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If you’re Bad we’re Going to McDonalds.
By Anna Addison

Children are manipulated by advertising, and, more often than not, this manipulation is negative. Who is responsible—the parents, the companies, the advertisers? Designers are not exempt from this equation either because designers shape the course of advertising. This raises many interesting questions: should designers share responsibility for adolescent manipulation; is enough awareness raised concerning pressing issues like obesity in children under the age of 12; and what measures can we take as designers and parents to prevent the global epidemic of adolescent obesity?

As an aspiring designer and an ardent believer in the adverse affects of misguided advertising, I believe we as an industry need to stand up and take responsibility for our actions. If people are fat, and they are fat because they are eating unhealthy food, then we are responsible for making that unhealthy food appealing. How do you convince someone that eating a burger that comes out of a tube is not only healthy, but also tasty? Well we did, and now it is our job to figure out how to reverse this appalling trend.

The American Obesity Association (AOA) has estimated that 15.3% of children under the age of twelve are obese. Those figures have more than doubled for children over the last two decades and tripled for adolescents in the same time period. The rising epidemic of obesity has become a major public issue. The International Association for the Study of Obesity (IASO) states that in 1980 one out of ten children were overweight. Today, it is an astounding one out of every four—a total of 155 million overweight kids of which 30 to 40 million are classified as obese. Complications of childhood obesity include type 2 diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, chronic inflammation and hyperinsulinemia. Childhood obesity is a difficult disease to cure; once children become obese, they are predisposed to obesity for the rest of their lives. Also, potential complications, especially cardiovascular disease, grow more serious with age. Compounding these detrimental physical effects are perhaps more detrimental psychological effects. How does a fat little girl or boy deal with the mental abuse in our image based society? Just imagine confronting all these life-long ailments and issues before even reaching the tender age of thirteen. As “the crisis in public health” unfolds, society points fingers while no one person will take responsibility for creating or perpetuating these problems; subsequently we create unhealthier people generation after generation.

The convenience driven assault began soon after WWII, but it was not until the 1970s that the negative physical effects on children became undeniable. In this time period, the marketing itself reached a point of critical mass. Children under the influence of television, junk food, marketing, and lack of parental guidance were powerless to resist the desire to get a free toy, or see a clown; parents were seduced by the ease and the price of fast food during a long working week; companies eagerly filled demand; and advertisers were doing their job by bridging this gap.

Perhaps the most harmful medium participating in this vicious cycle is television. TV is, literally, an obesity machine because of the eating habits it advocates and how much children are allowed to watch it. Television allows advertisers to walk right through the front door of a home and address children directly. The average American child watches 19 hours and 40 minutes of TV per week — more than a thousand hours each year. That means an annual exposure to thousands of commercials about junk and fast food. With many children the TV has substituted for a parent, nanny, or guardian. As a result, children receive less adult supervision; they stand vulnerable and open to corporate marketers intruding into their lives, instilling appetite for burgers, fries, chocolate shakes, soft drinks and other junk items. This is further compounded by celebrity endorsements. Icons like Britney Spears and Batman seemingly have Whoppers, Big Macs, 42oz colas and fries on a regular basis. They are shown eating these items dozens of times a day on commercials. Of course the reality is they don’t eat these items regularly, and a healthy diet along with strenuous exercise is why they are in such good shape. This message never reaches the child. Another harmful accomplice is the portion of the sizes. What used to be a large fry or drink in the 1950’s is now considered a child’s portion. In fact, popcorn was the forerunner of this trend; it was the first item to super size and offer free refills. The small, which used to be large, the Grande, the colossal, and the “Big Kids Meal” are all expanding kids’ waistlines because, after all, they don’t want to be labeled as little kids.

I propose to ban advertising to children under the age of twelve—it is simply coercive. Obesity in children is not only a domestic problem, but rampant globally, with the exception of Sweden, where this law is set in place. The governmental intervention is crucial because at that age children do not have the knowledge, sophistication, or maturity to evaluate the credibility of nutritional information they receive. Children are very imaginative—“make-believe” play constitutes an important part of growing-up; advertisers should not exploit the imaginative qualities of children. Products and content which are inappropriate for children should not be advertised or promoted directly to children.

As a grad designer I feel that designers have a social responsibility to educate children about the dangers of excessive weight and create an effective, appealing environment for this to take place in. Kids are smart and they love to show it off. If children know they are being manipulated he/she instinctively, albeit gradually, will respond. An example of a successful campaign built on this premise is the anti-smoking campaign. They stopped addressing parents about the issue, they stopped blaming tobacco companies (sort of) for the issue, and they started targeting ads directly to kids, no matter how young because, in the end, it was the kids who had to make the decision, so it was the kids that had to be informed. The media stopped shielding children from the taboo of “smoking”, which in reality made them more susceptible to the addiction, and gave children the hard facts dealing with the health risks of smoking in a scenario which pertains to them. This sounds too simple, but it works. When will we stop shielding children from the negative effects of sitting on the couch and eating trans-fats all day? Although many influences affect a child’s personal and social development, it remains the prime responsibility of the parents to provide guidance for children. Advertisers and designers should contribute to this parent-child relationship in a constructive manner. It is a parent’s responsibility to instill good eating habits in their children and to turn off TV, but an advertisers’ responsibility to make this lesson easier.

The shocking statistics predict that by the year 2050 the average life expectancy of Americans will decrease from seventy-eight years to seventy-three years due to obesity. I guess before children can deal with the issue (or even have the opportunity to) adults must. Maybe the problem is not the fat, unhealthy kids, but the fat, unhealthy examples adults provide them.

Anna Addison is a student at Portfolio Center. This essay is the eighth in a series by PC students who took part in Bryony’s long-distance Design Thinking class during the quarter of winter 2005.

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PUBLISHED ON May.11.2005 BY Speak Up
mandy’s comment is:

It's important to remember that there is an advertiser for everything. To the reverse of McDonald's and company, we have a multi-billion dollar weight loss industry that thrives on all this talk of an obesity epidemic. You can't ride a NYC subway these days without seeing Anna Nicole prancing around about Trimspa. If advertising is a factor in our national eating disorders, its as much because of the Jenny Craigs as the Mickey Ds.

That said, I am growing tired of the refrain "As a designer, I feel a social responsibility to..." I don't believe being a designer burdens you with any more social responsibilities than anyone else. Nor does it make us more complicit in the ills of modern corporate society. I'm all for reducing or eliminating advertising to children, but that is a social and legislative movement that doesn't need designers any more than it needs writers and lawyers and doctors.

Now, I don't mean to step on anyone's social activist leanings. Quite the contrary. Just that I think it's ok to leave the hair shirt behind. We'd all be much better off if more people did something about society's ills and less people sat around feeling guilty about them.

On May.11.2005 at 10:35 AM
Aleah’s comment is:


I think you have a valid point and we, as the creators of advertising, do, in fact, have a unique responsibility in this as we directly benefit ($) from ads. The same responsibly rests on the companies, marketers, printers, etc. as we all directly make our living promoting "stuff." That DOES differentiate us from other professionals: doctors, police officers, teachers etc. That does not mean that society as a whole is not also accountable for social change, but it does award us more responsibility when it comes to advertising images/messages.

The only problem I see in your call to action is this: What issues do we tackle? Childhood obesity is just one of a myriad of problems loosely associated with false messaging. I am curious if you extend this philosophy beyond food marketing and youth?


On May.11.2005 at 10:49 AM
Matt ’s comment is:

I guess if as designers we fail to promote a product that produces profit or constant revenue for that company then we have failed in our job.

If we are given a job to do then we do it and we do it the best we can. We have to forget about morals sometimes and consider that if we do a bad job then we are out of a job.

We cant take the blame for something that we have been asked to do. If you feel that strongly about something then turn the job down, but I think you will find that to turn down an advertising job may be unwise in the financial courtyard of a design agency, expecially the agencies that rely on these clients to run their company.


On May.11.2005 at 10:58 AM
Armin’s comment is:

>If people are fat, and they are fat because they are eating unhealthy food, then we are responsible for making that unhealthy food appealing.

Sure, that is a common argument and an easy one to make. But consider that a McDonald's ad or happy meal looks as appetizing in Houston, TX as it does in Vancouver, BC and if you ever go to Vancouver you won't see half the obese people you see in the US. Culture, education and environment play a much, much bigger role in the fattening of America than any colorful, well typeset ad.

There was an article in The New York Times about two weeks ago about people in India eating out more. They showed pictures of a mother with three kids eating at a McDonald's. It is now, more than ever in India, acceptable to eat at fast food places and even restaurants. The older generation obviously frowns upon this, since their tradition was to cook meals from scratch, making each meal undeniably more healthy (in terms of preservatives and chemicals put in food-to-go ingredients). India, a country that is quickly being Westernized is bound to get fat if they adopt some of the cultural and educational values from the US. I don't know how long McDonald's has been in India and I am sure that their ads are as yummilicious for the people there as they are here, but up until now, the culture has not "supported" it. Now that this younger generation of hard-working men and women are getting into the fast food cycle it is more likely that the obesity problem will reach that country. The ads will be as good looking as they were ten years ago — and it won't be any designer's fault.

On May.11.2005 at 11:16 AM
Laura Franek’s comment is:

Culture, education and environment play a much, much bigger role in the fattening of America than any colorful, well typeset ad.

The problem is, we are the most individualistic society on this planet. Whereas many other cultures view the well being and health of country as a whole; if there is poverty and hunger, or obesity, it is a collective problem that affects everyone, an individualistic society will blame people with the most control and money. Where do we begin to dissect such an epidemic?

I agree, this is not an issue isolated to one particular facet of our society, in my opinion there are many ways to contribute to this problem and on an individual level we make choices every day whether or not to contribute to it. I always like to be optimistic, and I believe that designers are a part of the problem and a part of the solution in the choices we make every day. If we work for McDonalds, we are choosing to help raise the value of that organization in people's minds. I think if you work for a company like that and you have a social conscious, you might want to think about ways in which you can give back to your community on a similar level - I do think designers should have a social conscious, and I think it's our job as designers to be good people first, and not to blame but be proactive and find someway to find work that does add positive value.

On May.11.2005 at 12:16 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Just FYI to Armin's India story. I read that the fastest growing, most popular fast food chain in India is actually Kentucky Fried Chicken. They can't open new ones fast enough. Makes total sense in a country that doesn't eat beef. Pizza Hut is second. No joke. McDonald's is still very popular, but I wonder if the country will get as fat eating McNuggets, McChicken sandwiches, and salads instead of big macs and double quarter pounders with cheese? Probably.

I've got 2 kids, and am a little concerned about exposing them to too many commercials. "McDonalds" was one of the first coherent words out of my son's mouth. We do give in and buy happy meals for them once in a while, but they want them more for the toy than the food. So I see it as a problem with the marketing and merchandising, not necessarily the food.

But it's also a reality that it's tough teaching kids to eat a balanced diet at home — nevermind the fast food. Most kids hate vegetables, and given a choice, would eat nothing but carbs, sugar, and processed food. We've talked to our pediatrician about our kid's diets, and found out she has the same problems with her children. Getting kids to eat carrots, green peas, and broccoli is a universal struggle of parenting — whether you're in the US, the UK, or India.

So while I have a concern as a parent, I don't so much as a designer. Let's keep it in perspective here.

Furthermore, what people do for work doesn't always resonate or have direct consequences to their lives. Take doctors — smoking, obesity, and alcoholism is just as high in that demographics as in the mass population. I wouldn't be surprised if it was actually a little higher — due to the stress and demands of the profession. Is it hypocrisy or a disregard for responsibility? Perhaps, but it's also human nature.

As a profession, I think we sometimes take on more guilt than prudent.

On May.11.2005 at 12:59 PM
Bryony’s comment is:

This just out from Brandweek regarding McD.

In a hurry with no time to say more until later.

On May.11.2005 at 01:10 PM
andy’s comment is:

fastest growing, most popular fast food chain in India is actually Kentucky Fried Chicken

As someone who loves KFC and who lives in India, I have to point out that this is completely the opposite of the truth - I'm afraid your source is mistaken. KFC was one of the first international fast food chains that entered India, but were unable to achieve much success as they initially were lambasted by (the never-ending brigades of) fundamental (but politically powerful) zealots who claimed that it was promoting an anti-Indian lifestyle. Later, having recovered from that, KFC found that they were unable to compete with as they put it in a press statement 'traditional Indian chicken preparations of butter chicken and tandoori'.

They've gradually closed down ALL their outlets in India, except one in Bangalore. My wife travels there on business often, and has a standard routine of stopping by before boarding her plane to bring me a KFC dinner.

Pizza Hut is also doing well, but I'm afraid the prize for the fastest growing chain, does go to McDonalds.

And yes, people are getting fatter and eating less healthy but more convenient meals. I don't have numbers, and it may be too early to tell, but I'm betting that the typical health issues that arise from obesity will dramatically increase in India over the next few years.

On May.11.2005 at 02:03 PM
ben’s comment is:

random comments/thoughts:

*can we not use the word "fat"? its so demeaning, can we say "cellularly advantaged"?

*parents are the answer to all of it. if they didn't spoil their kids and let them eat everything under the sun instead of something healthy, we wouldn't be having this discussion. the kids should play with wooden blocks instead of those plastic toys made from whatever toxic material too.

*the worst thing you can eat?

Kraft Macaroni and Cheese

my dad is one of those vegan's and has been doing a bunch of research. he found some info on this...

On May.11.2005 at 02:05 PM
Oliver’s comment is:

This is a very topical subject to me, and one that I find very engaging.

I think that education and media awareness go a long way towards battling this problem (that will not go away or even slow down in the slightest).

My wife is an Early Years Educator (currently in a grade 1, 2, 3 multi-age classroom), and we find many interesting parallels between the work we do, only on different scales, and for different audiences.

Every year, she conducts a media awareness exercise with her students. They are presented with examples of different kinds of advertising, and then (among other things) are tasked to examine the messaging that is hoisted onto them every day. For example, they are asked to examine the kinds of ads that run during TV shows they enjoy, and analyze who the ads are being directed at. Then the same for the show their parents watch.

These may seem like simple exercises to us, but after asking these kinds of questions of them, they come away fascinated and surprised that they are being so directly manipulated. With these exercises, the floodgates of awareness are opened and they are armed to question what they are being bombarded with.

I feel that this course of education is key to enabling our kids to make good choices about the kinds of messaging they are seeing, and a steady dialogue must be maintained to ensure they stay ahead of the curve.

On May.11.2005 at 02:09 PM
Jason Tocci’s comment is:

I agree that it seems unproductive to simply lay a big guilt trip on any one profession for society's ill's, and I agree that social responsibility is everyone's problem, not just designers'. Nevertheless, I'd still say there's a big difference between a good doctor with bad eating habits (who, at worst, just serves as a poor role model) and an advertiser who actively draws upon research in child psychology to specifically target children based on underdeveloped cognitive skills. Children below the age of 7 or 8 have a hard time understanding the perspective of others, and are thus frequently unable to even recognize persuasive intent. The whole topic of advertising food to children is part of a much broader ongoing dialog on advertising to children in general; considering how large a chunk of advertising output that really is compared to other specific ethical issues up for debate, I'd say it's worth special attention right now.

I won't get too into this, as it's certainly not my area of expertise, but a whole mountain of empirical research demonstrates pretty clearly that children are a special audience and are more easily affected by persuasive messages than adults. While parents might be the ones making most of the purchasing decisions, ads still can significantly influence children's beliefs and attitudes. Sure, cultural and environmental influences outside of media intake play a massive role, probably the most significant role, but that doesn't mean that media influences don't also play a significant role as part of the whole picture.

Personally, I don't think the problem here is that kids see ads, so much as the fact that so many of the ads targeting kids are really much more effective than analogous ads targeting adults. Ironically, while a "good" designer is ostensibly one who researches what would be the most effective approach to meeting a client's needs, in the case of advertising to children, some might appreciate the designer who just tries to make something colorful and well-typeset that doesn't bother with targeting viewers' weaknesses.

Turning down design jobs that would have you targeting kids' cognitive weaknesses won't solve the problem and won't engender a blanket sense of social responsibility in the design community as a whole, but there's nothing wrong with picking the values that work for you and running with them. Banning advertising during children's television won't solve the problem either, as kids will still see ads elsewhere, but it could be a starting point. I'm still forming my own opinions on the best solution to this problem, so far as my own (or any designer's) individual action is concerned. Thoughts?

On May.11.2005 at 02:21 PM
andy’s comment is:

An addendum

Tan's completely correct in saying that the Indian market doesn't accept beef (though the occasional TCK like me makes it his business to hunt down and find the couple of restaurants in a city of 17 million that do serve beef steak!) and it's interesting, and I thought I'd share with you, a little about how these fast food chains customize their offerings for local markets.

Pre-launch, McDonalds realized that beef patties wouldn't work in India so they did extensive research and found that lamb was the ideal (in terms of taste, availability and local acceptability) replacement. After running for a year they found that sales of the McChicken burger dramatically outstripped that of all their other burgers (except vegetarian) put together. So they discontinued lamb and today, in India, you cannot buy a Big Mac (called a Maharaja Mac here) with beef or lamb. You cannot, for that matter, buy ANY red meat burger in McDonalds in India. The choices are chicken, filet-o-fish, or vegetarian. They've customized names to sound more Indian (Maharaja Mac etc) and created some completely new offerings based on traditional Indian fast food (like the McAlloo Ticki Burger which is based on a popular roadside snack called alloo ticki or potato patty).

All the chains are doing this. Pizza Hut ran a (terrific) ad campaign last year introducing new Indian taste pizzas - tandoori pizza etc.

Just FYI... :-)

On May.11.2005 at 02:24 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Thanks for the update on KFC Andy. It's been a couple of years since I got my information. I do remember the controversy over the accusation that KFC was promoting anti-Indian lifestyle, but I guess at the time, the outlook for the company was more optimistic. Interesting to hear what actually has happened.

Just one question if you know: if the predominant consumer in India doesn't eat beef — then what's McDonald's menu like? Is it all chicken? Just curious.

Here's a question for everyone. When I was a kid, I remember that there was as many commercials for fast food as there are today. McDonalds, Burger King (I remember having a crush on Elizabeth Shue when she was a Burger King girl, before Karate Kid), KFC, etc. Furthermore, how many of you went to birthday parties or post-little league game parties at a McDonald's. Yet somehow, I didn't grow up brainwashed into binging on Big Macs for the rest of my life. In fact, I probably visit McD's the least of all fast food chains.

Same with TV. I used to watch about a hundred hours of it a week as a kid — Brady Bunch, Partridge Family, Gilligan's Island, etc. Yet, miraculously, I grew up playing sports and am a reasonably social, functional adult that's not addicted to television (though TiVo is becoming dangerously close).

Have kids gotten more susceptible to media, or were we just smarter? I don't think either is true.

Are we being just a wee bit over-protective, and spreading the blame a bit thin here?

On May.11.2005 at 02:39 PM
Tan’s comment is:

I posted before reading your latest post. That's really interesting to know — thanks, Andy!

On May.11.2005 at 02:42 PM
mandy’s comment is:

Have kids gotten more susceptible to media, or were we just smarter?

Actually, I think the principle difference is not a factor of smarts but income. Fast food chains don't just advertise to any children—they advertise to poor children. As the gap between rich and poor has widened, and the number of poor children and poor schools increased, the fast food chains have flourished. Their success is as much a product of advertising as it is of low wages, less time for families (due in large part to both parents working, sometimes more than one job each), and food stamps that cover peanut butter but not carrots or celery.

On May.11.2005 at 02:49 PM
Jazz’s comment is:

Childhood obesity is an unfortunate circumstance for any child because it is ultimately the parent’s responsibility - the child is basically victim to parental convenience. However, we (advertisers, designers, legislators, etc.) or the communities need to accept some fault in the rising epidemic because we lack avid protest against the issue

I admire your advocacy with the issue, and I think your proposal to eliminate advertising to children under the age of twelve is a valid solution, although maybe not a realistic solution. Children will gain access to such advertising through other means of communication, i.e. internet, friend’s house, billboards, etc. Perhaps, creating fast food chains/food products that are healthier and have appealing looks should be a consideration? After all, it fits the adage with a different perspective of, “if you can’t beat em, then join em”. ^_^

On May.11.2005 at 03:24 PM
andy’s comment is:

You know Tan, I ask myself that question all the time. Have kids gotten more susceptible to media, or were we just smarter? I don't have an answer but I suspect it is influenced very greatly by parent's lifestyles.

Like you, I was also faced with junkfood ads and media campaigns, but where and what we ate, was almost completely determined by my mother. Given that she was/is a homemaker, this meant our meals were made from scratch, at home. We did eat burgers and such, but not at the cost of our meals - "No, you can't have another Big Mac or you'll ruin your dinner." I'm betting your experience was fairly similar.

Enter the next generation: as prices rose and the norm became dual income families, there was less time and energy to come home after work and cook a meal from scratch, so the Big Mac became dinner. The end result is that people began subsisting on junkfood and ordering in.

There is hope though and again, I believe it has to do with parenting. I have a two-year old daughter who's tastes we've very consciously tried to steer in a healthy direction. She's just two, but I think it works. Given a choice between chocolate or potatoes, she chooses potatoes, juice or coke, she chooses juice... I hope it lasts!

On May.11.2005 at 03:52 PM
Nick Shinn’s comment is:

This topic keeps cropping up on Speak Up.

What's the problem?

If you're a designer with a consicence who wants to do something positive for society, not dictated to by a client''s bottom line, do some charity work for a good cause.

But if you're going to work for the man, take the dough and shut the fuck up. (In some circumstances, you may be obliged to decline the commission, at your discretion.)

The beauty of this is that the blue chip work subsidizes the pro bono.

Above all, try to avoid doing your client's charity projects at no charge!

Now can we move?

On May.11.2005 at 03:59 PM
gregor’s comment is:

Thank you Nick (no sarcasm here). You're correct that this theme has been pretty consistent in many threads lately. Socially responsible design is being heavily emphasized by associations such as the AIGA -- and for good reason. I think even more so, under the current political climate, this type of discussion will appear more frequently in and outside of designer circles.

Yeah sure, we all want the man's paycheck 'cause we got bills to pay and gaget's to get, but I think more and more people also want to go to sleep at night with a clearer conscious about how their productivity shapes the world we live in.

in terms of economic/cutural influence doing work for your fave non-profit doesn't strike an adequate balance -- non-profits, no matter how pretty their annual report is, has less cultural impact than nike.

it's a healthy dialogue, but one that is pretty extensive. moving from here just isn't so simple.

Mandy you hit it on the nail -- and it's not just limited to fast food. take a look at what chains such as Safeway stock their shelves for a middle class demographic, and look at the shelves in a lower class neighborhood. The difference is sadly amazing!

Tan -- I think advertising and the media is more sophisticated and sinister in it's approach to kids. Look at it this way, post war (World War 2) America has progressively found new target (no pun intended) groups, starting with teenagers in the 50s, and then moving down the ladder to toddlers as well as up the ladder to seniors. now advertising directly appeals to the 3 - 5 year old age group that is aired with many TV shows on weekend mornings.

Of course as parents we are the ones who act on that advertising (and I'll be the 1st to admit my basement is filled with large platic bins of sailor moon dolls, thomas the tank engine, digimon, etc [anyone know any collectors I can dump this junk on?]), but as we know, advertising is supposed to work on multiple levels - in this case it's combination of how our kids respond to it and how we interpret their needs/wants via their response.

As designer's do we have any power to change this. Hmm, maybe, maybe not. I've been fortunate enough to work with a few open minded clients who have trusted me enough to call messaging bullshit when it is bullshit. They were medium sized companies and not corporate behemoths. Those cases are rare indeed and it's more likely efforts outside of design that will make an impact. An personal honesty in our role in this is just the begining.

A recently published book, Citizen Designer (I think Jason or another SU author reviewed that recently on this site?), looks at designer's perspectives on social responsibility. While one designer looks at issues similar to what is being discussed here, another has an entirely different interpretation: using pirated fonts is being socially irresponsible. This is to say there is a huge gulf in interpretation of socially responsible design and how to practice that inside the profession.

On May.11.2005 at 05:19 PM
Tan’s comment is:

>I think advertising and the media is more sophisticated and sinister in it's approach to kids.

Maybe. But I also think we've become too paranoid as a society, ready to blame media and advertising for too many things.

I should mention that I have a close friend who worked PR for McDonalds for years, and from what I could hear from her, there was no ulterior motive to target children and turn them obese or hurt them otherwise.

From what I could tell, McDonald's strategy has always been simple — to sell more products, partner with profitable companies that can help merchandise their products, and integrate their stores into communities where they're located. I've never worked for them, but it seems to me that their strategy isn't any different than Starbucks or thousands of other retail businesses.

And in the process, they've established a chain of Ronald McDonald houses, which have become a model example of corporate altruism; as well as maintain long-standing scholarship programs for student employees; and support and subsidize local school and community programs and events across the world.

Maybe that's just my friend's PR spin — but that doesn't sound like an evil corporate monster out to destroy the health of a generation of children.

On May.11.2005 at 05:52 PM
gregor’s comment is:

Just for the record, I have 3 kids, which may or may not give me some insight into all of this: having walked them through the "I want," and "I want it now," based on what they see in advertising. Both my spouse and I have tried to teach them to think critically, age appropriately, while not depriving them of those "I want " moments and practicing moderation. I don't want to claim authority on the subject but do feel like I can contribute to the dialogue....

I don't think McDonald's can be isolated as the primary offender. But, I'll have to say that their seemingly simple strategy is implemented via extensive consumer research, ranging from advertising to aroma. If we've become 'paranoid' as a society, there's reason for it, even if that paranoia is misapplied in some instances.

marketing departments don't call certain internal documents battle cards for good clean fun. while McDonalds may or may not use this terminology, many large corporations do, and yes they see it (the fight for market share) as a battle....

funny, but I've been re-reading my old David Olgivy books lately and their relevance to this topic is surprising, in an odd kinda way.

On May.11.2005 at 06:13 PM
gregor’s comment is:

i stand corrected in advance: olgivy = oglivy. too many long days....

On May.11.2005 at 06:33 PM
beto’s comment is:


Yeah sure, we all want the man's paycheck 'cause we got bills to pay and gaget's to get, but I think more and more people also want to go to sleep at night with a clearer conscious about how their productivity shapes the world we live in.

And can we really, really have it both ways? Inquiring minds want to know.

I just can wonder what would have been of McCann-Erickson without Coke...

If your designer conscience really bugs you off, you just pass on the McD's job, quit your position and start doing probono work for PETA and the rest of them. Or throw your ethics to the wind, suck it up and do it anyway, which best describes the most likely case of many designers whose main priority is to put food on the table first and everything else second.

This is not an apology to the often questionable business tactics of junk food moguls - it's just the way it is for many colleagues in the business.

my basement is filled with large platic bins of sailor moon dolls, thomas the tank engine, digimon, etc [anyone know any collectors I can dump this junk on?

Well... one man's trash and all that.

On May.11.2005 at 06:36 PM
gregor’s comment is:

can we really, really have it both ways:

seems to be the struggle since the luddites, no?

I work for the man as much as anyone else, as my CV shows. in some instances in history that's called being a collaborator.... at the moment let's just say I'm being a provacateur: thinking about this issue ain't a bad thing at all at this moment in time.

Me, I'm just happy to have a conscious and not be afraid to flaunt it.

On May.11.2005 at 07:06 PM
Tan’s comment is:

>extensive consumer research, ranging from advertising to aroma

You state this, suggestive that it's somehow deceptive and evil for corporations to conduct consumer research and respond to it tactically.

So are you saying that all consumer research and the companies and agencies that employ it are up to no good?

Is this the basis of the paranoia, or a symptom?

On May.11.2005 at 07:29 PM
Jason’s comment is:

Choice must enter into this discussion. And so should class, education, and economic status. It would be interesting to look at those who sucumb to obesity (or unhealthy lifestyles), and see how much money they earn, what their level of "food knowledge" is, and what their schedules look like.

Most do not have the understanding of what a calorie is, and how many they require each day. Few people know their way around the kitchen, and if they do, they rarely have the "time" to commit to meal planning. Fast food, junk food, sodas, sugary juices, and candy is fast, cheap, and tasty. If you live on welfare and food stamps, will you spend $1/lb on apples or $1 on a package of cookies? If there's no time to cook for your kids because you work 70+ hours a week and are a single parent, will you prepare a healthy and nutritious meal or order in a pizza 3 nights out of the week? If your school system cannot afford to educate students on health science and nutrition, who will teach your kids these topics?

Parents should educate children, but what if children were empowered? What if they had the comprehension of these matters and problems that have made the USA the fattest nation on earth? What about "truth" in foods, as we have "truth" in smoking (see fairenough.com or truth.com).

On May.11.2005 at 07:32 PM
Alex’s comment is:

This has been touched on by some previous comments but I would have to say that as a designer, you should be bound by your contract more than you should be by your morals. If you don't create the flashy poster for McDonalds, someone else will.

Motivation for companies to change should come from above (the government or the consumer) and not from below (the employee.) This is why I would wholeheartedly support the idea for a ban on advertising to children. Implementation of such drastic legislation would be fairly difficult, but this is more where you can make a difference. As a consumer, refuse to buy from McDonalds until they change their policies. As an activist, join a committee determined to outlaw advertising to minors. And finally, as a designer, rather than refusing "bad" projects, inspire healthy habits in children with your work. This may seem like hypocrisy, but upon closer examination it’s the way America works. You've got to change the way a business is running without destroying the capitalist foundation upon which it is built.

On May.11.2005 at 07:44 PM
gregor’s comment is:

Tan: You state this, suggestive that it's somehow deceptive and evil for corporations to conduct consumer research and respond to it tactically.

not all is deceptive or evil -- that would be by far too much of a blanket statement. on a case by case basis it comes down to the methodology and purpose of the research and how a corporation or their agency responds to and implements it, tactically.

is it a basis or symptom? don't have a quick or easy answer on that to be honest. maybe both.

On May.12.2005 at 10:53 AM
Tan’s comment is:

Consumer research isn't some sort of dark science used to manipulate people. It's a science of studying people. It's just the act of asking customers what they want, and finding trends and patterns that help manufacturers develop products that tailor more accurately to those responses.

It's business responding to customers. It's capitalism.

If consumers don't like something, and stop buying it, then manufacturers will change to something else.

On May.12.2005 at 01:20 PM
Manoj Swearingen’s comment is:

It is interesting to think about our roles in such a manner. It is my feeling that unfortunately, it is our job to get companies business through our advertising and design. I know I am guilty of being unhealthy with my food selections. Morgan Spurlock's documentary really shed light on this epidemic.

We should address this as a cultural issue. Why are we in such a rush all the time? Why is eating unhealthy so much more affordable than making meals that are healthy? There is a juvenile detention center in Wisconsin that actually makes kids have healthy meals and exercise for barely more than the cost of the normal unhealthy choices.

This topic calls to question three things: corporate responsibility of getting profits at the detriment of their consumers: the culture of the U.S. work environment to limit free time because everyone is chasing after money: finally, in this environment parents don't get to monitor what their kids are doing when they are away and how they are unaware of what the kids schools are providing for meals.

Most schools have vending machines from major corporations as well as corporate meal choices that bring in revenue to the school. It is obvious that government policy should be in place to have nothing but healthy balanced meals in schools along with mandatory daily fitness. Kids used to not have a lot of freedoms until turning 18, now gov't is allowing kids choices that they cannot handle starting at a very young age.

My resonsibilty as an advertiser lies with the client as well as my heart if it is an issue I have moral objections about. However, I may not have a choice if it concerns me working or getting fired for not working on particular piece, I would have to take shit with a smile as I am accustom to. When I get to the ad world, I expect my work to be at a level where I can openly choose not to work on projects at my discretion. This may be unattainable but I will never stop striving for it.

On May.12.2005 at 01:42 PM
gregor’s comment is:

Sorry Tan, I can't agree with you there -- the results of consumer research (which, depending upon the practitioner, can involve much more than just studying people and trends) like advertising, packaging, etc is used to manipulate people into buying something. if the product meets the consumer's expectations, fills the appropriate void or addresses a 'real' need it will then succeed.

I don't necessarily believe it's a dark science, although in some cases I believe it used inappropriately. Which is experiencial based, and not speculation. But I will ephasize here, research is not always used inappropriately, and not as frequently as left wing pundits would like us to believe.

Additionaly I would say it's also much more than businesses responding to people -- in many cases it's also creating needs where in reality a need may not exist. and that's capitalism as well -- perhaps a pros and cons dialogue far beyond the bounds of this thread.

sorry to be the grouchy old anarchist type here -- beleive me it was much more fun 15 years ago to be the young brazen anarchist type......

On May.12.2005 at 06:40 PM
Jeff Gill’s comment is:

Brothers & Sisters,

We are designers, just one of the many denominations that work for & serve the one true God, Market. Our Faith, Capitalism, is the One True Faith. We know that. We also know that we are human and that we all struggle with failure & doubt. That is why I commend Anna for her honesty. She is young. She is struggling with making the truths of Capitalism her own.

However, we must remember that though we doubt, though we question, though we cannot fully comprehend His greatness, Market is our God, our Source. Our faith is in Him, and in the truth of His Word. His Word calls us to worship at His temples, draws us into times of private & family devotion around the Holy Television. His Word is always speaking to us.

Brothers & Sisters, as designers we have the special privilege of making our Lord's voice clear, and sharing his Truth with the world. And many of us have the even greater privilege of teaching our children His Word. After all, what time is better to train a person in the ways of Holy Consumerism than childhood? Children are open & receptive. Their minds are clear & untroubled. Train up the children in the way they should go, and even when they reach their golden years they will continue in service to the Market.

Of course there are those who will persecute us. But when they say evil things about you, when they try to lure you away to the snares of morality, resist & rejoice. You have been chosen to suffer for the sake of Capitalism! When I am facing hard times I like to remember the testimony that Brother Tan shared earlier about his glorious upbringing at the foot of the Holy Television. If I can make that kind of difference in one child's life, then I will know my work has been worth any amount of trial.

Finally, I would like to encourage Brother Alex: the Lord sees your weekday work, your commitment to your contract and He is pleased. But the Benevolent Lord Market does not want you to give in to temptation on the weekend. Strengthen yourself by even memorizing your contract. Resist the morals, and they will flee from you. And if you find that you are weak, do not leave the Temple of Holy Service. Stay & sanctify yourself even throughout the weekend, and His blessing will be upon your paycheck, and your consumption will increase.


On May.12.2005 at 06:47 PM
gregor’s comment is:

Amen Brother Jeff.

But help me out here, am I a sheep in the flock or digital proletarian - or both. either way do I have to drink budweiser and arrange my nails, nuts, and bolts by size in gerbers jars?


dazed and confused in Seattle

On May.12.2005 at 06:57 PM
Rob’s comment is:

For me, all of this comes down to one simple statement: lack of parental guidance. No one, designer or otherwise, is forcing kids—or anyone else for that matter—to their local McDonald's for a BigMac. And has not McDonald's rolled with the times with more healthy offerings?

As a father of two and living in an urban environement, for me it all comes down to parental responsibility and societal pressure. And this has nothing to do with design or designers. It is about personal choice and making the right decisions for your kids no matter how much they say 'I want...' Interesting enough, I read somewhere, that the most popular food among kids are chicken nuggets. And even McDonald's now makes it's nuggets from breast meat, healthier than their previous offerings.

While I applaud Ana's interest and passion, I think her targets are off a bit. You can't blame designers, design or even advertising for the choices people make. And you can't blame TV. The truth is that we live in a land of choice, and you just have to care enough (or be educated enough) to make the right choices for yourself.

On May.12.2005 at 10:22 PM
Anna’s comment is:

First, I am very happy that this article, if you can call it that, has elicited both positive and negative responses--one, the other, or niether, would mean the writing was a fruitless endeavour. I must admit, the contents were somewhat of a vent, as it seems are many of the responses. I cannot personally respond to all 30+ replies but I will try to give a general reply that might help substantiate my argument (obviously this will be directed at those who disagree with me).

As for a "McDonalds v Slimfast" as an equal and inseperable evil argument, I could not agree more. That is the point of my argument. The choice in modern society has come to extremes. The answer is neither. The answer is take the time to cook your own food. McDs and Slimfast are both fast foods--thats why they are both bad. Even if you eat burgers every day of your life and cook them at home, these burgers will not be as bad for you as McDs burgers. (I hope everyone reading realizes, or it is presumptious on my part to assume, that McDs is a metaphor.)

Next, if designers do not produce revenue than they are not doing their job. I have a cousin, much smarter than myself, who made a 1600 on his SAT...full ride to Emory...masters in Philosophy at Chicago...Harvard Law top of the class...and what does he do now--pro-bono work in inner-city Chicago because he wants to. Not all lawyers are blood thirsty, why should designers be. Take a stand and make a differance.

As for people in India not getting fat, I will say that I have a Japanese brother and in Japan McDs is huge. The differance is they do not eat it all the time and their portions are half the size.

If you balance one meal a week of saturated crap with 6 days of rice (no wheat) and omega 3 fatty acids (despite the mercury draw backs) you will be fine.

Next, Ben says we should not use the word "fat". This is the problem, people are FAT. We have to address the problem like we address drug addicts, alcoholics, smokers...recently in Georgia the govt passed a law that state employee

smokers have to pay a $40 premium on their state health insurance--obescity is just as expensive, so why not make FAT people pay a premium too. Like we make smokers go into small rooms or out on the cold street to take a drag, lets tell people that if you want to Super Size that Triple Cheeseburger meal that you will have to do it on a treadmill. (If Ben was being sarcastic, I apoligize, IFF not, I do not.)

Mandy makes the argument of Smart and Affluent v Poor. Perhaps she does not know that people making $60,000/yr and over are the most obese of the bunch--not the poor (eating creme brulee every day is much worse than eating fast food, but like I said before, McDs is a metaphor.)

If anyone has read this far into my response, I applaud you, and hope you will respond with vigor. I apoligize for my numerous mipsellings.

On May.13.2005 at 12:55 AM
Mark Notermann’s comment is:

Have kids gotten more susceptible to media, or were we just smarter?

You can’t seriously be trying to compare the media of the early 1970’s with today? That’s akin to comparing slingshots to missiles. The difference? Twofold: the sheer volume and repetition of the messages (across media), and the cross-pollinization of programming and advertising.

A close relative of mine was in the toy industry in the 1980’s and I have some insight into this. There was a component of FCC de-regulation (remember Reagan?) which allowed animated characters to be allowed in toy advertising (theretofore prohibited).

This opened the floodgates to children’s programming based upon merchandising opportunities. Instead of lunchboxes based on popular cartoons; the cartoons were vehichles to promote cute toys, with networks broadcasting 30 -minute advertisements.

McDonald’s happy meal toy promotions became the ideal way to get a low-end version of a product line into the marketplace, and whet the appetite for the retail versions. McDonald’s promotions made or broke many of these campaigns.

I realize this is probably for another thread, but I couldn’t resist.

Oh, and market research can find out what we want, but what we want usually isn’t very good for us ;0)

On May.13.2005 at 04:39 AM
Pesky Illustrator’s comment is:

Like we make smokers go into small rooms or out on the cold street to take a drag

Concern becomes enforcement. Enforcement becomes more oppressiveness in our daily lives. I've heard all the arguments why unhealthiness is bad for people and society, but I'm not convinced that making people go in small rooms for their habit is anything more than Big Brotherism. McDonald's is popular. So what. I haven't eaten in one in over 15 years.

Looking to blame advertising, no matter how pervasive or persuasive is just absurd. Rob had that right: a little parental guidance is in order. If a child is a bloated little porker with high chloresterol who's been feeding this kid? Not McDonald's. They're only a convenient restaurant. It's a parents. Designers need to get off this guilt trip about their personal responsibility.

I've been working with my home state of Louisiana on a project on Nutrition and Exercise for school kids. This is the second one I've been a part of in the last several years. Will it convince kids to eat carrots instead of a cheeseburger? I can't say. But I do know that education is the way to go.

On May.13.2005 at 08:11 AM
Matt ’s comment is:

A great point Pesky Illustrator,

I live in Sweden and we dont have a real problem here with people being overwieght, parents are very aware of what food contains what.

Just because something that is bad for you is advertised a lot does not mean we have to eat it. Something like macdonalds, it is pretty obvious that it isnt the greatest food you could eat for your body, so it has a lot to do with the individual. If they want to ignore that then fine, but dont blame the designers for creating ads for it.

but then again, food like Macdonalds is so cheap in america and there may be people where this is a good source of food as it may be all they can afford. Sometimes there isnt a choice.

On May.13.2005 at 09:30 AM
Juna Duncan’s comment is:

Hey I got kids and they love fast food. But we don't eat there all the time because I know better (and I'm not made out of money).

I think the media is doing a good job at advertising to kids. But you got admit the idea of "fast food" in our busy lives is pretty appealing. You take the kids to soccer, dance, school where ever. By the time you get home the last thing you want to do is cook. Is there a healthy "fast food" place? Soup & salad maybe?

By the way, I don't know if this was mentioned before but have you seen McDonald's new healthy salad? Fruit & Walnut salad?

I wonder how long that will last?

Oh and Amen Anna. I agree. I rather cook at home than eat out anyways. My wife loves to cook and I like to eat. And don't even get me started on Corn Syrup and Partially Hydrogenated Oils. They are everywhere and in everything.

I think designers can choose for themselves what they believe in. Personally I wouldn't turn down work from a fast food place, but I might turn down work for cigarettes and/or alcohol. That's just me and I don't disrespect those people who choose to do work for these "more adult" companies. I just don't think I would be good at it because my mind wouldn't be in it.

On May.13.2005 at 09:57 AM
sofia’s comment is:

If people are fat, and they are fat because they are eating unhealthy food, then we are responsible for making that unhealthy food appealing.

It's well-meaning to take responsibility but it's also misguided and patronizing. Adults are responsible for their own decisions.

That being said, I do think that advertising towards children should be strictly controlled, as you pointed out the Swedish do. Studies have shown that children under a certain age (I think 5) can't distinguish between tv and reality, so they can't be held responsible in the same way as adults. It's not only the morally correct choice but, considering the negative impacts of obesity on society as a whole, also pragmatic for our society to do something about the marketing directed at kids.

On May.13.2005 at 10:05 AM
corey’s comment is:

It seems to me that we've all gathered around in a huddle, standing over a hammer and pile of nails on the ground. We're all trying to figure what we can do to punish it for the crooked house it built...

get it?

On May.13.2005 at 10:19 AM
gregor’s comment is:

Corey: get it?

not at all - speak up is all about fostering dialogue, which is exactly what's going on here -- dialogue.

Pesky: I can't agree with your stand. First, it's not a hunt and seek to blame. Second, it's far from absurd to question advertising's role in human choices. If it were indeed absurd, and advertising didn't have a critical role, then there would be absolutely no need for advertising as we know it.

And to address the whole parental guidanance issue -- wouldn't it be nice if every parent on the planet was well educated, liberal, finacially well off, informed and thoughtful. not the case.

On May.13.2005 at 11:42 AM
Pesky Illustrator’s comment is:

Corey, I don't get it. Punishing a hammer and nails for a crooked house? That's on the next forum over: Speak up, Architects.

Maybe you do have a point, Gregor, but this all gets a little belabored after a while, don't you think? I'm not blaming anyone, but if all the signs point to parents as the gatekeepers of adolescent excess, so be it. It doesn't take a college degree or high income to figure out one's own child is a fat, unhealthy kid.

Advertising is persuasion, not enforcement.

I live in a fairly impoverished city, by US standards at least: New Orleans. But people cook here unlike anywhere else. I see the poor mothers at the local food store buying vegetables same as everybody else. A fairly large health food store is opening up not far from my humble home in the near future. They recognize that there is a growing demand. That's a good sign. Healthy choices.

Critical role? That's if you believe that Advertising is mind control. Designers are just low level worker ants with a spot of talent for making things pretty in a bigger scheme of things. That's a gross oversimplification, but well, so what. Shoot me.

If it is a global problem, as is said to us with growing regularity, it's still a matter of personal responsibility.

I need a bowl of Gumbo, all this is making me hungry...bye

On May.13.2005 at 12:38 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Pesky —�while you're at it, make mine an oyster po-boy w/ a side of dirty rice and some fried plantains. mmmm....

On May.13.2005 at 01:01 PM
gregor’s comment is:

Pesky, yes, you're right -- it is a bit belabored, but thank you: you're the 1st person to directly acknowledge that designers are a part of the machinery (not quite the word I want to use here but close enough I guess). Low level, or higher - it matters by varying degrees, but again I'm glad you address this.

Advertsising as mind control is a bit far reaching, but significant contributor/influencer to choice making is certainly the case.

by critical role I point to advertising as an significant influencer: from there I supppose we could go down the food chain from corporate CEO, brand mangare, creatiive director, designer each have their role in seeing that to fruition.

OK, I guess I'm done on this thread (I hear the sighs of releif already.)

And just for the record I'm not trying to play innocent or pure in this matter as I, like everyone else here, design for projects that contribute to the very issues discussed throughout this thread. It is something I think about regularly, however......

Tan you sure you don't want to wait for lunch time on that?

On May.13.2005 at 01:10 PM
Tan’s comment is:

I skipped breakfast this morning. Besides, it's lunchtime in New Orleans already.

On May.13.2005 at 01:18 PM
Pesky Illustrator’s comment is:

Anybody who can make it down here for lunch in the French Quarter will be my guest...

On May.13.2005 at 01:37 PM
Pesky Illustrator’s comment is:

Tan, it was an oyster po'boy at the Napoleon House on St. Louis Street that done me in. Cracked my tooth on an oyster shell and split straight down the middle to my toes. I ain't been the same since.

On May.13.2005 at 01:40 PM
corey’s comment is:

the metaphor is this: while I'm a parent of three little ones and can absolutely agree with many of the views exressed here (even ones that contradict each other), I can't help but feel like McDonalds is less to blame than the patrons who frequent it... blaming the tool for the crooked house, not the carpenter. In inanely simple terms, McDonalds is a tool to make children fat. The designers of the world should feel no more responsibility for designing advertising for obese children than they should for designing advertising for hammers that build crooked houses. Shouldn't the lion's share of blame go to the users of said tool? Of course, I'm over simplifying the whole relationship and parroting the "shut-the-f***-up-and deal-with-it" views from above, but I think that new millenium culture has taught us to find a cause and carry it's flag with gritted teeth. And every good cause needs a villain so we know who's picture to throw darts at.

Sorry for the stretch of the metaphor. My right brain is substantially heavier than my left. And I sincerely apologize for a response that sounds smug and apathetic. I'm not the dick that is typing this right now.

On May.13.2005 at 02:27 PM
William Stewart’s comment is:

Most children have parents. Let them dictate what the child can or cannot do.

On May.13.2005 at 03:03 PM
corey’s comment is:

sorry... grammarfix...

at WHOSE picture to throw darts.

Grammar Nerds unite! (you can't see it, but I'm sitting in a sunny Southern California office with a smile on my face and my fist in the air... yes, I'm a dork.)

On May.13.2005 at 03:28 PM
Nick Shinn’s comment is:

It is the creativity of marketing and design professionals that persuades people into wanting bad stuff.

But there are different kinds of creativity.

Every purchase should involve an environmental audit: if creativity is used to stretch the benefit (eg by adding the glamour of a celebrity, animated or otherwise, to the brand image, or by employing an extravagant metaphor), then it is wrong.

However, if creativity is used to present the environmental/health benefits of a product as logically as possible, then it is appropriate.

Yes, this is rather "uncreative" and does lead to a dour and puritanical world, but at least one that may be sustainable.

On May.14.2005 at 08:25 AM
Alix’s comment is:

Next, Ben says we should not use the word "fat". This is the problem, people are FAT.

People aren't fat. People are human beings. People HAVE fat. That said, I don't mind being called fat, because I have a lot of it, and there's nothing wrong with that. Being fat doesn't make anyone less human, stereotypes to the contrary or no.

We have to address the problem like we address drug addicts, alcoholics, smokers...

The problem with this logic, is that being fat hurts no one but the fat person (if it even hurts them). Fat driving doesn't kill anyone, fat isn't addictive, and is pretty much free. Second-hand fat and fat deals gone wrong? Laughable concepts.

obescity is just as expensive, so why not make FAT people pay a premium too.

Obesity is not a disease. It doesn't cost anyone anything. A fat person with a healthy lifestyle will likely be HEALTHY. A slim person with an unhealthy lifestyle will likely be UNHEALTHY. It's a simple equation, but like with most image issues, we like to think we can judge books by covers. Everyone is going to have health risks of some sort or another. Should women predisposed to breast cancer pay a premium, too?

Like we make smokers go into small rooms or out on the cold street to take a drag, lets tell people that if you want to Super Size that Triple Cheeseburger meal that you will have to do it on a treadmill.

ALL people, or just the fat ones? Do we only care about the health of fat people? Thin people eat at McDonalds every day. Does it not matter because they're thin?

How about talking about health at any size instead of just being discriminatory and superficial?

I'm all for restricting advertising to children (all advertising, not just junk food), or even interspersing "good" advertsing (PSA's and whatnot - I remember a lot of them from early morning cartoons in the 80's) with the bad. That said, it's really the parent's responsibility to educate (or throw out the TV altogether) and not the designer's. We all have certain issues we would and would not support, but morality is not universal, and neither is how much we are willing to compromise for a paycheck.

On May.14.2005 at 03:49 PM
gregor’s comment is:


"It is now recognized that obesity is a serious, chronic disease."

"Obesity is a disease that affects nearly one-third of the adult American population (approximately 60 million)."


"The direct healthcare cost for treating the 15 co-morbid conditions incurred by adults with obesity (BMI > 30) is $102.2 billion."

still don't buy the designer as naive and unaware wage slave in this and similar issues. and the whole "it's the parent's responsibility" argument is weak - we don't live in a social vacuum and we can't influence or control our kids 100%, or ourselves for that matter.

On May.14.2005 at 07:32 PM
Alix’s comment is:

As the AOA is owned by several organiziations that financially benefit from the so-called obesity epidemic (baratric surgeons and Jenny Craig included), it's a little hard to take their statistics seriously. Actual medical journal reports are conflicting. The lastest in JAMA actually says that death rates are lower for the overweight than those of "ideal" weight, and that it's only the extremes (under and over) at risk, but that diabetes is becoming more prevalent in all weight ranges. The CDC recently reported that there are less than 30,000 obesity-related deaths per year in the US. Hardly an epidemic.

Fat tissue is normal healthy tissue, and obesity by itself is not a health problem. There are obesity-related illnesses, sure, but not every fat person has them, or will get them, as being fat does not cause them. If it did, only fat people would get them, and every fat person will have them, and that's obviously not true. What we call obesity-related is less about body weight and more about lifestyle choices. Not every fat person makes bad lifestyle choices, and not every average or thin person makes good ones. Unfortunately, even if you're thin or average weight, if you're a couch potato and live on processed junk, your health is likely to suffer for it, whether you ever gain weight or not.

Pointing out those who choose unhealthy diet and exercise habits isn't as easy as looking at a waistline, and most of the bias against fat is more about superficiality than anyone's health. If it weren't, we would be promoting health at any size.

I resent the fact that with upping insurance premiums for the fat I would be subsidizing the thin, lazy, junk food addicts, when, I, myself, exercise 1-2 hours a day, eat a mostly organic diet, and other than anything I was born with, am in perfect health.

I think parents are perfectly capable of teaching their children critical thinking. If they're not, fast food advertising is the least of our problems. I wouldn't want someone taking on the responsiblity of teaching my children outside of a school situation, so I'm certainly not going to do that to someone else. Who am I to instill MY values into someone else's children??

I only choose jobs that I find satifying to my values, but I have the luxury of a second income coming in. I'm not going to judge someone who doesn't taking whatever work they can get.

On May.14.2005 at 09:32 PM
gregor’s comment is:

I think the parental guidance forum has been moved -->>

this is about designers taking some responsiility.

On May.14.2005 at 10:02 PM
Alix’s comment is:

Again: Who am I to instill MY values (about anything) into someone else's children??

Since when is it a designer's responsibility to create social mores? Whatever happened to personal responsibility, or mindful consumerism?

I'm not a sheep and neither will my children be, if I have anything to say about it. And if they turn out to be, well, that was their decision. Not someone who put together a pretty ad for a Happy Meal, the Republican party, PETA, or anything else.

What action can you really take anyway, besides only chosing jobs you believe in?

On May.14.2005 at 10:20 PM
Frank McClung’s comment is:

A couple of things have struck me about this discussion:

1. Why do students like Anna seem to raise the tough questions that we practicing professionals avoid or often brush aside? Have our hearts grown cold to what really matters in design?

2. Tibor Kalman once said, "My quandary was that designers have been taught to be liars. They have been taught to use their skills--just like lawyers and accountants--to distort information." The heart of this discussion is not about children and obesity, but about design's role and responsibility.

3. Is design manipulative, or is design's partner manipulative...business, profit, advertising, capitalism, marketing, etc.? Can design stand on its own without these partners?

4. How can design nurture creativity in children rather than obesity? I've got a few thoughts but would like to hear yours.

On May.14.2005 at 10:43 PM
gregor’s comment is:

who am I to instill MY values (about anything) into someone else's children?

someone willing to take a stand.

On May.14.2005 at 11:08 PM
gregor’s comment is:

and oh, Since when is it a designer's responsibility to create social mores?

since when were designer's granted immunity social mores?




among many others.....

On May.14.2005 at 11:23 PM
Alix’s comment is:

someone willing to take a stand.

There's a rather large difference in standing for what you believe in and forcing your beliefs on others. Or being arrogant enough to think you have the ultimate truth.

since when were designer's granted immunity social mores?

There's a large chasm between responsibility for and immunity from. Part of personal responsiblity is social responsibilty and visa versa, but this isn't limited to design or not design. It's in every field and every person, and up to each individual where that line is crossed -- how much to give, and where.

I still haven't seen any suggestions about what specific actions designers could take to be more socially responsible beyond picking projects wisely (which isn't always feasible). It's nice to be philosophical about things, but after awhile discussion without solution becomes pointless.

1. Why do students like Anna seem to raise the tough questions that we practicing professionals avoid or often brush aside? Have our hearts grown cold to what really matters in design?

Too busy, too tired, too focused on a paycheck, just don't care (anymore), or already pondered and dismissed came to mind as possible reasons. I think design isn't unlike other jobs in it just becomes rote after awhile and you don't really think about it anymore, whereas school fosters these musings.

Is design manipulative, or is design's partner manipulative...business, profit, advertising, capitalism, marketing, etc.? Can design stand on its own without these partners?

It can be manipulative or it can be helpful. I look at advertising and marketing not as trying to manipulate, but trying to inform and provide a needed/wanted service or product. I don't think I'm persuaded by advertising to purchase or not, but appreciate it telling me what's available.

4. How can design nurture creativity in children rather than obesity? I've got a few thoughts but would like to hear yours.

I'm not really sure. I can think of ways I personally can and have nurtured creativity (just for it's own sake), but using design as a tool to do so hasn't entered the equation.

I really enjoyed your questions. Thanks.

On May.15.2005 at 12:48 AM
Nick Shinn’s comment is:

>I still haven't seen any suggestions about what specific actions designers could take to be more socially responsible beyond picking projects wisely

There is a distinction between personal ethical behavior, and institutional ethical behavior. it is unrealistic to expect individuals to make the hard ethical choices. In the first place, if you are the one making the sacrifice to do things right, you will be putting yourself at a disadvantage against those of your peers who have no qualms. Which means that only celebrity designers, who can afford to, will do the right thing, and they usually get the cool clients anyway.

However, we can hold institutions, including dominant businesses that are monopolists and oligarachs, to account, and this is why organizing one's profession is a positive force. However, what a code of ethics says is open to interpretation. For instance, RGD (Ontario) members are not supposed to do work which advocates harming the environment, but no-one has been drummed out of the profession yet for designing brochures for SUVs.

In 1989 I launched an environmental design agency, Earthmark, with a couple of partners. There were other similar initiatives at the time, but it didn't catch on. In my (bitter) experience, advertisers are only interested in the traditional business benefits of Speed, Price, and Quality, augmented in the marketing world, as a niche, by Creativity. Being green is not considered as a viable paradigm that applies across the board -- you can see this in politics as well, where green parties are considered only a protest vote, rather than having a broadly applicable philosophy for a post-carbon society. (Proportional representation has helped in countries like Germany, but first-past-the-post democratic system in the US, UK, and Canada are thoroughly repressive of significant change.)

Obesity is a similar problem to race. We (individually, and as a society) can't stigmatize individuals, but we can take steps to make it less of a social problem. Affirmative action has worked well for getting proportional black participation in the US education system, but it has taken many years.

So, my advice is: on any ethical issue, there's nothing a working professional can do on an ad-hoc basis.The first priority of a business is to make a profit, as many a corporate guru has opined. The bottom line, which is the client's interest, especially in the case of larger, shareholder-owned businesses, will always corrupt the best of intentions.

The only reason MacDonald's added more salads to its menu is because of bad PR caused by political activists. If designers want to make a difference, they should support grass-roots activists by helping them get their message across. This is hair-shirt stuff: low budget, and "creativity" is counter-productive. Emory Douglas was asked who his design heroes were (at TypeCon in SF); he replied that he had none -- the cause was all that mattered.

Grassroots, because larger organizations become institutionalized, and subject to the priorites of maintaining a staff, with regular cash flow, membership donations, and sponsors who musn't be offended.

On May.16.2005 at 09:20 AM
Nick Shinn’s comment is:

"I don't think that multinational corporations, in fact, can change, because they're only interested in one thing, which is making profits for their shareholders. And really, things are going to change. It will be because people, wherever they live, wherever they work, get organized and stand up for their rights and speak out, and really try to create a different kind of society, based on people's needs rather than the power of multinationals and governments."

--David Steel, London Greenpeace, co-defendant in the McLibel trial.

On May.17.2005 at 06:20 AM
Man, I missed you’s comment is:

I liked when my grand father called TV “the idiot box” we never watched TV, I mean we lived on farm land not many channels. My point is that while you wanted to watch TV you always thought YOU were smarter than the TV not the other way around a concept that seems questionable today.

My mom used to say “I don’t take dinner advice from a clown” (aka Ronald McDonald)

I wasn’t in advertising when all this was happening I was busy being advertised TO... only I wasn’t watching the thousand hours that it adds up to today..so the chances of “them getting me were slim to none” plus my parents didn’t see eating as entertainment so I had that working in my favor.

Get where I’m going?

In every country around the world a product like McDonald sold by a clown symbolizes one thing: Laziness to make better food for one self and unfortunately the whole family.

I’ll stick to what I learned early on: Don’t take food advice from a clown on the idiot box.

Does advertising play a hand: YES

Am I to blame if I am associated with product: YES

As a parent can I change how or what my kid eats? YES

Can kids learn more languages when young? YES

Is food a language? YES

Instead of teaching the language of food will I let my kid see more messages about bad food and then blame advertising? YES

what to do?

On May.22.2005 at 06:28 PM
m. kingsley’s comment is:

> Is food a language? YES

Not a language, but at least a grammar.

Even Proust needed more than a madeline.

On May.22.2005 at 07:41 PM
Michael Surtees’s comment is:

Here's some food for thought from the official blog of Dan Jaffe of the Association of National Advertisers: The Food Fight Continues

On Jun.02.2005 at 01:35 PM
Robert L. Peters’s comment is:

Less is more.

More is less.

Just say No.

Most often in life, character is actually built by saying No rather than Yes (particulary true with children). In a consumerist society (enticed by propaganda artists such as graphic designers to say Yes) it is the conscious conservers who provide meaningful alternatives and more sustainable practices.

Rejoice, rejoice!

You have a choice.

On Jun.08.2005 at 06:19 PM
Mubashir’s comment is:

i need this research

On Sep.09.2005 at 06:15 AM
Andy Malhan’s comment is:

Unrelated to the thread, but related to the comments above on KFC, I'm happy to report that it looks like KFC appears to be expanding its presence in India - they're advertising for staff for Delhi based positions!

I know this phrase belongs to another company but "I feel like chicken tonight!"

Woo hoo!

On Nov.04.2005 at 02:39 AM
brianna’s comment is:

I agree that advertising children is wrong. If you think of how many kids see women walking around all stick thin and then think how they feel. It doesn't feel very good.

On Feb.18.2008 at 11:49 AM
Casey’s comment is:

For any business the goal is always to make money. In the case of McDonald's the segment that has created the greatest amount of alarm is children. While it is ethically wrong to seriously hold children accountable for their actions it is just as ignorant to believe that a business such as McDonald's will do otherwise without some sort of legislation.

As long as children are growing old in a state of obesity the United States will remain caught up in the health problems brought about by fast food. People need to be smarter. But business will always business.

On Feb.20.2008 at 11:42 PM