessica Jendres

Something doesn’t sit right with me when it comes to some social media posts that call users to action on social justice issues. Making a post look pretty so it can be shared more is a bit icky to me.

Merchandise from French DJ, Madeon

Snapshot from Ariana Grande’s Positions lyric video

But as I say this, I understand that creating and sharing these pretty posts that talk about injustices can actually create more awareness of the topics at hand. It’s just that the type of people they attract are more times than not, using these posts to garner attraction to their pages. You can create a pretty pink graphic with gigantic shapes and gorgeous serif font talking about the injustices for women that will end up being shared across multiple platforms. Meanwhile a simple photo or one with plain text will be shared with half the amount of people.

It’s a gray area where while I enjoy seeing people talking about topics that need to be shared, in runs into the thought of hmm I know they’re sharing this post because it fits their page/personal aesthetic. This thinking is exactly why Black Out Tuesday from 2020 was so polarizing because on one hand, wow you’re speaking up for those with smaller voices. On the other, many people knew that once the day was up or a few months down the line, they would delete the black square because it doesn’t fit their page’s theme.


Personally, the first time I really took in the experimental design of music merchandise and album art was when Kanye West released The Life of Pablo. Now don’t come looking here for an album review, I haven’t truly listened to a Kanye song since Monster. When I first saw the cover art, I was so confused. Thinking *is this it? This is what money was put into?* Looking back at the cover art to write this, I’m so surprised at how influential this simple design is. Overlaying text with photography? One of my favourite design layouts. Duplicates of one line of text as a background or element? So common now in areas like Instagram stories and sweatshirts.

Canva’s rising popularity and ease of use might also be contributing to the vast amount of overly sweet justice posts. Never before could those with less design knowledge create images that can fit their theme and profile. This allows those that do care about keeping an image regardless of the topic, to create these vibrant, pop inducing posts that seem so out of place.

At the end of the day, regardless of what colour or graphic is on the post, the message still stands. And the message still needs to be shared. To me it boils down to this standpoint: are you creating these graphics to teach people about topics or are you creating to gain followers and attention to your work, while also spreading awareness.

Forget the rules, make the design part of the story, even if it doesn’t make sense at some points. Create chaos in design to fit the chaos of the beat; stretch the type to match the long note of the song.

Designers and artists should always broaden their inspiration scopes outside of their main workspaces, whether it be branding, packaging or digital. To help break the analogous mold, look to spaces where you get feeling just by looking at the design.

Don’t Blame Artists for Flat Humans

Idea by Jessica Jendres

At first glance the illustration style of “Flat Humans” seems like the least harmful thing in the industry. But these quirky renditions have been the subject of a fair bit of scrutiny for the past few years. And while the blame game seems to shift whenever these scrutiny periods pop up, I’m here to tell you that you shouldn’t get angry at the illustrators for just doing their job.

If anything, you can blame the big corporations. Shocker.

*Flat Humans* is a term that comes from the illustrative renditions of humans in flat design. The flat design trend derives from Swiss Style, or International Typographic Style. That design style originated from Switzerland in the 1940s and 50s, and is still heavily prominent in current design trends. Swiss style is one of my personal favourite styles as it really shows how you can communicate effectively while using simple layouts.

Corporations think the flat aesthetic that appears neutral on its own will work well with illustrations of humans. All while still maintaining a playful vibe throughout. This creates the sometimes charming but other times jarring amalgamations we see today. Illustrations that feature people with large outstretched limbs combined with tiny heads or rectangular bodies with small soulless faces on top of them. I get it, it’s often not the prettiest thing you can find online. These illustrations absolutely break any anatomy rules we’re taught when learning the basics of drawing. But it gets the job done and creates no backlash in the company’s main audience, which is why they are so prevalent in current designs.

Idea by Jessica Jendres

Sure you could get an amazing illustrator that does detailed artwork to showcase on your website or social media platforms. But then you run into the problem of heavily stylized artwork that can only be appreciated by some of your target audience. Flat design has become so prevalent in recent times that most audiences now almost expect to see it on most websites. And that’s not to knock on the artists that do create artwork in a flat aesthetic. I understand that this style is more easily accepted by companies as they think that’s the standard. In terms of creating artwork like this, having a ‘stock’ body to work with were you only need to change certain aspects of the design, like hair or clothing, can make it much easier and faster to create these images. And that fits a pretty common big company philosophy of time is money. Why spend more amounts of money on studio photography or intricate illustrations when you can get stock illustrations for cheaper.

Pretty much sums up my thinking. Via @Johnnny2x4 on Twitter.

Idea by Jessica Jendres

But as I’m writing this, there is a slow and steady movement of people that are aware of Flat Humans and are trying to shift companies’ views on them. The market has becoming so filled with this style, that with easy to create programs like Humaaans, it’s almost the easy way out to use this illustrative style. Though nothing will truly change till companies stop commissioning artists to create graphics for them in this style.