It has been said that “designers have the ability to make choices that affect how other human beings live their lives” (Reese N.D.), which is to say that designers have the ability to influence societies in what is seen as desirable and what is not. Tobacco advertising in Indonesia is rampant with it being the only country in South East Asia “that still allows direct tobacco advertising” (Tjandra 2018). Since “design influences consumerism, socially acceptable behaviours, incomes, as well as gender roles” (Reese N.D.) culturally, it’s no wonder that smoking has become enforced as a cultural norm.
Tobacco is seen “as a sign of masculinity” (Liew & Hsu 2009) and the tobacco companies know how to use this to their advantage as many cigarette advertisements are designed so that they are “tied to masculinity relating to physical strength and strength of character” (Nichter et al. 2008). Advertising is also created in such a way that it “appeals to the upper middle class, modern smoker” (Nichter et al. 2008), suggesting that designers have consciously designed it so that it attracts the target market. Through these design decisions, smoking is associated with positive connotations and is seen as a cultural, social acceptable norm, expanding the influence of the tobacco industry. Due to this image, designers together with partner stakeholders for activism may find it difficult to promote anti-smoking campaigns as smoking has become deep-rooted in Indonesian culture. Tobacco companies also hold a lot of leverage in Indonesia as they are an important source of government revenue. This shows that there are still large hurdles to overcome if design activism was to take place and suggests that the effectiveness of such activism would be lower due to the cultural and geographical context.
Drinking is a huge part of South Korean culture with the country being ranked the ninth-heaviest drinking nation amongst developed countries (Lee 2018). Like Indonesia, marketing also plays a role in encouraging this culture as many bottle labels “have photos of young actors and pop artists, encouraging their teenage fan bases to purchase their star-endorsed beverage” (Tammycho96 2016). In a similar fashion to cigarette advertising, this association through branding helps target a certain audience and make drinking seem desirable. South Korea plans to ban “advertisements by models drinking alcohol and beer” and is placing “restrictions on alcohol advertising” (Lee 2018) to discourage drinking. It can be seen that some work has been made in addressing the issue of drinking and in removing models and advertising, creating a gap between alcohol and any positive connotations which may be connected with it.
Through these examples it can be seen that design does have an overall effect on consumers and that these industries strengthen their influence through such means. With the nature of these industries being so ingrained in cultural aspects amongst other variables, it may still be difficult for designers to become an ethical influence.
Reese, C. n.d., ‘The Societal Influence of Graphic Design’, The Societal Influence of Graphic Design, viewed 31 January 2019, <http://www.academia.edu/10168414/The_Societal_Influence_of_Graphic_Design>.
Tjandra, N. 2018, ‘‘Disneyland for Big Tobacco’: how Indonesia’s lax smoking laws are helping next generation to get hooked’, The Conversation, 1 June, viewed 31 January 2019, <http://theconversation.com/disneyland-for-big-tobacco-how-indonesias-lax-smoking-laws-are-helping-next-generation-to-get-hooked-97489>.
Liew H.P., Hsu, T. 2009, ‘SMOKING AND HEALTH IN INDONESIA: The need for comprehensive intervention strategies’, Asian Population Studies, vol. 5, viewed 31 January 2019, <http://www.academia.edu/1562117/Smoking_and_health_in_Indonesia>.
Nichter, M., Padmawati, S., Danardono, M., Ng, N. Prabandari, Y. & Nichter, M. 2008, ‘ Reading culture from tobacco advertisements in Indonesia’, Tobacco Control 2009, vol. 18, viewed 31 January 2019,<https://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/18/2/98>.
Lee, W. 2018, ‘ South Korea to restrict alcohol advertising, including by models’, UPI, 13 November, viewed 31 January 2019, <https://www.upi.com/South-Korea-to-restrict-alcohol-advertising-including-by-models/1661542093200/>.
Tammycho93 2016, ‘A sobering look at South Korea’s drinking culture’, weblog, The Monsoon Project, viewed 31 January 2019, <https://themonsoonproject.org/2016/10/10/a-sobering-look-at-south-koreas-drinking-culture/>.
Branding in Asia 2015, Celebrities In The Spotlight, viewed 31 January 2019, <https://brandinginasia.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Actress-and-singer-IU-Soju-Ad.jpg>.