Graphic Design's Social Work
Article by: Anne Bush
Pages 25-31


Anne Bush’s article focuses around a main theory of the Design Manifesto which Bush explains through the “First Things First Manifesto 2000”.Using the Manifesto (similar to that of the Socialist Designers’ Manifesto) as a guide, Bush argues against consumerism and emphasizes the importance of audience consideration in design. Due to the fact that designs are interpreted differently by individuals, particularly through a cultural system, (as explained by Marilyn M. Cooper’s Ecology of Writing), it is increasingly important for social responsibility.


Bush begins her article by clearly addressing her thesis and guides readers through selected examples for further explanation. Bush cites Erica Wong’s work to illustrate how culture can actively affect design misinterpretations. The image below serves as one of Bush's examples of this idea. What was meant to be a promotion of health and nutritional information by the Mexican government was received as a tourism gimmick by the community. This example also effectively illustrates how essential it is for designers to carefully consider each key choice that is made in the design process. Even the design choice of color can have an effect on the audience. For example, the choice of a grainy black-and-white image for the Mexican ad was interpreted negatively. salud.jpgBush explains how the poster’s color choice “reinforces nostalgic ways of seeing … indigenous culture”. [1]

An additional example is utilized of Manuel Parga, who designed a liberal Colombian poster that was interpreted to be for the marginalization of the lower to middle class. These examples are accompanied by visual graphics which help to further illustrate how easily design choices can be interpreted by the audience. Thus, communication or the dialogue between the designer and the audience is essential in avoiding these cultural misunderstandings. If done properly, design can thus allow for creativity and interpretation of design.
Bush concludes the article by providing ideas for design in practice such as how to educate designers toward “more collaborative (and ultimately productive) communications”[2] . This addresses designers directly (rather than simply in written theory) about how to put her ideas into practical use.


Anne Bush expresses a concern for the way social responsibility is handled in design. Through this concern, the article offers a clear connection to the book’s overarching theme of citizenship through design. It emphasizes the idea of having social responsibility and to understand one’s accountability for the design choices that are made. One must understand the possible cultural perspectives through which individuals can interpret design. Understanding how communities will receive a design is just as important as the design process itself. It emphasizes the importance of audience awareness and having a clear understanding of how culture should be taken into consideration when implementing design.


Bush, Anne (2003). "Beyond Pro Bono", Steven Heller and Veronique Vienne, Citizen Designer.
  1. ^ Bush 2003, p. 27.
  2. ^ Bush 2003, p. 30.