The importance of design for the government and for politics

09 July, 2011 § 10

The above sticker haunts me.
It’s not enough that the mere presence of Lebanese taxi drivers brings the right amount of irritation to spoil the rest of your day. The sticker had to be added. Apparently, it’s part of the Urban Transport Project by the ministries of Interior and Public Works to rebuild the trust in Lebanon’s public transportation. Granted, this could be a step forward, but really, couldn’t they come up with a better, more trustworthy design? To a designer this is like an archeologist seeing a neglected historical sea castle (*cough*sayda*cough*).

The sticker itself isn’t the problem. The problem is everything else it implies. Like how discouraging it is to work in so essential a field, yet one so disrespected by your own country. Like how indifferent your country is to the potential of its own citizens. Like how your government doesn’t give a rat’s ass about how to communicate with you.

On AIGA’s Why Design? section, one of the reasons it states is:
Design makes the citizen experience clear transparency.
Design can strengthen democracy by building trust in the communication between government and the governed. Trust emerges from understanding; design is a critical intermediary in making the complex clear and enhancing understanding.

I don’t like comparing Lebanon to other countries. For such a comparison to even exist there should be grounds of similarity before moving on to differences and Lebanon is a very unique country on every level. But I have to do this to prove a point.

Let me ask you this: in reference to America’s presidential elections of 2008, do any of you remember McCain’s logo? Now, do you remember Obama’s? I’m not saying the graphic work of Obama’s campaign won him the elections, I’m just saying design matters.

Did you know, for instance, that during the American presidential elections of 2000, 5237 voters from one county were invalidated because people had voted for both parties on the ballots? Why? Because the forms were very poorly designed they confused people.

Art, design and politics are tightly connected. The Bauhaus movement, the trigger of much of the European reforms, could never have seen the light had Germany won World War I or had the German monarchy not fallen. Needless to mention also, all the propaganda posters out there that rallied, influenced and indoctrinated whole nations.

Even Lebanon has its own share of propaganda communication. Take the posters from the Lebanese civil war. Or even recent elections. It seems to me our politician’s care for design is suddenly awakened when there’s a need to brainwash followers. Design has no other purpose.

But I don’t wanna talk about political design per se. I wanna talk about our government’s visual image. I’m someone who doesn’t follow politics. But maybe, just maybe, I’d be more curious about knowing what’s really going on if I was sure that this information is made available for me in a clean, accessible way.

I had to summon all my courage and patience to check every single ministry’s website. I will only post the most hideous but the rest aren’t so far away from the below.

Who can actually read this? Wrong text alignment and size.

92,172 visitors who probably didn't get what they were looking for.

Do we really think we'll get faster internet when this is the MOT's website?

No comment.

I’m very interested in the environment for instance, but would I really go through the trouble of knowing how my government is helping or how I can help by visiting this website? I’d close it after 2 seconds tops. (okay maybe 10 seconds if I wasn’t a designer). And I know that content and data are much more important than design but what our government fails to see is that the 2 are very intricately related. Bad design is bad user interface. Bad user interface is bad user experience. Bad user experience is just bad.

Bad design is the greatest proof that we Lebanese do not care about what our government is doing for us but rather about who is doing it. And our politicians are aware of this and are definitely exploiting it.

Just like art imitates life, design imitates society. And that says a lot of horrible things about us. I dream of a Lebanon that understands the potency of graphic devices. I also dream of a public transport system that is irrevocably trustworthy. And no, this sticker is definitely not doing it. Not even close.

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§ 10 Response to “The importance of design for the government and for politics”

  • Anonymous says:

    I adore your article NISS;)
    Very nice! Keep up the gd work

    Tanios hokayem

  • Nsrn Srks says:

    Taniosss thank you! means a lot :)

  • Rana.B* says:

    Nees, you've done it again !! Been waiting for a post ! love it !

  • Céline says:

    Everytime i pass by a taxi, "how ugly this sticker is" comes to my mind, it is hauntingly bad...
    good point, hopefully, someone from the government reacts.

  • Nsrn Srks says:

    @rana: thank you! i'll try to post more often :)

    @céline: the detail that bothers me most about it is I don't get why half of the taxi cab is white! wtf? were they going experimental or something?! it's a looong road before our government makes any reaction to this subject, you gotta start by the people who are obviously way too design blind.

  • Anonymous says:

    believe in design that:
    • innovatively addresses today's social issues
    • is grounded on a solid research process
    • is collaborative involving the people at the heart of the problem
    • is interdisciplinary bringing together expertise outside design
    • is measurable for the impacts that it has on society
    • is sustained by the people it was designed with and for

    I view informed and intelligent design as having a powerful role in affecting positive social change beyond the market-driven aesthetics that it is most popularly associated with.

    This is what the selection of work showcased on this website aims to demonstrate.


    I was born in Lebanon and spent most of my childhood between Lebanon and the US. I completed a first class BA in Graphic Design at Notre Dame University in 2003, and a first class MA in graphic design at the London College of Communication in 2007. That year marked the birth of Visual Politics, an archive of socio-political graphics from Lebanon.

    I am currently based in London and pursuing my PhD research at the University of the Arts London. The research is developing communication design methods for social integration, taking youth in Lebanon as a case study. I am also involved in lecturing, mentoring and researching at the university.

    Alongside my academic endeavours, I am the Design and Communication Director at Uscreates, a social change agency pioneering remarkably inspiring and innovative work in this field.

  • Anonymous says:

    sorry I pasted the wrong comment (my bio) sorry! I can't figure out how to delete it, but what I meant to say was: good point and good argument. People really need to get over the misconception that it is ok for governmental and public sector to have less than acceptable communication and aesthetic standards, when many organisations in the private sector have super slick online platforms. Stakes are higher for the public sector, and they should really re-consider where and how their marketing/PR/Communications budget is being invested (if that budget even exists!)

  • Nsrn Srks says:

    Haha! yea i thought it was weird at first! :) but I won't delete it (unless you insist) because the first part suits the topic great!

    I have to say, the comparison between the public and the private sectors never really crossed my mind in its bigger impact on us all. That's an even greater point to make.

    Do you, after your PhD, believe that you can have a solution for all of this? I've been following what you do and it's pretty impressive and enthusiastic! Good luck :)

  • Anonymous says:

    Haha I turned blue after i realised. It was on my clipboard from an application I was preparing. Then was sure I copied the comment I wrote to sign into wordpress before I can post it. But apparently it didn't copy!

    I don't think I will have a solution for all this after the PhD, but hopefully, I would have created a platform where Lebanese can feel empowered to come up with ideas for change, and help each other make that change without having to wait for the government to release new laws and policies (we have been waiting forever haven't we?). So it might help indirectly? Empowering designer to boldly approach the government with new propositions without waiting to be asked?

    Oh and please do delete my bio! don't mind you leaving the first part though!

  • sologake says:

    Great design I really like that ... Its official and its looking very decent ...
    Vertical Jump Bible

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