Human memory is story-based, facilitating the learning process. This fact is as old as the invention of writing. Indeed, letters can be said to be blood-related to shapes and colours. Sumerian cuneiform writing – allegedly the first written language – could almost portray motion through its characters. Egyptian hieroglyphs were made up of symbols and images. But what was the purpose of registering a message?
The whole idea was that the creation of an accessible visual language would allow everyone to have access to a certain idea. The transmission of such messages through stories had the intention of generating an emotional link and allows people to engage, remember and, most importantly, reproduce a desired type of behaviour.
Jesuits and missionaries converted sermons into sung story-telling to convert the natives of the New World to Christianity. Emperors built monuments to reflect their presence and subjugate people to their rulings. Playwrights like Shakespeare engaged the masses politically through fictional characters. Furthermore, even the narratives from our dreams were codified into psychoanalytical archetypes as a way to create meaning to our subconscious lives.
Marketers have learnt these lessons very rapidly and through sophisticated media have created huge populations of followers, or in other words, consumers. The problem is that in a society that benchmarks “best-value bargains”, social high-status and fame as metrics of success, it is fair to say that consumption is not really driven by the pursuit of happiness, but as a substitute for it.
In this publicity overloaded environment, with people highly trained to consume in a certain way, how to encourage not to stop consuming, but to buy differently? Nudge by design – and this is not “just” another tagline.
As recently published on CNN’s website “Nudging” is a way of influencing behaviour without using force or incentives. The idea is being tested as a method to encourage better consideration of the environment. Techniques include subliminal visual cues and the development of group consensus. This is because individuals will change easier if surrounded by stimuli from their social circles promoting the desired changes. With this in mind designers started creating various visual devices that help guide people towards a behaviour that promotes sustainability.
Bioregional, a British entrepreneurial charity which initiates practical sustainability solutions is now looking for smart people willing to undertake MSc thesis projects. One of the selected topics is “Promoting Sustainable Behaviour Change around Food”. Maybe this is a chance to show that magazines portraying “six-packs” and sexy silhouettes are not really helping anyone to improve their health or be fitter, but it is certainly helping publishers to reach their sales targets.
It is time for a new chapter in the art of story-telling and we need a language that can lead us all to that happily ever after terrain. Antoine Tesquier Tedeschi, founder of the brand and design agency Hu2, seems to be going in the right direction. All it takes is creativity and some talent to translate good ideas into constructive messages. A prologue has already been written by the likes of Banksy, JR Arthus-Bertrand, and the audiences can’t wait to applaud the next acts.
P.S. – Here’s a free manual from D4S, just to say you’re not leaving without a complementary gift.