Well, it’s frankly glorious weather today, and I’ve decided to take some time off which I probably don’t have. Closure’s re-exporting on my laptop, so I can’t get any Personal Project work done, or any Communication & Interaction work done, which is something I’ll update on over the next few days hopefully.
But anyway, I’ll focus on propaganda, as the last lecture was the other day, which is shame, as they’re pretty enjoyable and engaging lectures.
Nonetheless it’s about time to get a proper topic for the essay decided upon. The question effectively asks how PR techniques have worked their way into modern propaganda, but this is deceptively open-ended question, which requires a little bit of focusing. If anything that’s a good thing, it means I can twist the question ever-so-slightly to a more design-oriented study. I’ve decided to look more specifically into how a government, and more recognisably, a nation forms a brand. For such a study it is particularly helpful to look at a country with a well established ‘brand’, and few are more distinct and obvious as the aesthetic personality of the United States. But how did the US form such a recognisable image for itself, and what effect does this have on how it has to represent itself on the global stage?
To determine this you first have to look at the building blocks of what makes the brand, to deconstruct the imagery and symbols contained within the national identity, and see the connotations and dennotations attatched to this. Again, the USA is a fantastic case study for this, as it has very clear and easily definable symbols and images, born from it’s history, and more prominently, its myths.
Many American symbols stem from the mythic setting of the wild west, and of America being the great final frontier. This myth exudes every value a traditional American holds dear; daring, bravery, freedom and a plethora of similar dennotations come from the setting of frontier America, regardless of how close to reality this really is. This classical image was then developed and it’s mythic status magnified by use in entertainment media, in Western films and television. The symbol and concept of the classical western hero was born from this fantasy, a heroic redeemer, that is commonly found in most cultures. This mythical hero role and idolisation of leaders has now in turn evolved to entail a celebritisation of American political leaders, which can be traced most notably back to Ronald Reagan. This can be seen again in cinema, with many note-worthy presidents meriting Hollywood biopics of their lives.
This is a good example of propaganda’s self-reproductive nature, as people take in the propaganda, unaware of it’s intention, they then incorporate this into their work, in this case mostly cinema, and this becomes an extension and elaboration of the American myth of the west, and in turn of American propaganda’s visual vocabulary. This visual vocabulary, which has taken many decades to develop, is what countries now draw upon to brand themselves a national identity. So, for example, red, white and blue is an incredibly common colour scheme in almost every area in the US. Nearly every news network has adorned their studio in some way with this image, and particularly any politcal campaign is proudly emblazened with this strict, and distinctly American set of colours. To deviate from it would seem unpatriotic. This rigid template feels like a visual unwritten rule within US politics, and it demonstrates the control this ‘national brand’ has over the way America conducts its image.
This image and ‘brand’ is often kept consistent, as to show that people are proud to be part of such a brand. And this is perhaps why propagandists utilise branding techniques, and form such a distinct and concise aesthetic identity for a nation. Adrian Shaughnessy, in his book Graphic Design: A User’s Manual noted that he once saw a news report of the killing of a young teenager. Adorning her grave was a large Gap logo, proving how utterly devoted this individual had been to the brand, and how proud they were to associate with such an image. If people could feel similarly about their nation then that is effectively Goebbels’ primary rule of propaganda satisfied – people willingly devoting theirselves to follow something.
Well, I’ll leave it there for now. But on a little side-note I recently applied for a job! A graphic design job! It was for a local firm, Creative Graffix, who actually do some really nice, polished branding and printing work in particular. I tweeted them about the position and they seemed really interested in my portfolio and even asked if I was interested in the position! I drummed up a CV, but handed it in late on Thursday. But then the position was already gone, so I’m totally kicking myself, didn’t think it’d go in 2 days, but it was an insanely attractive looking position. But oh well. There’s always Primark…