Listen to epsiode 3 here and find the full transcript of the episode below:
Hi this is Lisa, and you’re listening to the Conscious Communication Design Podcast
I’m a design researcher and educator and I want to talk about how we can make communication design sustainable.
How we can be conscious about our decisions, and what impact we and our work have on the world and how we can use our skills for positive change.
On Monday this week, the first of a series of new IPCC reports was released and it made for shocking and disturbing headlines. What is this report, and what can we as designers draw from it?
The IPCC is the International Panel on Climate Change by the UN that creates reports based on scientific evidence and data.
This report that was released on Monday, “addresses the most up-to-date physical understanding of the climate system and climate change, bringing together the latest advances in climate science, and combining multiple lines of evidence from paleoclimate, observations, process understanding, and global and regional climate simulations.”
So what does this report mean for us and how can we use it?
The findings are also presented in a Summary for Policy makers report.
It’s a summary of the understanding of the current state of the climate, including how it is changing and the role of human influence, the state of knowledge about possible climate futures, climate information relevant to regions and sectors, and limiting human-induced climate change.
So the key findings are formulated as statements of fact with specific IPCC language.
There’s even a document which is only 2 pages, that has only the headlines of the summaries:
Those are compiled in four sections:
A. The Current State of the Climate
B. Possible Climate Futures
C. Climate Information for Risk Assessment and Regional Adaptation
D. Limiting Future Climate Change
This is such an amazing publication. Ok so let’s read some of those:
It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land. Widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and biosphere have occurred.
1 Global surface temperature will continue to increase until at least the mid-century under all emissions scenarios considered. Global warming of 1.5°C and 2°C will be exceeded during the 21st century unless deep reductions in carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas emissions occur in the coming decades.
Low-likelihood outcomes, such as ice sheet collapse, abrupt ocean circulation changes, some compound extreme events and warming substantially larger than the assessed very likely range of future warming cannot be ruled out and are part of risk assessment.
From a physical science perspective, limiting human-induced global warming to a specific level requires limiting cumulative CO2 emissions, reaching at least net zero CO2 emissions, along with strong reductions in other greenhouse gas emissions. Strong, rapid and sustained reductions in CH4 emissions would also limit the warming effect resulting from declining aerosol pollution and would improve air quality
Now, what do we do with this?
I know these are long sentences for a podcast, but we can use this as absolutely unequivocal source for climate communication!
You have a client that’s on the fence about using the more sustainable option despite equal cost? Create an info graphic with one of these statements, put it in your slides, -there is no counter argument!!!
I was excited when I looked at this report. There is no ambiguity in the language. There is no -maybe, maybe not. This is crytsal clear and noone can argue against it. Let’s use these scientifically factual statements to convince those that still need convincing.
Choosing the right medium or platform for your communication
Often, the medium is determined by the client brief, or budget. More often than not though, we have a say in it. And if the client isn’t asking for our opinion, we have to make it clear to them that we aren’t pixel-pushers, but that they hiring us as expert communicators.
So now that we’ve exteblished that it is us that decide which medium should be used for our communication, how do we decide?
In MadMen times – sorry if I keep referencing that show, but actually, not sorry, I think it’s fair to assume any Graphic Designers has seen at least one episode, as it gives a brilliant introduction to advertising history – In MedMan times, which is only 50-60 years ago, there was only so much to choose from: Traditional media: TV, radio, posters, billboards, flyers, direct mail, POS.
I just had to look up if they had direct mail at those times already, I wasn’t sure as I assumed printing and material cost must’ve been comparably higher at the time, but no. They did! Direct mail -in the western world- started around after WWII and became increasingly popular once computers became more affordable in the 70ies, because in order to directly mail recipients, you had to store and and maintain large databases of addresses, which was very difficult without a computer. Remember when Sterling Cooper – that’s the ad agency in MadMen – gets their first computer? It’s the year 1969 in the show, and a glass-enclosed climate-controlled room is being built to house the agency’s first computer: the IBM System/360 – in the space where the copywriters used to meet. Yep, it’s a whole room, the computing power of that device has a capacity of 2 Megabytes. The photo you take on your smartphone is larger than that. The purpose of the computer likely was to target potential revenue streams. I found an interesting article on the Harvard business review that explains the functionality of that computer:
Fast forward to modern times. The Oxford dictionary defines an advertising medium as “A vehicle of communication which enables some form of advertising: print, billboard, television, radio, website, catalogue, direct mail, etc.”
Etcetera. Uff. What is etctera? What ISN’T advertising these days?
That reminds me of a stylish selection of Lidl clothing I saw in the shop the other day. Exclaimer
For the international listeners that may not be familiar, Lidl -similar to Aldi- is a Discounter chain from Germany with a total of 11000 stores in Europe and the United States. They have a pretty horrible block colour logo that – in the nicest words I can find – looks like 90ies trash. And they decided to print hat on anything from Socks to T-Shirts and sneakers, which are also fashioned in the bold primary colour design. Like, wow. Oh and this stuff isn’t free, like, you pay for it.
So, we’re not just paying to be proud brand ambassadors of Gucci, UnderArmour and Co., no, also for the local cheap discounter. Apparently.
What’s more, we live in a world were individuals choose to be marketing vehicles, for a little to a lot of cash on the side, depending on how well they sell their soul. We call them “influencers”.
Advertising also, like pretty much anything else, has to be an experience these days. It’s not enough to hang up a poster and hope someone manages to accidentally look at IT instead of what currently distracts them on their phone. Instead a brand has to be an experience, and the consumers fully immersed in it in order to engage, as otherwise, they can’t even digest the marketing you direct at them, as their drowning in this flood of information and things trying to get their attention.
Ok, I’m sounding very doom-and-gloomy here. I have to clarify: I LOVE advertising.
Not because of the power it holds to manipulate people, but because of the strategic thinking behind it. You have to figure out the message you want to send, the medium you want to send it through and the impact you aim to achieve.
So what are the media we would decide on for classical communcation strategies for our clients:
Traditionally, we determine the medium based on the audience, the budget and the message.
Let’s add one more parameter in there: sustainability.
Now, I’d love to say “the carbon footprint”, because that’s so nice and tangible, can be measured and represented in numerics. But we need to consider the overall environmental footprint, as for example recycling paper causes waste water contamination that needs to be treated and producing a digital message needs to be received by digital devices that are primarily produced using rare earths coming from an industry with exploiatative working conditionss
And then as a third factor within this sustainability bracket, we should be considering the societal influence of our communication, and I think this is indeed influenced by which medium we use.
If you are using a social media platform to communicate your clients message, you are making a statement and you are supporting the success of that platform.
This is such a difficult decision, as on the one hand you want to pick up your audience where they communicate with each other. Just because Facebook has 2.8 billion “active” users, you probably won’t reach teens and tweens in Europe there.
Those can best be found on Twitch and Snapchat and TikTok. But should you be using those as a platform for your advertising in the first place?
Social Media campaigns, the ones that actually engage through user generated content, encourage users to -usually upload video or image content and often showing the user themself.
I think when using methods like this, we should:
A. Be aware that there will be ethical consequences of the large amount of image and video data freely available to AI – for example for the creation of Deep Fakes (Deep Fakes are the videos and images were artificial intelligence called deep learning is used to create fake events, like Barack Obama calling Trump a Dipshit).
An increased digital footprint poses great risks such as being more prone to phishing attacks and stalking. Using TikTok could stand in the way of a user working in their chosen field. For example, ones that requires a high degree of security, such as high-profile government occupations, since a foreign country has access to highly-personal and detailed information about you. You might have heard that TikTok is Chinese, but that TikTok isn’t actually available to Chinese users. They have their own version, called Douyin, due to the countries strikt censoorship regulations.
But it’s not like Tik Tok is the big devil hear, other Social Media platforms are just as bad when it comes to data security. We should all avoid over-trusting and over-sharing with apps that don’t value security and privacy from the get-go. And we should probably not exploit young users by encouraging them to overshare in order to trend our newest hashtag
And B. Considering the carbon footprint of large amounts of data created, stored and sent,
In order to gauge the carbon footprint of a TikTok video, I wanted to first know the typical filesize of those videos.
Tiktok let’s you upload 288MB videos on iOS and 72MB videos on Android. They use a video compression algorythm that appears to be mysterious even to heavy users. Ther’s an option to upload HD versions, which is kind of hidden in the upload settings.
To see how large videos actually are after upload, I downloaded a few random videos that used the hashtag #hd or #hdvideo. The downloaded videos ranged from 1.6-16.3MB, so that’s quite a heavy compression alright! Yet of course, a compressed HD image would still be in the Kilobytes or Bytes region. 60 Seconds of Tiktok use is estimated to create a carbon impact of almost 5gEQCO2. All Social Media use projected “display and progress of the news feed” as being representative over the duration of daily usage/user, that makes 102kgEqCO2 per user per year.
Of course we should also consider how the platforms run their datacentres. Greenpeace published a report on this in 2017, but given that that’s already 4 years ago and there’s no newer report, I won’t go into it at this stage.
Ok so which medium do we choose then? There obviously can’t be a silver bullet answer. And I’m not saying that we have to avoid the newer social media platforms altogether, especially if this was indeed the best way to target the clients audience specifically. But I think that especially here we need to be ever so mindful of the impact we create through: the actual content we create for clients, but we’re also partially responsible for the actions we encourage our audience to take.
If Trump is responsible for encourging people to storm the capitol, so are advertisers that encourage users to create content that is making them vulnerable to be exploited or disadvantaged in the future and creates a ginormous amount of carbon.
I’ve talked a lot about social media now. I can’t touch on all the different media we have available to us these days, but social media is probably often overlooked in it’s negative impact and prised as, if it works, can have the greatest Return On Investment.
I think much of this thinking is transferrable. TV ads aren’t solely shown on traditional Television sets anymore, they’re displayed on streaming platforms as well. So the way we choose those streaming platforms, depending on our targeted demographic, but also on the platform itself. We can see it as a vendor and should choose our vendors carefully, because we DO have that power.
And with traditional print media, I urge you all to consider not just the production, but also what happens to the material after use. Print advertising is so very harmful overall for the environment, because it usually has a very, very short life-cycle, compared to other design products. That is what makes it even more important that we consider their full impact. And I’m looking forward to go into more detail of sustainable print options in future episodes.
What are your thoughts on social media ad campaigns? Please let me know!
Help me spread the word about this podcast, so that we can have a discourse, and this doesn’t remain a one sided communication. You can get in touch with me through twitter or instagram, the handle is @ccdbylisa in both.
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I’ll talk to you next week, where I’ll start with an introduction to paper.
Until then, thank you for listening and take care!