What are great examples of the influence that design has?

There is a quote that “bad design never killed anyone,” but I know that what we do is less trivial than that.

What designs have you seen cause real change or have a real influence?

Specific context behind the question:

Lord willing, I’ll be giving a presentation to my wife’s school for Career Day this week. I want to talk about what design is (which could be another question here, I might post later), but since I learn by example, I want to give some examples about how design makes a difference.

To answer the “what have you tried” question:

One of my favorite examples is the butterfly ballot from the USA’s 2000 election…a poor ballot design probably shifted the course of my country for at least four years. but that’s probably a little too partisan. Partisan concerns also knock out the comparison of health care charts – a great conversation piece about how design can be used to streamline or obfuscate data.

I love propaganda design and respect its unique place in history, but kids might not connect with that.

I could talk about the iPod and iPhone, but some of that drifts into industrial design and I think that’s a bit tired of an example anyways.

I’m thinking about comparing two pieces of paper, one that has a bad font, tight leading and kerning, and is right-aligned, and one that is set a little more properly, and asking them to compare. But that’s just a boring sheet of paper.


You may want to focus your topic into the concept of information design, which is where graphic deign splits off from just being about making something look pretty to highlighting the information that is important to people.

One starting point might be to look at the Nudge blog where occasionally they highlight how design can “nudge” people into making different (better) decisions.

Some examples include:

  1. Landfill

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  2. Look before you cross the road

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  3. Light switch stickers to save energy

Also look for things like nutrition information on menu cards or receipts, revised stickers for showing fuel efficiency of vehicles, re-designed legislation….

And, if the kids are old enough and can appreciate some humor, painting gods and goddesses on walls in India to prevent public urination, or placing a small image of a fly or some other object in the “sweet spot” for urinals (where the amount of urine that splashes out is minimized). It turns out that men don’t pee on their deities, and they love to aim their urine stream at targets!


You may also want to mention something about graphic designers as preservers of culture. I do remember having read some papers a long time ago about studies that show how the role of graphic design is important because of what the graphics themselves might say about a society at a given point in time. The justification is along the lines that graphic designers need to know what people respond to on an emotional level if they expect people to respond positively to their designs.

Source : Link , Question Author : Brendan , Answer Author : Ananda Mahto

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