"The human animal is a beast that must die. If he's got money, he buys and buys and buys everything he can, in the crazy hope one of those things will be life-everlasting, which it can never be."
-- Tennessee Williams, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Graphic design is complicit in a culture of consumption. We create the everyday images of brand logos, advertising and marketing, and shape the mass media that tell us what is happening and how to behave, and how to buy happiness at a low, low price.
This is what we do. We speak a language of layered images and text that works on the subconscious mind and shapes the cultural environment, and the way most of us have been using it is to manipulate desire. Marketing turns needs into wants, makes people aware that they are missing something, and imbues an object with social values beyond what is actually there. The tragedy of modern life is that we cannot buy happiness, but we have been convinced that we can buy love, family, beauty, joy, excitement, youth, status, security, friendship, and any number of abstract ideas attached to real objects.
Earth's resources are finite. Green companies are mostly in the business of shifting consumer choices to green products, not in reducing demand.
Buddhists say that Desire leads to Suffering. Psychologists say that there is a Hedonic Treadmill, a Red Queen's Race where you run harder and harder just to stay in the same place. Our desire is an unquenchable thirst. It can never be satisfied. And the imposition of marketing, of turning needs into wants, prevents us from knowing what we really do want. We can never be satisfied with bought objects because the symbolism surrounding them, that we bought along with the object itself, is not real.
My thesis involves distinguishing the real value of objects and decoupling the projected image from the actuality, and in researching whether shifting demand from real products to virtual products is possible.