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Comments (108) Posted 05.31.07 | PERMALINK | PRINT

William Drenttel

Al Gore for President




In Al Gore's just-released book, Assault on Reason, he argues that the Bush Administration has used "the language and politics of fear" to "drive the public agenda without regard to the evidence, the facts or the public interest." The key phase here is "the public interest." For too long, the public interest in America, and in many other countries as well (democracies included), has been a function of unending and political compromise. Bipartisanship is held up as a positive value, when in fact it too often means institutional paralysis and special-interest corruption.

Having seen his passion and personality get filtered through the political process — and yes, having witnessed his defeat in the 2000 election — I believe Al Gore is tired of compromise. Certain issues are not negotiable: torture as a means of fighting terrorism, ignoring Global Warming, standing by idly while millions of Americans continue to live in poverty.

A warning to all those readers who do not like politics mixed with design, because frankly, I'm not sure you can be a serious, working designer and separate the two. Writing as a designer, as a writer, as a husband and father, but most of all, as a human being — I believe we should draft Al Gore to run for the Presidency of the United States.

Designers know that there are many possible outcomes to a design scenario, and understand implicitly the fact that a design problem will be handled differently in the hands of different designers. But the one method that seldom, if ever works is compromise. Let's make it pink, or rounded, or retro, or hip — or all of the above because hey, we can't decide! On the contrary, the best and most effective design solutions are driven by a point-of-view — not by compromise — and at some point, no matter what the project, every designer worth anything derives his or her strength from being willing to take a stand. Great design does not, in fact, come from compromise; it comes from strength of character, persistence of vision, and expertise.

Meanwhile, among the most prominent issues we face as designers (and as human beings) is the question of sustainability. Ultimately, this single topic is worth changing the way we practice design, the way we think about successful design, and the modes by which we collaborate. Saying something is fundamental, at the core of contemporary design, is a radical shift. Al Gore has embraced this radical shift. There is no compromise on the environment, and one can only imagine the differences in policy if he were President — from the Kyoto Protocols to the EPA's policies on emissions.

Designers are trained to have the ability to envision different outcomes — to see, quite literally, different possibilities for the future. It's difficult, perhaps impossible to imagine a fundamentally different future under a McCain or a Clinton or an Obama administration. (What it is easy to envision is an even more political minefield.) But there's something about Al Gore's commitment to the future — to saving the planet and protecting the future of our children — that's compelling no matter who you are, no matter what your race, gender, nationality or your political leanings. Is it naive to cast a vote based on the candidate who most believes in the future, everyone's future? Or is it, quite frankly, necessary?

This plea is merely one among many efforts to Draft Al Gore for President (those curious can look here, here, here, here and here) and among some progressive Democrats, there's even been talk of a Gore/Obama ticket. Everywhere is talk of Al Gore: the movie, the book, the Oscar, the Nobel Prize. And there have been passionate arguments in the press, including one by James Traub who recently wrote, "Al Gore has attained what you can only call prophetic status; and he has done so by acting as he could not, or would not, as a candidate — saying precisely what he believes, and saying it with clarity, passion, intellectual mastery and even, sometimes, wit. Everywhere he goes, people urge him, almost beg him, to run for the presidency."

Finally, David Remnick's editorial in The New Yorker, written last March, casts a Gore Presidency as an alternate universe. "It is worse than painful," he writes, "to reflect on how much better off the United States and the world would be today if the outcome of the 2000 election had been permitted to correspond with the wishes of the electorate. The attacks of September 11, 2001, would likely not have been avoided, though there is ample evidence, in the 9/11 Commission report and elsewhere, that Gore and his circle were far more alert to the threat of Islamist terrorism than Bush and his cabinet. But can anyone seriously doubt that a Gore Administration would have meant, well, an alternate universe, in which, say, American troops were sent on a necessary mission in Afghanistan but not on a mistaken and misbegotten one in Iraq; the fate of the earth, not the fate of oil-company executives, was the priority of the Environmental Protection Agency; civil liberties and diplomacy were subjects of attention rather than of derision; torture found no place or rationale?"

Say what you will, but the very concept of considering an alternate universe is, on some level, what designers do for a living. And at the end of the day, whether you're a designer or not, living is something we all do. Maybe Gore can help us do it better. And I, for one, truly believe he can.
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Comments (108)   |   JUMP TO MOST RECENT >>

I've wasn't too thrilled with Gore in 2000 but have come to realize that he has been spot on with so many of his predictions - the impact of global warming, the clash of the secular West and the rising fundamentalism of Islam, the absorption of digital life into everyday living.

I hope he runs and wins for out of the crowd of hopefuls so far he's the only one I can agree on 100%.
Steve
05.31.07 at 10:37

What this essay fails to account for is that Al Gore is not currently a politician. He is a celebrity, running around the world selling books, movies, and ideas. He is not compromising because doing so would be antithetical his schtick, or in design terms, advertising without using his brand.

That kind of behavior works really well when all one has to do is move units at retail and preach to the choir. But in politics refusal to compromise is a polarizing mess that requires both zeal and refusal to work within the rules of the American political system. This country currently has a president who thought that he could work wonders by not compromising, instead historians are already lumping his train wreck of a tenure in with the presidents considered the worst of all time. Swapping him out for another idealouge won't solve global warming, or much else.

Designer writers could do the poltical processes of the world a great favor by taking apply their nonsensical idealism elsewhere and leaving the heavy thinking up to people who actually have clue.
james puckett
05.31.07 at 10:38

YOU HAD YOUR CHANCE!
Tim
05.31.07 at 10:55

But what about the war? Al Gore served in an administration that oversaw the beginning of the Iraqi genocide. Clinton's support for U.N. sanctions starved half a million Iraqi children to death. Will Gore end the war? Will he disarm the U.S. of all nuclear weapons? Will he give us socialist health care?
Benjamin Doherty
05.31.07 at 11:10

I've never been a fan of Gore. I would have voted for Bradley had he made it to the primaries in California -- instead I voted for Edwards.

Gore strikes me as someone that is ill suited for politics. He may be very smart, he may be a particularly good advisor -- but he doesn't have political savvy. He is someone that got into politics specifically to please his family. Now, that he is doing what he wants -- advocating, intellectualizing, writing: he comes across as a natural. Because it's his authentic self. He was characterized as wooden as a politician -- because he was uncomfortable with the whole idea of being a politician. I think the same can be said of George HW Bush.

These are patricians that were raised in an era, or by an older era, that believed that the highest honor was national politics. But national politics today more represents ward politics of a big city -- it's about counting votes, kissing babies, populism and micromanagement. The old school is not suited to be this type of politician.

Let Al Gore be himself and lets look for a new leader, one that understands the wonkish/policy side but also understands the nuts and bolts of campaigning. And who enjoys it.
Dc1974
05.31.07 at 11:15

What I believe this article is trying to say is not that we need a leader unwilling to compromise -- we have one of those, as James mentions in his post, and he has done his best to tarnish the reputation of the United States. What we need, and what I believe Gore is becoming, is someone willing to stand in the face of the status quo in order to do what is right. I won't bother diving into the massive debate about what ethics are and if there is something as concrete as a universal right and wrong, but I will say that things like torture, complete disrespect for the environment, and the deaths of young American men and women in the Middle East for an unclear cause are undeniably wrong.
What may be even more wrong is the overwhelming apathy of Americans, who look at the situation we're in and simply accept it, or say "I disagree, but there's nothing I can do about it."
This is where Gore has taken a step. He is publicly and intelligently pointing out what is wrong with the U.S. administration right now, and spreading his message the only way anyone can anymore in this country -- through movies, books, and the media.
Rick Poynor made a visit to my alma mater a couple of years ago, and I was lucky enough to hear him speak about design and how designers need to take responsibility for what they create. It's not that Gore isn't able to compromise; it's that he is making a stand in the face of an irresponsible administration, and taking responsibility for his own actions in turn (something the Bush administration has yet to do). Taking responsibility for oneself is a trait that all designers (and all politicians, and everyone else, for that matter) should have, and Gore is one of few who does.
RCP
05.31.07 at 11:34

Ehhhh. I'm a fan of Gore, but I don't need to read about him on a design blog. That was a poor attempt to tie design and politics together. I'm very disappointed.
Ray M
05.31.07 at 11:45

I don't see how a post about Al Gore is any more off topic than one about gardening, frankly. Design isn't so introspective that non-design topics are inappropriate. Politics, gardening, it all touches design because it's part of our lives and part of the lives of our audiences.

As for drafting Al Gore, AMEN! I get misty just thinking about what it could be like. Just imagine it: a president that actually inspires people to be better than they are today, who is intelligent and articulate, and who is deeply driven by values other than his religion. We should be so lucky.

Stacy Westbrook
05.31.07 at 11:51

I'm not sure you can be a serious, working designer and separate the two.

Of course you can.
Doug B
05.31.07 at 11:57

I'm not the least bit pleased to see a place that is usually home to great critical design writing turned into an ad for Al Gore. Off-topic much?
Jared Christensen
05.31.07 at 12:19

Gore's got some lovely ideas but has fallen flat on his ass in implementation time and time again. President? no. Adviser? yes.
Brian
05.31.07 at 12:31

i just read an article in either newsweek or time magazine on how Gore would be the correct president to have and would win if he runs for the office, but he is just tired of dirty politics and everything else that goes on in there.
Parag
05.31.07 at 12:37

I agree without reservation that Al Gore represents the only alternative at the moment to the mess we are currently in. Will he be perfect? Probably not. But at the moment we don't need perfect. We need a little bit of common sense.

The idea that designers should not be political is absurd. The same argument has been made against actors, writers and painters. Should we begin to classify who is allowed to be political and who is not?

In large part designers and their artistic fellows drive culture in a free society and at some point we should take some responsibility for what we are doing and how what we do affects the process. Let's acknowledge that we too are part of this process and not voyeurs.

I was never very political and for most of my life I was a registered Republican. But the last several years have frightened and sobered me. I for one will sign any petition drafting Al Gore for the presidency. Now more than ever we need some solid leadership with an eye to the future, not the price of Halliburton stock.

At the moment Al Gore may be a celebrity, but he is also an experienced politician with years of experience in government. He may be the only chance we have to save this country from becoming so much less than the ideal we dream of, and a nightmare for all of us who value our right to express ourselves freely and without fear.

Fundamentally, for an artist, the right to express ourselves is the most precious right we have.

William, you have my applause for taking a stand!
Joe R
05.31.07 at 12:51

To the naysayers: get your own damn blog. Bill can write about whatever he pleases here.

In general it's sad that partisanship and identity politics seems to override reason. If Gore were to take over from Nader as leader of the Green party, that might be an interesting sideways move...if unlikely.

I truly think his running would not unite the nation so much as reopen the wounds of 2000, no matter how much he has done in the interim. And yes, as some have said, he'd be a great secretary of the Environment, or Sec. State, even, in an Obama administration. I think he doesn't want to have to play the quid pro quo game anymore, and focus on his work, foundation and institutes.

The key is really to find an inspiring leader who knows what the future is bringing (economic downturn, peak oil, climate change) and engineer proper responses - a re-energized domestic agenda, heavy investment in sustainable energy infrastructure, incentivizing innovation, disincentivizing sprawl development and outdated industrial practices...sure, you might lose the Big Old Corporate Donors, but you might do what Dean did, which is get millions of real people and small start-ups behind you instead. The mammals that will survive the dinosaurs...
aj
05.31.07 at 12:58

I'm not the least bit pleased to see a place that is usually home to great critical design writing turned into an ad for Al Gore. Off-topic much?

I tend to disagree with the comments that say this post is inappropriate or out of place. As designers, we have a uniquely creative and informed perspective on the world. Design is way of thinking and seeing. The lens of design can (and should) be used to examine everything from gardening to politics. And I believe this forum is the place to discuss it.
Forrest
05.31.07 at 12:59

I agree without reservation that Al Gore represents the only alternative at the moment to the mess we are currently in. Will he be perfect? Probably not. But at the moment we don't need perfect. We need a little bit of common sense.

The idea that designers should not be political is absurd. The same argument has been made against actors, writers and painters. Should we begin to classify who is allowed to be political and who is not?

In large part designers and their artistic fellows drive culture in a free society and at some point we should take some responsibility for what we are doing and how what we do affects the process. Let's acknowledge that we too are part of this process and not voyeurs.

I was never very political and for most of my life I was a registered Republican. But the last several years have frightened and sobered me. I for one will sign any petition drafting Al Gore for the presidency. Now more than ever we need some solid leadership with an eye to the future, not the price of Halliburton stock.

At the moment Al Gore may be a celebrity, but he is also an experienced politician with years of experience in government. He may be the only chance we have to save this country from becoming so much less than the ideal we dream of, and a nightmare for all of us who value our right to express ourselves freely and without fear.

Fundamentally, for an artist, the right to express ourselves is the most precious right we have.

William, you have my applause for taking a stand!
Joe R
05.31.07 at 01:05

Yeah, let's write-in the guy who becomes a green superstar by producing his movie on global warming, and then we can totally ignore his track record for energy consumption. Great idea! His monthly electric bill, that totals just under $1,200, is only supported by roughly $450 of green energy. That leaves $750 bucks A MONTH spent on fossil fuel energy. I could warm my home by burning pure sulfur in my fireplace and still not equal the volume of emissions he's paying for on a monthly basis. Half of my city block probably doesn't come close either! "...tired of compromise..." my butt.
On another note, being a superstar with good PR doesn't instantly make one a politician. Sure, the other candidates may create a so-called political minefield, as if every 4-years isn't already a political minefield? Touting Al Gore as a man who is "tired of compromise. Certain issues are not negotiable..." is pretty generic. Of course EVERYONE is tired of compromise. The question is, does Gore have the political know-how to make a change as a president, or is he better suited as a superstar with a decent movie. I vote the latter.
Craig Hughes
05.31.07 at 01:10

gore is reaping the benefits of what amounts to an enormous self promo project. as soon as he gets himself some clients again (say, america), he'll go right back to the compromises. there just isn't any other way, though i appreciate the apt parallel.
tjf
05.31.07 at 01:48

Aside from the basic fact that the issues where he shows the most intelligence and passion are EXACTLY the issues that are the most pressing and relevant there are other compelling reasons to look at Gore in a presidential light: he has played the game, he knows the game, he retired from the game, and he has risen above the game. His life experience has given him a level of sincerity and insight that is not only a rarity in politics, but increasingly in life. He speaks and acts from his heart and with a extremely sharp and aware mind.

As for his energy bills... he neutralizes all his energy consumption with carbon offsets... so he may use more than you and me, but I bet his net impact on the environment is much less.
Michael Turro
05.31.07 at 01:56

Craig,

I personally do not own or use a car, I work from home, I live in a newer, energy-efficient, well-insulated low-rise condo in an inexpensive downtown neighborhood. I walk to a local market to get my groceries. Every appliance in my house is Energy Star rated; I use a clothesline for drying whenever possible; and nearly every lightbulb was switched out for compact fluorescents or LEDs. My electricity bill is $50 a month.

Does that make me more qualified to comment on politics than Al Gore? ;)

The guy's only been in Congress since 1976; longer than some posters here have been alive, I'm sure.

He served as vice-president for eight years, working with one of the most intelligent and popular presidents in living memory (who had lots of flaws, yes yes). I think he knows _a thing or two_ about politics, leadership and how things get done in Washington.

Is he perfect? no. If we wait for perfection, we'll be here forever. That said, he's still likely not going to run, but whoever he anoints will likely become the winner of the leadership race if not the election. I could see an Obama-Richardson ticket, with Gore as brain trust behind the scenes... Richardson was Sec. Energy under Clinton, so there's experience there...
aj
05.31.07 at 02:00


The difference between the fear of Islamofascism and the fear of human induced climate change is that only one of these things is proven to exist.

I'll admit that Bush is the worst possible messenger, but his message is vitally important. We're involved in an exitential struggle with an intolerant, misogynist, religious-based political movement. Is that something to fear? Damn right it is. Especially when the left has essentially opted out of the debate in favor of mindlessly hating George Bush. When Bush is gone the threat will still be there. And driving an electric car isn't going to make a damn bit of difference.

I respect Gore. Thank goodness we have people who believe passionately in something. I just think he's passionate about a second tier issue.


Murphy
05.31.07 at 02:05

I guess the "Islamofacists" don't get any of their money or power from oil producing states?
Michael Turro
05.31.07 at 02:11

Go Bill!!!! Didn't you do a book on the 1st Gulf War? I can't find it on my shelf.

Great art can be political.

And if you don't think designers should be concerned with politics, then contact me and I can explain in very simple terms just exactly how economic policy affects your bottom line.

Not to mention the unreal atrocities done to this country and the world...

No one in politics is a perfect choice. While a few are there as their "calling" (John Lewis, my Congressional Representative), I have a theory that if their parents had loved and nurtured them enough, most people wouldn't be in politics (my Dad, my ex-husband, Bill Clinton, Ragan, etc.)

So. Who do we have? A sad lot of choices. At least we know what Al Gore believes now.
Michelle French
05.31.07 at 02:43

" We're involved in an exitential struggle with an intolerant, misogynist, religious-based political movement."

Wait... America is in an existential struggle with... itself? Or did you mean someone other than the white, Christian, woman-hating government that WE have here in the US?

Last time I checked, that is an apt description for both "them" and "us".
Jw
05.31.07 at 02:52

We're involved in an exitential struggle with an intolerant, misogynist, religious-based political movement.

This is referring to the Republican administration, right?
jonsel
05.31.07 at 03:02

WD writes: "A warning to all those readers who do not like politics mixed with design, because frankly, I'm not sure you can be a serious, working designer and separate the two." Really, why?

There's a difference between saying that art and design can be political and that art and design must/have-to-be/are-inevitably political, no? (Except maybe in the so-broad-as-to-be-meaningless sense that every time I buy a candy bar it's a political act.)

WD writes: "Is it naive to cast a vote based on the candidate who most believes in the future, everyone's future?" Could be! But I don't even know what you mean by "believing in the future." As in, the sun is going to rise tomorrow? Or is it more like "being fervent and full of hope"? If so, I dunno, I'm sort of wary of the various "fervent and full of hope" crowds myself. A few of them didn't have a very good record in the 20th century.
Michael Blowhard
05.31.07 at 03:13

Gore is a celebrity, not a politician. He is accountable to no one at the present time and while it's not "for sure," were he to assume the role of "politician" he'd probably not be the guy we all love so well right now.

There's a candidate right now who speaks his mind, speaks honestly, and has a lot of good ideas: his name is Mike Gravel, and he's a helluva lot more interesting and effective than any of the others. Of course, he likely has no chance because he ain't famous.

And everyone has the right to be political, but no one can assume that they're "more right" because of what they do.
Brad Gutting
05.31.07 at 03:44

If this quote from Anna Lappe is true: "Every time you spend money, you're casting a vote for the kind of world you want."

then it follows that designers are in the position of providing political platforms. Even when it comes to designing candy bars.

Al Gore for president!
xanthe
05.31.07 at 03:55

"The difference between the fear of Islamofascism and the fear of human induced climate change is that only one of these things is proven to exist."

Yes, well.... Maybe you should argue the latter with some of the writers at New Scientist, Murphy:

http://environment.newscientist.com/channel/earth/dn11462
John C
05.31.07 at 04:40

I'm more of an Obama guy.

Why? For one, I think I'm sorta sick of baby boomer politicians. Also, Obama seems like he can frame the debate in a way that Clinton, Gore and Edwards can't (falling into those same old, tired GOP frames).

That's my reasoning and I'm sticking to it.
greg
05.31.07 at 04:50

Bravo. A nice bridge of politics and design - it seems like so much effort is spent on isolating design from politics when, in fact, the two are so inextricably entwined.
It's also an interesting take on the perils of bipartisanship... perhaps we are due for a new politics of no compromise? (Although, I would caution against employing this as a unilateral approach. I may be a firebrand, but even I must admit that ultimately moderation is most effective and strategic.)
progressive reactionary
05.31.07 at 04:57

Bill, I applaud you for using this forum to rally the troops around these important issues. It's your blog, and you can write about whatever you want. If one has the ability to take a stand and make it known, go for it.

This holiday weekend while finally able to catch up on much-needed couch surfing, I found myself totally engrossed watching and listening to Gore on Charlie Rose show on PBS. I was drawn to this person whom I had only known as a "politician" previously, and was absolutely amazed at how transformed this person had become. There he was talking freely about many subjects, NOT choosing his words carefully.

Rose even commented on how different he came across compared to Gore the candidate, and asked if this was more "the Real Al Gore." His answer was that he had learned a lot in the past eight years. I respected his honest answer.

For the past eight years Al Gore has actively worked to educate people about the environment and the negative aspects of our 24-hour news cycle. That there's more to life than anesthetizing ourselves with tabloid blather. He was quick to actually blame our culture, rather than be afraid to criticize. I found it refreshing to hear someone other than Bill Maher give it to me straight. That action is far more credible than any current politician has done for the public good in the past eight years, I'm sure.

Even if he never runs, he has perhaps done more than had he become president. I see him as a free agent able to act on his own agenda, rather than compromising to the needs of his party, constituents, etc. Add to that that he was already Vice-President for eight years, and you've got one person with some damn good credibility.

Of course, all people will want to talk about is how fat he's become. Never mind all the good he's done.

Last point: Bill, your choice of RED as the color for Gore's campaign is an absolutely amazing idea. It breaks-down the color wall associated with conventional bipartisan politics, and emphasizes the critical urgancy of this campaign.

It's the perfect way to turn the notion of "red" on it's head. First it meant commie, then it meant conservative...tomorrow it could mean hope? Genius.

Maybe this become the "butterly ballot" issue of '08: Those who voted red. Accidentally.
Marc Levitt
05.31.07 at 05:01

I must admit that ultimately moderation is most effective and strategic.

And I would like to say that, at certain times, moderation is a terrible idea. Moderation got us into Iraq, the idea that we should all "support the president".

Maybe if we had listened to those "crazy liberals" instead of trying to get a long a la Lieberman, we'd be doing things of real importance right now, like rebuilding the Gulf Coast or, god forbid, the Education system.
greg
05.31.07 at 05:07

He lost in 2000? Erm no, he won that election.
Ryan
05.31.07 at 05:18

"Al Gore has attained what you can only call prophetic status; and he has done so by acting as he could not, or would not, as a candidate — saying precisely what he believes, and saying it with clarity, passion, intellectual mastery and even, sometimes, wit.

and there's the catch, if edwards, obama or any other current candidate weren't running right now, they would speak their mind too... that's precisely WHY he isn't running for president.

while it's true that gore would make a solid president, he'd still have to deal with a corrupt and useless congress, a population that WILL NOT trade it's cars for a cleaner environment, who also puts it's small-picture vanities ahead of any big picture gains and initiatives, amongst a myriad of other things working against him.
ed mckim
05.31.07 at 05:21

I'm really amazed at how much negativity people heap on Al Gore. This guy WON THE POPULAR VOTE in 2000 (and would have won Florida and the Electoral College if the Suprememe Court hadn't screwed things up).

There's really only a few things that matter:
1. Gore was RIGHT about the foolishness of invading Iraq.
2. Gore was RIGHT about WMDs (or lack of them)
3. Gore was RIGHT (and has been for years) about the impact of Global warming.

This idea that Gore is too smart to be president is CRAP.
This government needs to get back to hiring COMPETENT people! Smart, knowlegable, reasoned people.

Stop worrying about celebrity and personality issues and start worrying about the mess our current president has made.
ChrisM70
05.31.07 at 07:14

The lens of design can (and should) be used to examine everything from gardening to politics.

Great. And I'm not too worried about on-topic vs, off-topic; I believe that the proper topic for Design Observer is whatever Bill, Jessica, and Michael want it to be. But it is hardly saying that "designers should not be political" to ask about the pretext of this conversation being about design or from a design perspective or a "nice bridge of politics and design."

Huh? Other than a few participants being known to be graphic designers and a few mentioning being graphic designers, how is this different from any other other-perspective, non-bridge political discussion?
Gunnar Swanson
05.31.07 at 07:24

Reading Design Observer and saying "hold the polemic" is sort of like going to Hooters for the food. Thank goodness the art of Pamphleteering lives on. Designers, where do you draw the line?
Mark Yoes
05.31.07 at 08:13

If the Bush presidency has done one good thing, it was to light a fire in the hearts of Americans. We were prosperous and apathetic before. Now we're prosperous and passionate. We were asleep. Now we're awake. Many of us are angry. It's about time.

Still, I'm not sure the kind of firestorm you touched off with this post (surely you knew it would come) has a place here. Politics is a taboo topic in certain environments (the workplace) for good reason.

We are aware that people disagree with our views, yet we persist in the fool's errand that we can change people's minds. Surely, one fantasizes, if I make a reasonable argument, then all reasonable people will be powerless against it.

But it never works that way. People interpret evidence differently. They dismiss the authorities and institutions we stand on. Shouting ensues. We end up resenting them for their intransigence. They resent us for our sanctimony.

Online, there is much less civility as the argument goes back and forth and sometimes wildly astray.

The polarity in this country right now is frightening. I don't like seeing it here.

I understand where you're coming from, but Design Observer is better when it provides respite from the kind of noise that has become almost unavoidable.
Shawn Smith
05.31.07 at 08:16

The idea that designers should not be political is absurd.
So is the idea that designers must be political in order to be serious designers. Frankly, I find that rather insulting. But then again, a blog author casting a sweeping judgement on his fellow peers is certainly nothing new.

And of the lengthy and expected circus of comments, I think the poster directly above me (Shawn) said it best.
Bobby Dragulescu
05.31.07 at 11:19

Bill, I have no cares what your political leanings are, and even fewer about the intersection of design and politics. To each, his own. But as a fellow blogger, I'm gonna call you out on a bald-faced post "designed" to rack up the comment count.
m.kingsley
06.01.07 at 12:24

By definition, courage is when you choose to stand up while everyone else is sitting down. You may not agree with Bill's choice of candidate or the appropriateness of the venue, but you must give credit where credit is due. His post is as passionate as it is credible in (what remains in) our fragile construct that is freedom of speech.

Thomas Friedman wrote recently what I consider the best piece I have ever read about environmentalism being the ultimate a-political foundation for us as a nation and nation among nations to move ahead. It is downright brilliant. And he does not name names, but the implication for Gore to be the next president is obvious.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/15/magazine/15green.t.html?ei=5070&en=5ba3ba5a777969ec&ex=1180756800&pagewanted=all

There is a significant underpinning to environmentalism rhetoric. It is inherently optimistic, populist, anti-isolationist, pro-ethical-business, anti-destruction, pro-ethical. You may equate that to progressivism, and you'd be right. Bill's choice of Gore as next president is the same question as "which candidate can embody these ideals and survive office long enough to realize them?" of all the candidates in the field, I must admit that Gore is the only one that embodies all of these. (Some embody a subset, but that isn't good enough).

So what if he's a celebrity? So what if he's patrician? So what if he's a veteran politician? So what if he doesn't have a perfect carbon footprint? We need all of these attributes in a new leader - ALL OF THEM. We don't need perfection, people. We need a leader with a vision and the scrappy experience in office to handle the resistance and antagonism.

He already lost the Big One. And he's still kicking and more vital than ever. He didn't fade away into obscurity. He's got nothing to lose. And that is the best kind of armor against cutthroat politics there is.

(Hey, plus he's on the board of Apple. Talk about being at the table of one of the most progressive business cultures there is - hooah)

I'm with Drenttel. Gore/Obama '08.

Environmentalism touches every aspect of life, business, culture, and now (finally) politics. It is the glue that will hold us and this planet together. Any other political agenda or worldview simply falls short.

And as for the whole design plus politics debate, my view is crystal clear. Grow up and make a difference, because if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem. The fact that you're a designer is irrelevant.
Gong Szeto
06.01.07 at 12:29

The contributions to this site are so hit-or-miss. File this entry under miss.
I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Puckett.

John Dabney
06.01.07 at 01:14

Every designer knows Gore lost because he used a 'Swoosh' in his campaign poster.

How's that for bringing it back to design?

Von Glitschka
06.01.07 at 05:23

Thanks to Von Glitschka for explaining. The swoosh explanation makes more sense than the 'designers have a unique duty to be political (by implication more than hairdressers or quality control managers or nurses)' claim or the 'Bill is a graphic designer so he should talk about nothing but serif brackets and the insidious scourge of stock illustration' argument.

I have many good reasons to admire Bill (and Al Gore) but courage? When publicly declaring a desire that a mainstream politician run for president of the US is an act of courage, everyone should buy Congressional Medal of Honor manufacturing futures. They are going to sell better than those soccer trophies for every kid who signed up for the league.

There's no reason that Bill shouldn't make a strong endorsement but the weak claims that this is somehow a graphic design discussion undermine the serious nature of the subject. Graphic designers (and bloggers) have some ethical opportunities that some other people don't have but the notion that politics and work are inseparable for designers but not for grocery clerks and used car dealers is odd, indeed.

I do have to take issue with Bill's assumptions about compromise and Al Gore: Gore has done more than his share of compromising and knows that he'll do plenty more if he's going to get anything done. And that's not necessarily bad; we've spent the past few years with a President who doesn't compromise and who has a vision. (And he is, he assures us, the decider. He'll go for rounded and retro, thank you.) Compromise isn't the same as giving in, pandering, or forgetting why you're designing something in the first place and consensus is even less so. That's true in politics and in graphic design.

re: "There is no compromise on the environment." I seem to be saying it a lot in this conversation but: Huh?
Gunnar Swanson
06.01.07 at 07:21

In the latest issue of Print magazine Steven Heller comments on the immature state of blogging today - with regard to really exploring opinion writing and holding it up to the demands of good editing. He states (and I am just paraphrasing from memory here) that blogging is a knee-jerk reactionary space - which is great to generate a lot of thoughts and fits and starts, but not great with regard to writing with depth or balance or even research. Thus, the instant access and opportunity that we all have to blogging - helps keep the kind and style of writing on a blog suspended in a more unformed, undeveloped and unsharpened space compared to the weight, quality and consequence of writing for print publications.

At first I was slightly peeved reading Mr. Heller's "rant" and looked for a hole in his logic to immediately point out his old-fashioned allegiance to print writing. But then I slowed down, thought about it and decided "Yep. I totally agree".

I admire and respect ALL of the contributing writers to this blog and sometimes I connect with their ideas and sometimes I hit the "ignore" button in my head and read The Onion instead - end of issue. Thanks William for posting what some regard as inspiring and others as disappointing, but to all, this is EXACTLY the kind of space for this kind of writing. Expansive yes. Exhaustive...no.
Jessica Gladstone
06.01.07 at 09:56

It (almost) doesn't matter who is in the White House considering that person still has to deal with an entrenched Congress that is more concerned with consolidating individual power than governing for their constituents. In my opinion, we won't see real solutions until we have term limits imposed on our representatives. Then there is a strong impetus to effect positive change, not just give lip service to the latest poll results.

Another point to consider...

Is Vice President Gore the best candidate for the job? Are any of the candidates in either party? In this country of thinkers, doers, and optimists this is the best we can do?

I think we can do better...
Antonin
06.01.07 at 10:30

Nobody loved Al before he made March of the Penguins. Now we're all clamoring for Gore 2008. Let's just hope none of those republicans make any penguin movies!
Dan
06.01.07 at 10:56

"I'm not sure you can be a serious, working designer and separate (design from politics)."

Replace the world "designer" in that sentence with almost any other profession and William Drenttel would just sound insane.
Adrian
06.01.07 at 11:11

i really don't see a problem with a political candidate endorsement on DO. afterall, isn't DO about "design" AND "culture"?

what if drenttel endorsed mccain? romney? clinton?

so what? they're all BRANDS. they are all symbols that encapsulate our individual aspirations. and if there is anything that this DO crowd traffics in is BRAND RHETORIC. how's that for bringing it to design?

on another note, i'd like to offer another kind of provocation. NYT published a great piece on class in america. in their interactive tool you can see how different occupations, education, income and wealth add up to a specific class profile. and class, in my opinion, is the least-dealt-with taboo in America.

"Designers" rank #176 (out of 447 in this survey by The National Opinion Research Center based on 2000 Census and respondents' rankings of occupational 'prestige"). Librarians rank #103, Computer Suppport Specialists rank #9, Agricultural Inspectors rank #146, Architects #11, with Physicians and Surgeons taking the top spot of #1.

Based on last year's AIGA salary survey, I made an assumption on the mediam income of designers ($60K) and a huge assumption on net worth ($25K). Everyone has a Bachelor's degree.

Combined, designers as an aggregate category fall into the 63rd percentile, with their education and income being much higher (high 80th percentile). What is shocking to see is the "lowish" occupational prestige ranking (46th percentile).

My point is this - given lowish prestige, middle class income and net worth, designers as a voting class are middle of the road. Another way to put it, the glass is neither half-empty nor half-full. Designers as a class are what I call "Pre-powerful". We don't have designers in office, designers have a rich legacy of being "above the fray" in terms of politics (in other words, they opt out due to some Howard Roarkian arrogance, thank you very much ms. rand). YET -- the level of discourse on a blog (albeit somewhat institutionalized) such as DO is quite high. That's largely due to the education part, but also the stuff that we traffic in, which sits very high on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs Pyramid (Aesthetics and Beauty).

My argument here is that design as a class absolutely MUST engage in political discourse to balance out what I consider a very insular and in many ways, provincial "design" discourse. And why political discourse? Politics is everything. In other words, caring about politics is caring about what ideas are in favor and the reltive pole positions of people whom we elect to represent those ideas.

And I see a political endorsement on a "design" blog pretty damn refreshing. Designers as a Pre-Powerful voting class should be grateful that there is somewhere on the net that the political concerns of this class can be shaken out (I cannot name anywhere else). I happen to agree with Drenttel's choice, but I'd be happy to engage here even if I didn't agree.

Lastly, I just roll my eyes at the deep design writing vs shallow blogging debate. the critical comparisons that I understand (Heller, Poynor) are binary at best. To me, it's a temporal thing. The less time you have to formulate something, the more it resembles something that is "shoot-from-the-hip". If I had to research and edit everything before I answered my wife, we'd never have a conversation. Blogging is somewhere in-between a conversation and a one-way written piece (let's be honest, it's a monologue). That's why I like blogs. So when you talk about "political discourse" you, of course, are talking about conversations.

I'm glad there's a conversation. Designers as a voting class need to be heard, and if there's no one SAYING ANYTHING, then there's nothing to be heard by anyone that matters.

One last note: The environment doesn't give a rats ass about any of this. It is seriously deteriorating because of the excesses of not a single class of humans, but by all humans as a species. And that includes designers as a "sub-species". Designers traffic in form-making. Form-making won't save the planet (nor will it end the Iraq war, elevate civil rights in China, end violence, for that matter) However (politics/policies, systems thinking, technology, business innovations, structural production/consumption behavior changes -- WILL save the planet)

Given the urgency that a 10 degree increase will make on the lives of 4 billion people and countless other lifeforms on this planet, form-making is sadly inconsequential...or is it?
Gong Szeto
06.01.07 at 12:01

I don't think it matters who you elect, just please make sure you don't elect NeoCons again. They were terrifying under Reagan and are even more so today.

It seems to me the connection between design and US politics lies in the application of marketing propaganda to political reality. The NeoCons seem fairly adept at taking the Orwellian propaganda methods of marketing and applying them to the rhetoric of politics. If marketing has taught us anything, it's never trust a 'feature.' Features are not inherent to products. They are designed. Half the time a feature masks a flaw.

Some examples:

Marketing: last night I bought 'quick cook' spaghetti. What was involved in creating this fantastic new feature? Packaging design. The label was changed. It wasn't spaghetti. It was spagatini which is basically very thin spagetti. Spagatini cooks faster than spaghetti. Spagatini has always cooked faster than spaghetti. The feature 'quick cook' masks the fact that it's just spagatini.

Politics: The popular idea of a 'liberal media bias' emerges at the very moment when an explicit right wing bias appears. Liberal media bias is a necessary concept to enable Fox News for example, to add the 'fair and balanced' feature to mask it's own right wing bias. Due to the impact of Fox on the news industry, US news stopped being news at the very moment that Fox News proclaimed that it was news. Which also explains why if we want US news, we watch The Daily Show.

Marketing: When I was a kid, we sometimes got defective jeans. Until we wore them, we didn't notice that they'd been cut on an angle to the weave of the fabric, so they twisted. We exchanged them as defective products. Today, 'twisting' is a feature. Not that they actually design twisted jeans today. They just found a way to sell the defective jeans. As there is a limited supply of defects, it's possible to charge a premium.

Politics: The problem of bi-partisanship seems to be the result of NeoCons empowering a fundamentalist religious sector of the population, which ironically has more in common with Islamic fundamentalists than it does with most Americans. The same strategy was employed for Reagan. The NeoCons themselves, and their big corporate sponsors, may not buy into the religious aspect of Christofascism, but they are happy to ride on the same boat if it fulfils their own fascist aims. The Right today is actually a mixed, highly fragmented bag. Even many Conservatives and Christians hate them. So the idea of bipartisanism as a problem arises at a time when bipartisanship disappears. It is important for the right wing to reinforce the idea that there are two big partisan groups to prevent people from noticing that there is only one coherent group, ie. most Americans, ie. those with normal, liberal and conservative American values. The 'problem' of bipartisanship simply masks how highly fragmented the Right actually is. In other words, bipartisanship is a feature of a NeoCon administration. It won't be a feature of a Democrat administration.

Marketing: When SVHS video was introduced, one of it's compelling features was 'drop out compensation.' Drop outs are pixels with information missing. They appear as white pixels, like burnt out pixels on a monitor. Drop out compensation turned the white pixels 50% grey so they were less noticeable. On the surface, it sounds like a great feature. However, the feature masked a terrible flaw: while SVHS generally looked much better than VHS, it had about 10 times more drop outs than VHS, which made it worse overall. It couldn't have been sold without first engineering drop out compensation to literally mask it's defect.

Politics: The Clash of Civilizations concept is a rhetorical feature designed to suggest there is an unbridgeable gap between the West and Political Islam. But for Christian fundamentalists in the US, it would seem the only problem with the Taliban in Afghanistan is they chose to impose the wrong religion. We might as easily suggest the existence of a 'Mirror of Fundamentalism' as a 'Clash of Civilizations.' Similarly, the British and US have been politically, militarily, socially, and economically supporting political Islam with Saudi Arabia for over 50 years, as the Islamists have been rabidly anti-communist and anti-socialist. Political Islam was an important ally in the Cold War. We introduced political Islam into Afghanistan to create a Vietnam for Soviets. We have a long history of working together. As a result, there appears to be a bigger clash of civilizations between the Democrats and Republicans (sic. bipartisanism) than there is between West and Political Islam.

Politics: The War On Terror is not a new feature of the NeoCons. It was introduced during the Reagan administration. As I recall, attacks by Libyan terrorists were a worry, and aggressive wars of terror on Central America were a preoccupation. The War On Terror is designed as a pretext and mask for the expansion of administrative power domestically and internationally. As designers and savvy marketers, we know we can expect the US to invade Central America again when 'narcoterrorism' becomes a big talking point.

To think that some people in a PR firm designed what we collectively think! Like most design, we know they have done their job well when no one notices.
Brad
06.01.07 at 12:12

I believe that as professionals who have the unique responsibility of communicating messages, both personal and those of clients, designers need to be informed, open to alternative views and willing to accept or turn away projects based on personal belief. Designers, no, members of society SHOULD define for themselves a set of ethics and beliefs and to voice these veiw points are important. However, it is very easy for designers to become an insulated lot, to pressume a self-importance as an industry and to expect our voice, because we have the skills, material and means to speak above the crowd, to hold more weight than it actually does. This goes for the example of actors above as well. Nothing bothers me more than when I have an actor tell me what my politics should be and expect that I should listen and agree with them just because they have the means to be heard. Being involved in the political process is our right as citizens of this country. Being informed about the decisions we are asked to make is our duty to this country as citizens. I have no problem with designers talking politics, just as I have no problem with friends talking politics. I do strongly disagree with the statement "I'm not sure you can be a serious, working designer and separate design from politics."
I feel that this statement is absurd. This pressumes that a person's personal ethics need to be aligned and controlled by a certain political view point. I would prefer to decide for myself what my beliefs are, what my ethics are, and when the time comes I will find a candidate that bests fits my personal ideals. The quoted statement, in my humble opinion, should read I'm not sure you can be a serious, working designer and separate design from personal ethics. This statement has less points of contention and does not pressume that all serious designers are actively "political". As a community we need to be informed and aware of the power of design to sway popular opinion, and to make sure any time we choose to weild that power for a political statement, that we do so after only being fully aware of our actions. I have no problem with debating politics on a design forum, but perhaps we could start by debating candidates that are actually involved in the next election and not wringing our hands over the "what ifs" and "if onlys".
Jim
06.01.07 at 12:25

Every designer knows Gore lost because he used a 'Swoosh' in his campaign poster.

How's that for bringing it back to design?

Von Glitschka
06.01.07 at 12:52

Using "the language and politics of fear" to "drive the public agenda without regard to the evidence, the facts or the public interest." Gee, sounds a lot like what Gore is trying to do with his stupid movie.

Writing as a programmer, as a husband and father, but most of all, as a human being — I believe Al Gore is the worst person for the Presidency of the United States.

Designers may be "trained to have the ability to envision different outcomes — to see, quite literally, different possibilities for the future". I find most designers to be the biggest bunch of "We know better than you about everything" self absorbed bunch of moonbats I've ever encountered.

Would the United States and the world would be much better off today with an Al Gore presidency? Just think of it: If Gore had won, Hezbollah and Israel would have disarmed, Iran would stop it's atomic bomb projects, North Korea would stop it's atomic bomb projects, Gas stations would be practically giving away gas (but we wouldn't really need it because of our super efficient green cars), Christopher Reeve-and his wife-would be alive, healthy and up walking around and Hurricane Katrina would never even have happened. Second guessing and wishful thinking only!

Say what you will, but Bush was elected twice by the electorate! He may not be perfect, but we know he's much better than Gore.
Fashion Critic
06.01.07 at 01:04

I'm not sure you can be a serious, working designer and separate the two.

Please do not confuse the universal passion for life that most designers have (that makes them unique?) with political fervor. Is it not the paid duty of all who do creative work to reserve their own personal ideologies from the work that is paid for by others?

Casting blanket statements can be a bad idea.
Brian
06.01.07 at 01:09

I second Jim's comments.

Politics are our civic responsibility.
Problem solving is our professional responsibility.

Agreeing to take on a job, project or client should be a personal choice determined by one's own ethics and values.
Finding a political solution to a design problem should be a professional decision determined by client needs, not a designer's personal ethics or values.
Mike Williams
06.01.07 at 01:21

Designers love their left-leaning politics, but not as much as they love paying some of the lowest degree-required wages out there.
bob
06.01.07 at 01:28

BLINDED BY HIS EGO
Artists and designers are political by definition. They are working to influence and, in a way, change the way people act and envision. They, therefore, have a responsibility for their politics to be as true as they can know. Saying that Al Gore is presidential is to ignore his self-aggrandizing poses and his graying of the truth for his own agenda. "Global Warming" , if it is occuring, is probably not due to irresponsible human acts. The theory that our CO2 emissions are responsible for an imminent global catostrophe is so full of hubris that only an overstroked ego would buy into it or try to use it to gain political power. Imagine, Mankind is so powerful today that we are destroying our planet without resort to nuclear devices. I don't see us breaking ecosystems worldwide, just those in our own backyard. Take a wider view and you'll see that is where the focus should be, on the poorly designed systems that we have in our own nation. Can we design our way out of a bag made of concrete, asphalt and internal combustion engines? Apparently not, according to fear monger Al Gore. He can't see the trees for the forest and wants to redesign the entire human planet.
hrteacher
06.01.07 at 01:36

Artists and designers are political by definition.

by what definition? Don't confuse 'influence' with 'agenda', or 'political rhetoric' with 'rhetoric'. They are really quite different beasts altogether...
Doug B
06.01.07 at 01:45

After reading Andy Rutledge's (Design View) blog entry berating this article, I've deleted his site from my reading list. I should have done this a long time ago.
Sloe Moe
06.01.07 at 01:57

I think what's most interesting about Gore2008, and what WD meant to highlight, is that Gore has earned himself somewhere around 13% of the poll votes by being who he is--a thinker, a visionary, a hard worker--and by largely avoiding the political games candidates need to play. It's his position as a thoughtful, reasonable, and strong willed human being that makes him so attractive as a possible president, and not his (in)ability to be today's status quo politician. As it stands today, a Gore candidacy feels akin to what a Steve Jobs or a George Clooney candidacy might be; somewhat celebrity based. But the difference, and it's a big one, is that Gore has the experience and the proper social/academic/political connections to be a great president.
brian
06.01.07 at 02:27

Wow. I've become totally addicted to this site precisely because of posts like this. Design is inherently political, and I applaud William for making an articulate argument for both the importance of design and Gore.

THEM=US -Tibor Kalman

I think that the true people who are able to change the world are those who are living the truth. For some reason, this usually seems to coincide with working "outside" the system. MLK Jr, Malcom X, Daniel Berrigan, Ghandi, etc. Once you are in the system it becomes very hard to play by those rules.

I worked on the design for the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, AK, and I got to immerse myself in all things Gore. He's brilliant, and roundly considered the best Vice President in history. He reinvented the position.

So while I'd be quite pleased having him in the office, I'd be just as happy having him be the voice of truth from the sidelines. The truth can't really be suppressed, so his message will get out either way. Bravo!
Matthew McNerney
06.01.07 at 02:28

I've been thinking about this thread all day. I've sort of come to this conclusion.

it's threads like these that make me seriously doubt that Design Observer is any more serious or credible than SpeakUp, as Mr. Poynor would suggest. If anything, this makes me feel like it is less credible.
ed mckim
06.01.07 at 03:02

I was reading each post word for word. The initial post was well written and an interesting account of one persons opinion.

As with most political debates, it all starts out with reflections of fact, or what we perceive to be fact, when in actuality no one knows exactly what goes on in the forefront of political controversy.

As everyone assumes the role of expert analyst in issues of international importance, I worry. Can you imagine a leader that was focused on one goal, unwilling to compromise?
That usually makes it into the history books as tyrant. Let's not forget to be practical.

It is my own belief that if everyone feels so strongly about global warming do this:

Tomorrow go outside and while you are on your way to the store, to your car, to work, anywhere, pick up 10 items of trash. Perhaps have a friend match your effort, or even half your effort.

You will most likely encounter a trash can or recycling receptacle soon after in which you may dispose your contributions.

That is a sure fire way to help the environment.
randy h
06.01.07 at 06:24

I'd be curious to know whether anyone who thinks design and personal politics should remain separate would consider, say, accepting a rebranding commission from a totalitarian regime. And if not, why not?
John C
06.01.07 at 06:51

ok, this is my third and final post on this topic, and then i'll shut up.

has no one caught the irony of drenttel's gore post??

design is one of biggest enablers in our current production/consumption matrix. think about it - every client you have, every product they push on the market, every thing you make look desirable and attractive to consumers...all leads down the never-ending production-consumption path. if there were no more consumption, would there even be a resource war?

i appreciate the post about going out and picking up some trash. that's a good start. but that's only dealing with the tail-end of the cycle: waste. (can you also remove some of the toxins in the air this weekend while you're at it?)

try to answer this: how can design intervene in the never-ending cycle of production and consumption? is it a paradox to continue practicing design and also be environmentally responsible?

please, think about this before knee-jerking about politics in this forum. we are all enablers of this mess. the first step to healing is simply to admit it. we are knee-deep in this, and as a collective discipline, it's time to ask the hard, hard questions about what we do and why.
Gong Szeto
06.01.07 at 07:30

"used "the language and politics of fear" to "drive the public agenda without regard to the evidence, the facts or the public interest.""

This could be a blurb on Inconvenient Truth

"Al Gore is tired of compromise. Certain issues are not negotiable: " A trait for which the current tenant of the White House is often criticized.

What next? Will Gore be praised for his southern drawl and Tennessee swagger?
Stephen Macklin
06.01.07 at 08:37

I think Fashion Critic is just upset cause he has no intellectual superiors to look up to. Blinded by ignorance must do wonders on the digestive system.

Though there is a certain kind of self-absorption with designers, it's akin to the same kind that people in yacht clubs, small towns, churches, atheists circles, kindergartens, universities, presidential administrations, New Yorkers, ants and any profession imaginable. Oh and i forgot IT guys, web developers and Jakob Nielsen.

You hit the nail on the head with that one didn't you?

Amazing post from Brad. Cheers mate.

Sorry Bill for the anger cloaked as sarcasm.

Josh
06.01.07 at 08:38

I'd be curious to know whether anyone who thinks design and personal politics should remain separate would consider, say, accepting a rebranding commission from a totalitarian regime. And if not, why not?

To clarify, as designers, we are professionals who are contracted and paid to work in the best interests of our clients. We should not accept jobs where the best interests of the client would conflict with the best interests of our industry (i.e. spec work), society (rebranding a totalitarian regime) or our own ethics and values (politics, pornography, gambling, etc.).

Ideally, our own ideologies will align with the best interests and ideologies of our clients. But it is unprofessional and unethical to represent our political opinion as the best solution for a client design problem if it is not.

In cases where our ideologies are transparent to the results... in my opinion this is fair game so long as the client is made aware. For example spec'ing recycled paper does not (in most cases) change what one would deem the most appropriate design solution and therefore is open for discussion.

Bottom line, design is a profession, and professionals exist to act as expert agents for others, not for themselves. The more we enforce our own political agendas on clients, the more we devalue the design profession, since our contribution will viewed more as self-serving personal opinion rather than professional knowledge that benefits the client.
Mike Williams
06.01.07 at 10:01

Most probably its already been decided who will replace Bush and continue the puppet show that has been going on for years and years... don't we all forget! ohh yeah! we do, we are too busy playing part in manufacturing false needs and hooking people for yet another 9 to 5 so that they can buy the next cool thing to decorate their meaningless lives.

wake up! and take some responsibility. Your government and their friends... decides the fate of endless fellow humans on a daily basis... least you can do is support ideas that could possibly alter the pace of destruction of the planet.
ark
06.02.07 at 01:45

Josh and Brad (and everyone who still contends that Gore won that election) are in a tie in the facile thinking standings, and Ark's recent post is just sad. Actually, Brad is the winner, because he piled on 5,000 words of bullshit. You can come down from your high horse now, dude. I'm embarrassed for this site. You DO realize that what you post is recorded "forever", right?
John Dabney
06.02.07 at 02:22

Maybe its the condescending disclaimer you spit out at the beginning of this post, warning off us neanderthals who don't like "politics mixed with design," or maybe its the 500 words you spent trying to convince me that the America's best hope for the future is to FORCE someone to run for president who has already proved himself incapable of winning the presidency; a man who ran against the most unpopular sitting president in some 30 years and lost. Maybe its really just the fact that this post proves that its contributors and editors are as out of touch with the current design environment as they out of touch with the political environment.

4 years behind
06.02.07 at 09:40

A prominent graphic designer, who doubles as a liberal activist? That's original.

Gore's thoughtful arguments would be far more compelling were he able to explain why global warming has also occurred on Mars.
Jim C
06.02.07 at 12:26

This guy WON THE POPULAR VOTE in 2000 (and would have won Florida and the Electoral College if the Suprememe Court hadn't screwed things up).

Very interesting news -- thanks for sharing.
Ryan
06.02.07 at 01:15

is he even running for president?
Lan
06.03.07 at 06:55

"Gore's thoughtful arguments would be far more compelling were he able to explain why global warming has also occurred on Mars."

If anything confirms the need for Gore's activism, it's comments like that. The Mars warming myth is refuted here, along with a number of others:

http://environment.newscientist.com/channel/earth/climate-change/dn11642
John C
06.03.07 at 08:40

Just a recommendation: you should stick to something you know about, your political naivety is showing. Think of the situation in reverse: a political blogger (of your choice) sharing their opinion on design. Of course they are entitled to their opinion and everyone appreciates and "consumes" design at some level, but would you feel that their opinion was worth much? Probably not.
Regret
06.03.07 at 11:12

I sent this email to Andy Rutledge -- it's my two cents.

Mr. Rutledge,

When you write, "Drenttel should have written about values, not politics," you fail to see that politics, in some fundamental ways, is absolutely about values. (Of course, there's a lot of cynical gameplaying in politics, too, but you can't assume everyone is as cynical as you are.) Your tone in this piece is dismaying, and belies the worst kind of faux-objectivity and pie-in-the-sky academic segregation of, well, everything. Yet, you are barely able to conceal your own (emotional) disdain for Mr. Drenttel's "irresponsible" and "childish" attempt to acknowledge that, yes, the big picture is important. Pretending that "serious" design is somehow above or beyond the ethical realm of human life -- where EVERYTHING is value -- does a greater disservice to the field than Mr. Drenttel's eminently reasonable decision to write about something he believes matters.

Sincerely,
Lincoln Hancock
Lincoln Hancock
06.03.07 at 11:28

"...American troops were sent on a necessary mission in Afghanistan..." - guess 'necessary' is quite disputable
jens
06.03.07 at 11:53

This is Design Observer, right?
Jamie Neely
06.04.07 at 03:26

Looks like Politics Observer.
Tor Løvskogen
06.04.07 at 06:17

Perhaps not the best venue for a political piece, especially one endorsing or begging a politician to run for the presidency. But what I would rather discuss is the few mentions made about Andy Rutledge on Design View. I found myself somewhat in agreement until I visited Rutledge's consultancy's website - UNIT. In the about section, his website clearly states:
>>OUR VALUES
UNIT Prefers...
guts, personal responsibility, God, candid discussion, proactivity, empowerment, limited government, design for specific objectives, intuition, passion, family, fitness, quality thinking, quality execution, lunch in the park, hard work, hard play, detail, baseball, challenges, competence, deadlines.
Not a big fan of...
crowdsourcing, moral relativism, pop-up ads, inattention, liberalism, Powerpoint, navel gazing, reactive practices, laziness, entitlement, design for personal expression, apathy, intrusive phone etiquette, broken promises, demagoguery, appointments that don't start on time, meetings without a specific purpose. <<

If that doesn't smack with hypocracy I don't know what does. After brow-beating Drentell for mixing politics and design, there he is advocating a very blatant and right-wing agenda on his professional website!! what designer acts too good to post politics on his blog site, and then advertises his own political affiliations on his company's website?? Despicable..to say the least.
Jro
06.04.07 at 11:22

So, there's the overt political agendas bubbling about—yummy and hurray! But then, there are the tangents that begin to tickle the 'real' political currents that exist in everyday graphic design; the references to over consumption and our role in driving that runaway train off a soon approaching cliff. Gloria Steinman said "Culture is the name they give to the politics that win," and in that respect our cultural influence—reflecting and reshaping the zeitgeist (yes, visual culture does that)—unambiguously supports political ideologies.

So, I think this conversation could be really interesting (both DO and PO), if we consider more deeply the comments above, such as this: "Is it not the paid duty of all who do creative work to reserve their own personal ideologies from the work that is paid for by others? Casting blanket statements can be a bad idea." It's ironic that the last sentence belies the thoughts expressed in the first, but that's not my point. Instead, this kind of statement takes as its foundational norm that designers, at the moment they take a paycheck, must devote themselves to silence on all matters but design. It's that way of thinking (not just in design, by the way) that has led us to this sorry state of hyper-capitalism where the value of everything (and everyone) is determined by its market worth. Even Adam Smith insisted that there must be counterbalances to profit as a prime societal motivator, or else the money machine will run itself into the ground. So, that kind of absolutism (Is it not the paid duty of all who do creative work...wow, does that sound like totalitarian propaganda, or what?) doesn't leave much ground for discussing how graphic designers can actually play a positive role in the upcoming paradigm shift toward sustainability. Great design comes from imagination and innovation. So let's help imagine a better way, and then let's help innovate methods of achieving it (including methods of dragging those clients with less vision along with us). If that sounds like 'nonsensical idealism' than you're stuck in a vision of a world that can only grow from looking backward.

As far as overt politics: 4 years behind ridicules Gore as "a man who ran against the most unpopular sitting president in some 30 years and lost," as a springboard for claiming that DO writers are out of touch with politics. What?! George of the Bungle only became so unpopular once the country got to know him as the incompetent fact-twister he has revealed himself to be. Back when he was first 'elected' many people actually took him at his word (compassionate conservative; uniter not a divider; etc.). So, if there's anyone out of touch with politics, 4 years behind, I'm afraid it's you.

Politicians are compromised in too many ways. Politicians react to the people only when the people have individuals to motivate and educate them. Gore is doing his job now.
scott b
06.04.07 at 11:35

For the last year or so I've been trying to figure a way to vote for Gore if he ran for President again. I'd like to vote for him. I believe he has allot to offer. Problem is, I'm Canadian.

Good post
Ray McKenzie
06.05.07 at 11:20

This is probably the worst article I've read on Design Observer. It seems its based on nothing but personal (political biased) opinion.
yani
06.06.07 at 02:09

Just a few comments:

1) I dont care if you post about politics. I usual skip over anything political. I was bored at lunch and decided to read this one.

2) Gore lost 2000. He did not have the election "stolen" for him. The reason that we have the electoral college is so that NY and California can't control the country. It has been and will always be done this way. We are a republic... we are not a democracy.

3) Any scientist that believes that something is true because of "consensus" is not a true scientist. If we believed in consensus then the world is flat, the earth is the center of the universe, and since over 90% of people believe in God at this moment in time it for sure exists.

4) Gore is agreat showman... I wonder why he wasn't like this when he was vice president?

5) I dont believe in Global Warming but I believe in sustainability and conservation because it is a good idea. I try to do my part... but I can't begin to support someone who obviously does not practice what he preaches. You know who does have a 100% sustainable ranch... George W. Bush. It is off Grid... geothermal heating and cooling... etc etc etc

6) You made a comment about sticking to our guns and how you can relate this to Gore. And here is the quote "Great design does not, in fact, come from compromise; it comes from strength of character, persistence of vision, and expertise." Soo from this I a suppose you added the emphasis on "expertise" to deviate that George Bush is not an expert.

Isn't this what the Bush/Generals/troops in Iraq have been doing and then are being belittled by people. "Staying the course." I wonder what the reaction would have been if WW2 was now. Oh we would have given in to the Nazi's. Our generals are there they think we can win... they are the experts... so who should I believe?


7) I just find it depressing that people can say things like " "American free speech has been taken away" like some of the comments

I want someone ANYONE to tell a story about how the government has stopped you personally from writing ablog, posting acomment, desiging a leaflet... please enlighten me.

Well time for more work!







John
06.06.07 at 01:58

Nice way to get people to read you post. Talk more about politics and less about design.

Does he practice what he preaches?

Last August alone, Gore burned through 22,619 kWh—guzzling more than twice the electricity in one month than an average American family uses in an entire year. As a result of his energy consumption, Gore's average monthly electric bill topped $1,359.

Since the release of An Inconvenient Truth, Gore's energy consumption has increased from an average of 16,200 kWh per month in 2005, to 18,400 kWh per month in 2006.

Gore's extravagant energy use does not stop at his electric bill. Natural gas bills for Gore's mansion and guest house averaged $1,080 per month last year.
Nathan Philpot
06.06.07 at 04:47

Nathan--

I have no idea if the numbers you have cited are correct. I suspect that they are...I have heard them before. Gore (and his supporters) like to point to his "purchase" of "Wind Energy Credits" as collateral remediation of his own energy consumption. For every kilowatt of natural gas and fossil fuels the ex-politician burns, he gives a certain amount of money to a non-profit organization that promotes the use of (ostensibly) environmentally sound energy. It doesn't ACTUALLY benefit him, but he can sleep better at night, knowing that his environmental sins have been forgiven.

I seem to remember the Catholic church trying something like this once. They were called "indulgences."
Walker Pfost
06.06.07 at 11:19

Nathan--

I have no idea if the numbers you have cited are correct. I suspect that they are...I have heard them before. Gore (and his supporters) like to point to his "purchase" of "Wind Energy Credits" as collateral remediation of his own energy consumption. For every kilowatt of natural gas and fossil fuels the ex-politician burns, he gives a certain amount of money to a non-profit organization that promotes the use of (ostensibly) environmentally sound energy. It doesn't ACTUALLY benefit him, but he can sleep better at night, knowing that his environmental sins have been forgiven.

I seem to remember the Catholic church trying something like this once. They were called "indulgences."
Walker Pfost
06.06.07 at 11:20

Nathan--

I have no idea if the numbers you have cited are correct. I suspect that they are...I have heard them before. Gore (and his supporters) like to point to his "purchase" of "Wind Energy Credits" as collateral remediation of his own energy consumption. For every kilowatt of natural gas and fossil fuels the ex-politician burns, he gives a certain amount of money to a non-profit organization that promotes the use of (ostensibly) environmentally sound energy. It doesn't ACTUALLY benefit him, but he can sleep better at night, knowing that his environmental sins have been forgiven.

I seem to remember the Catholic church trying something like this once. They were called "indulgences."
Walker Pfost
06.07.07 at 12:03

My source is http://www.tennesseepolicy.org/main/article.php?article_id=367.
Nathan Philpot
06.07.07 at 10:21

Wow...a politician who says one thing and does the other. That's a new thing, right?
John C
06.07.07 at 12:08

Isn't producing a book an unnecessarily high - dare I say, unsustainably high - 'carbon footprint' for something as transient and disposable as a political message. Wouldn't it have been greener to say it all on the web?
James Souttar
06.07.07 at 07:32

Andy Rutledge is indeed a hypocrite. Less than a month ago he provided a free and public design consultation valued at undoubtedly thousands of dollars (not to mention the blatant promotion) to the NRA - one of many attack vehicles of the hardcore Republican right. I didn't let it bother me that he obviously supported this POLITICAL group at the time, but I do now...

And, what, we should all stop writing, making, and reading books because they require resources? Let's all just watch television! That way we can live in a beautiful land of trees, surrounded by a bunch of idiots who's only knowledge consists of what Paris is wearing and what the all terrorists might be planning.
Andrew
06.08.07 at 02:24

Someone's got to big for their boots eh? It's one thing to mention politics, another to campaign for this or that candidate. Pull your head back in, mate.
Tim Archer
06.12.07 at 04:38

Credibility: -1
Nathan Logan
06.12.07 at 06:52

The reason we still have these superficial debates about whether this is a "design" discussion or not is because we haven't embraced neomodernism.

When we rethink our theory of rationality to include Habermas' observations, and when we re-link "design" to "reason" as we should, this is no longer a difficult problem.

At the very least, if Habermas was in design consciousness as he should be, there would be the possibility to link these issues by the fact that Habermas is mentioned in Gore's book twice. Gore's ideas are influenced by the Habermasian analysis of Reason, and if we cared about that too, we might be able to have a more substantial conversation about the actual relevance here.

This isn't grasping at straws; the link is fundamental. And when we embrace it, we can start writing a new chapter in the history of design.
theorysavage
06.12.07 at 06:52

One can argue about the ethics of large houses and other actions that consume energy at high rates. Comparing buying carbon offsets to buying indulgences is superficially funny but, in the end, not a very good analogy.

If we assumed that God needed money, then buying indulgences for the sin of having stolen money from God might parallel carbon offsets. Indulgences failed some basic accounting questions like what account did stuff come out of and what account did stuff go into and whose accounts were these.

Carbon offsets, at least in theory, reduced actual amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. That's the same atmosphere where the carbon dioxide being offset goes. The notion may seem like buying the right to be irresponsible. There is something to be said for noting the geopolitical reasons to avoid burning oil and the other environmental reasons to avoid burning oil and coal and running nuclear plants but from a global warming standpoint alone, buying offsets can be more progressive than just conserving.

Offset money is grouped so large projects that one individual could not influence are made possible. One such scheme is the capping of landfills to avoid methane escaping into the atmosphere. Methane is a greater greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide is and nobody can choose to just cap their own refuse so such cooperative schemes can have greater affect than individual action would.
Gunnar Swanson
06.13.07 at 10:55

Okay, so, I'll accept the premise that, as designers, "we have a uniquely creative and informed perspective on the world. Design is way of thinking and seeing. The lens of design can (and should) be used to examine everything from gardening to politics. And I believe this forum is the place to discuss it."

I voted for GWB. Twice. I'd do it again. If I wrote a guest editorial for Design Observer (or any other design community outlet) strongly in favor of Bush, the war in Iraq, tax cuts and perhaps even laying down my preference for the GOP nominee in '08, would it have a snowballs chance in hell of being published here, or anywhere else that trendy and informed designers congregate?

Just wondering.

"Diversity" ain't about skin color folks. It's about what's between your ears.
John Hartwell
06.27.07 at 07:11

We are dangerously close to a point were the ecosystem will change dramatically. So your endorsement, Gunnar, of carbon offsetting is misguided. The is no alternative - we need to stop putting so much carbon into the atmosphere and offsetting projects are beset with problems.

Your choice of an example of a worthy project is strange. Methane is a dangerous gas - but it is only released in landfill when organic waste is combined with other rubbish and left to rot. This is a classic case of a resource (organic waste) which we waste - because we are not trained to think in a sustainable manner and therefor we have not yet developed sustainable systems. Much more effective and ecologically wise is separate organics in the trash - and put the nutrients back in the soil where they belong - rather than in the atmosphere as methane where they do not belong.

Unfortunately, many today know more about typography than ecology. In the end it will be ecology which matters. Design is dependent on social, political, and environmental factors and so any designer with any degree of awareness will engage with all three.

I hope Gore does runs for president. I believe he is committed to the environment - but he is short on effective solutions. Let us focus on designing systems for a transition to a low carbon future.
jody
06.27.07 at 07:36

John - While most of the world outside the USA thinks that GWB lovin' Americans such as yourself are crude bullies who are so badly educated and so badly informed that they do not really know what they are going on about - I think it might take quite a lot of work for you to establish your credibility as a guest editor at the Design Observer. But by all means if you feel so discriminated against you should try. Just do it.
nora
06.27.07 at 08:32

Wow. That took all of, what, 1 hour and 21 minutes for a attack. Impressive.

What, exactly, is your point, Nora? Most of the world thinks that GWB supporters are morons...and? What? Is it that "the world" thinks that, or that you think that? Why would it take "quite a lot of work" to establish credibility? Do you assume I lack the intellectual chops to rise to your discriminating standards? "Just do it?" I do believe you're taunting me, you cheeky thing you.

"...so badly educated and...badly informed." I don't know, Nora. That's a pretty broad brush of generality with which to paint. I do believe my alma mater would be disappointed to think that I spent four years apparently picking my nose. But, if you would prefer to be close-minded and intolerant, that's entirely up to you.
John Hartwell
06.27.07 at 09:11

The question I have, is Al Gore leaning towards getting in the race?

What I would like to propose is this we need someone that will put he fear of god into these neocons. Other then Dennis Kucinich all the rest of the democrats are just corporate water carriers. Would it be possible shift the energy to draft Robert F. Kennedy Jr? I am open to all ideas.
Jesse Hemingway
07.28.07 at 12:05

a) we must fight terrorism before it is too late,
b) we must fight global warming before it is too late

it is the same,
can't you see it?

It is called "Precautionary principle"
Both are driving your thoughts and actions by the fear of an unknown and dark future.

enjoy!
unamuno
09.25.07 at 01:01

We need Al Gore in the White House to help this Nation get back to its roots and good name in the world. He did win before and can do so again.
Bonnie Cooperstein
10.12.07 at 04:16

This is a great essay that is probably getting more traffic today with the announcement of the Peace Prize. I've blogged about it here
at StumbleUpon. Digging it. Spreadin' it around.

Go Gore.

Patrick King
10.12.07 at 04:48

Al Gore is the man the USA and the world needs to be in the White House!
Marcello
10.13.07 at 10:31

Gore has never mentioned waterpowered cars or Newman Generators so he is definitly a phoney- NGO. I also want to save the planet and my soul, not my own ass- really.
mordecai
10.15.07 at 01:49


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William Drenttel is a designer and publisher, and editorial director of Design Observer. He is a partner at Winterhouse, a design consultancy focused on social change, online media and educational institutions, and a senior faculty fellow at the Yale School of Management.
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DESIGN OBSERVER JOBS









BOOKS BY William Drenttel

Looking Closer 5
Allworth Press, 2006

Looking Closer 4
Allworth Press, 2002

Looking Closer 2
Allworth Press, 1997

Looking Closer 1
Allworth Press, 1994

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