What a world we are living in where viruses spread around the interconnected globe in no time, where presidents and leaders seem to be figures of public relations instead of competent decision makers. A world where there is so much innovation and desperation at the same time. Maybe they go hand in hand? Maybe it’s a natural way of humanity to even out the odds. Maybe we need the light in the dark and some dark in the light.
These days with the invasion of Ukraine there definitely is another big black cloud above us that makes us think nothing more than the worst. I really don’t want to be the person who claims to know what’s right or wrong. I don’t even want to know how life would be if this war would be escalating into a massive destruction of Europe. But what I do know — as a Designer — is that especially in rough times like this, people are looking for beauty in the details. Trying to make the best of any situation would help us to stay sane.
Ultimately I make a living with Design. The worst thing that could happen to me is to find myself redundant. Especially when we think about the things we design today like websites and apps, social media content, animations, video editing. When it comes to surviving, all of these things are getting useless in terms of your own wellbeing.
When you find yourself in a life threatening situation you probably won’t even bother to think about the font you’re using. You’d actually have to be unhealthy passionate about design for this to make sense. Even more in a situation where there’s a gun pointed to your head.
The society we are living in developed such high standards for design so that nearly everything that isn’t perfectly planned, organized or created with a computer doesn’t seem to be designed “well”. But as humans are, we get used to almost everything in an incredibly short amount of time, which brings us to the current situation where we value the “how” higher than the “what”. And this brings me to this subject:
The term “storytelling” is on everyone’s lips. It’s no longer about ‘just’ having the best product, it’s about convincing and captivating people. Because people are emotional beings who want to support institutions that represent the same values. Successful institutions must actively work on their image with emotional stories. The bottom line is to sell a lifestyle and position the institution as a public figurehead for this lifestyle.
It objectively captures the essence of what interesting storytelling is all about. However, the problem we have today is that especially large companies and institutions have enough funds to afford time- and resource-intensive storytelling. There are also positive examples, especially in the field of start-up companies. What I want to point out is that these big players, in contrast to SMEs and start-ups, can afford to market bad and purely profit-oriented product and solutions via storytelling. Thus, the emotional stories they are telling are manipulating us into believing in their lifestyle products.
There is no question that no small company could bring so much attention with very limited resources. And there is no question that a story always has more than one side to it.
Even in desperate times in the Ukraine, there is storytelling happening. But it is not coming from the companies who want to sell their lifestyle.
A good friend told me she stranded in a TikTok algorithm where she pretty much gets confronted with real-life situations and lifestreams from the war happening in the Ukraine. It is mind blowing to think about how close it makes war feel when you are actually able to follow livestreams all over the world in an instant. It makes us feel involved, it makes us feel vulnerable, it makes us feel helpless and it is a fucking emotional story that captivates all of us.
The digital media these days make everything feel relatable, as long as it's told authentically. It's a very weird thing to say but: It kind of feels like we know all these political figures personally for years, it feels like a real life series with different characters and it's either the end or the beginning of the season. So at the same time it feels distant because we are used to see crazy things on our mobile devices.
On the other hand we wouldn't be able to be following world events if we hadn't designed all of those tools we have. So in someway we can consider us lucky to be able to see what is going on and having the possibility and the information from different viewpoints in our Mobile devices nearly everyone of us is carrying around 24 /7.
This morning I read the news, saying that the dictator is actually having trouble to influence his citizens because media content not only from ukraine but from all around the world reaches Russian citizens, who are ashamed and want to stand up for it.
At the same time Elon Musk started to activate Starlink’s internet service for the Ukraine so that the people can stay informed, have access to what is going on, being able to reach out for help and inform others and the world.
Of course there might be downsides to these things too, but all of this is a beautiful example of how technology can help our society.
I will never send more than one email per month, I promise!
Platforms like BlueSky bring a refreshing wind to the media landscape. It's an attempt to put the way we interact online back into the hands of the community. For me personally, it sounds like a very positive change that I would like to support.
Within 3 years I have turned my life in a new direction. All the change and hard work is slowly starting to pay off. But my journey is far from over.