Intelligent Design, Not Clever Advertising
Article By: Mr. Keedy
Pages 206 - 209


Mr. Keedy is a designer, writer, type designer, and educator who lives in Los Angeles. The article was originally published in Adbusters magazine, September/October 2001.
Mr. Keedy's ideas are that designers of today are fueling the consumerism that they are trying to discredit through advertising their own cleverness. He argues that designers must not design for the markets they are trying to convince or discredit.

Examples/Points of Discussion

An example of Subvertising
An example of Subvertising
Culture Jamming

In Mr. Keedy's article, he makes a very clear distinction between being a sell-out advertisement designer and a socially responsible designer. Keedy believes that it is the designer's responsibility to be informative, compelling, and intelligent. When a designer disagrees with a company, culture jamming and subvertising is nearly useless, doesn't make much sense, and hard for the consumer to trust.

Corporate Marketing
Mr. Keedy states that corporate marketing is the scapegoat for the world's problems. He believes that everything is connected to commerce even though the trend in design is Anti-Consumerist themed. He observes that there is not a coincidence that there is a correlation between e-commerce and a rise in interest for Anti-consumerism.
Keedy believes the designers in the middle of the range between "powerless complicity" and "social actualization" need to make some sort of distinction of themselves. Essentially, they need to pick a side, even if it is to be a "corporate tool".

What designers are doing and what they can do

Mr. Keedy observes that designers are trying to "fight fire with fire" by sporting trendy "anti-consumer consumerables" by buying books on the subject and propaganda through defacing or modifying corporate designs.[1] He warns that what this is actually doing is confirming the social conscience and promoting anti-consumerism as the latest cultural fad. He says that designers need to stop the idea that toppling existing power structures through subverting messages is the way to go.

Instead Mr. Keedy argues that design intervention cannot drive consumer reform. He proclaims that "it looks good but doesn't work." How designers can make the biggest social and political statement, Mr Keedy says, is by not designing. He encourages designers to not be sell-outs and slave to fads.

In the end, Keedy is trying to say the best situation would be that designers should work for the overall good of the people, display products as they actually are, and have good designs.


A designer can still work for corporations, but they must maintain their morality and responsibility to the public in a meaningful manner. Mr. Keedy states that, in the past, the difference between design and advertising is design is supposed to be informative.
Through accusatory tactics he encourages designers to challenge themselves by calling them false artists. True art is supposed to work.
For more on Mr. Keedy read his Interview with Emigre Essays.

Related Articles

  1. The Cultural Influence of Brands
  2. Culture Jamming, or Something Like It


  • Mr. Keedy (2003). "Hysteria", Heller,Steven and Vienne, Veronique, Citizen Designer.

  1. ^
    Keedy 2003, 207