Blogless: Blog of Design Less Better.

Posts tagged Corporations.

Girl Scouts, Explain Thyselves

Why do Thin Mints™ cost $4 a box? Everybody wonders; one motivated amateur researcher tries to find out.

You should check out Are Girl Scout Cookies Deliciously Evil?, a strange and interesting homebrew analysis of the famous Girl Scout Cookies fundraiser.

The author notes the following. In 1992, a box of cookies cost $2. In 2011, they cost $4. I quote: "Total inflation from 1992–2011 was 57%, but the price increased 100%. From 2006–2011, annual US inflation was close to 1% over that period and the net inflation was 9.25%; ); there was a 14% price increase. Perhaps the Girl Scout leadership is to blame."

Girl Scout Cookies

The analysis is interesting, and well worth a read, for at least two reasons:

  1. The working hypothesis is that the Girl Scouts are evil.
  2. It's an interesting case study in evaluating charities on your own.

Spoiler alert: It looks like the local Girl Scout councils, rather than the national leadership, are probably to blame.

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PaulMay 13, 2011
 

Two Monday Worries: March 8, 2010

Two Monday Worries starts your week off right, tracking troubling tales trending in design, advertising, and ethics.

1. Google is Making me Stupid

I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle...

The kind of deep reading that a sequence of printed pages promotes is valuable not just for the knowledge we acquire from the author’s words but for the intellectual vibrations those words set off within our own minds. In the quiet spaces opened up by the sustained, undistracted reading of a book, or by any other act of contemplation, for that matter, we make our own associations, draw our own inferences and analogies, foster our own ideas.

Read the whole article here and an interesting follow-up here. (Thanks, Seamus.)

Detail of 'Google Monster' by Asaf Hanuka
Detail of Google Monster by Asaf Hanuka

2. Max Barry: The Lawnmower People

But [corporations] weren’t enough of a person, apparently, so now they have First Amendment rights. In particular, they have the right to spend as much money as they like on political advertising: airing ads in favor of anti-regulation candidates over pro-regulation ones, for example.

The Supreme Court has let them into homes: now the [corporations] will speak to us through TV, radio, internet, print, and tell us who to vote for. That might not seem like a problem. After all, you are a smart person. You’re probably not persuaded by advertising. The thing is, everyone thinks that, and advertising is an $600 billion industry. Someone, somewhere is getting $600 billion worth of persuasion.

Read the whole article here.

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PaulMar 8, 2010
 

Towards design without corporatism

Author Douglas Rushkoff is currently posting "most or perhaps all" of his upcoming book, Life Inc: How the world became a corporation and how to take it back, at Boing Boing. DLB wants designers to read it as a call to action.

The argument in the first bit starts with Rushkoff suggesting that people increasingly often find themselves forced to make choices that go against their better judgment because they believe that these choices are the only sensible way to act under the relevant circumstances. Here's an example:

[I]n New Jersey, Carla, a telephone associate for one of the top three HMO plans in the United States...is paid a salary as well as a monthly bonus based on the number of claims she can "retire" without payment. Without resorting to fraud, Carla is supposed to discourage false claims by making all claims harder to register, in general. That's how Carla's supervisor explained it to her when she asked, point-blank, if she was supposed to mislead customers. She feels bad about it, but Carla is now the principal breadwinner in her family, her husband having lost a lot of his contracting work to the stalled market for new homes. And, in the end, she is preventing fraud. How does Carla sleep at night, knowing that she has spent her day persuading people to pay for services for which they are actually covered? After seeing a commercial on TV, she switched from Ambien to Lunesta.

The book, or at least this part of it, will attempt to evalute the generation and interpretation of the circumstances that engender this kind of ethical dissonance. Rushkoff calls the generative worldview corporatism, a mindset in which we adopt a role more like that of a share-holder than that of a member of a society. Under this mindset and the resulting set of real-world circumstances, "it's as if the world itself pushes us toward self-interested, short-term decisions," and the "more decisions we make in this way, the more we contribute to the very conditions leading to this awfully sloped landscape. In a dehumanizing and self-denying cycle, we make too many choices that--all things being equal--we'd prefer not to make."

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PaulJun 29, 2009
 

Designers and Clients

We've done a lot of thinking about design ethics here on BlogLESS. Today's post tries to lay out the first piece for a practical call to action for working designers.

Sometimes in the history of this blog, design ethics has bled into business ethics. It's easy for this to happen, because design and business are so closely tied. Almost all design is undertaken for commercial purposes, and this means that business requirements are inherent in almost any design project. Because of the unfortunate character of business, though, these requirements are often unethical. Therefore, it has seemed natural for us in the past to suggest that ethical design meant either taking on only clients with highly ethical businesses (call this the Tibor Kalman approach) or else advocating for more ethical business practices with the clients we do have.

The big problem is that neither of these approaches is feasible for most working designers. The first case is untenable because (as of now) there just aren't enough ethical businesses to go around, and so most designers wouldn't have the option to practice ethically. This would mean that for most of us, the choice would be between an unethical practice or no practice at all.

In the second case, designers overstep their roles in their engagements. Our clients aren't paying us to audit their business practices, and overwhelmingly often, they're not interested in getting that service from us pro bono, either.

Detail from Rembrandt’s The Abduction of Proserpina
Detail from Rembrandt's The Abduction of Proserpina (c. 1630).
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PaulMay 11, 2009