The only problem I have as a teacher teaching Art & Design is the ‘Design’ part. It is always incredibly capitalist and brand orientated when dealing with any field in the design subject. Students have to learn designer brands, fashion brands, products and trademarked styles. They have to learn of the successes of these famous names and then recite them in exams to score points and gain a qualification. It haunts me. I try my best to make pupils aware of brand obsession. Companies like McDonalds and Starbucks are already a part of their everyday thoughts. Female pupils choose branding such as Playboy logos to grace their pencil cases and bags. Male pupils are obsessed with wearing certain expensive football tops to be classified into a tribe and laugh at clothing that isn’t Superdry.
Design is slowing changing. A number of anti-design parties and activists have been slowly making an impact into popular culture and are finally becoming as known as the brands they attack. Groups such as Adbusters could be useful in the classroom to help even the balance. It shows that it is possible to use the subject for something other than selling a product to someone. Adbusters use a number of promotions that can be taught in the classroom with little change. A current contest; ‘One Flag’, asked for the submission of a single flag to symbolise the whole world, all countries. Another asks for a poster design for ‘Buy Nothing Day’, a single day in the year that asks everyone to stop consuming and think about it. Surely these are important issues for pupils?
With the emergence of the Anti-Advertising Agency and an ongoing, growing number of spoof ads from individual artists and groups, the art form is definitely valid and worth introducing to pupils, if you can handle the controversy surrounding it. It’s time pupils knew of the effects of continuous advertising, brand placement and consumerist culture upon them. They deserve to know how it’s used against them, so they can act upon it by choice, rather than through persuasion.
Above: An Anti-iPod Ad draft I created for Adbusters in 2004.