18. Design as Storytelling

Updated: Dec 15, 2018

A. NYT Photograph from 1980's

Figure 19A. Today's lecture about design as storytelling really resonated with me. I am from Colombia. So, during college I was curious about my country and studied Latin American political economy. This led me to drugs, and the drug war. In studying the drug war, it becomes clear very quickly that a lot of it was manufactured by those in power to stay in power. This image is a photograph from the New York Times in the 1980's. Not a particularly notable photo (unfortunately) but its gritty, and it paints a very specific light of drug users.

Figure 19B. These photographs are part of a campaign by the Drug Policy Alliance launched in 2014, they provide photographs that don't marginalize marijuana users. The story they tell is starkly different from the image in Figure 19A.

C. "Punishing the Poor"

Figure 19C. In this book, Wacquant argues that the Neoliberal governments of Nixon and Reagan created a political climate that became actively hostile towards the poor through policy framing. Policy framing refers to the way that a policy's design affects perceptions about the groups that it impacts. Starting with Nixon, the US government began to shift their language about the poor. What was once a group of people down on their luck were suddenly leeches to society. For example, the term "welfare queen" popularised by Reagan was proven to have no basis in fact.

D. Thesis Presentation

Figure 19D. I studied policy framing and drug policy as an undergraduate, focusing on how politicians used policy to shift the discussion around drugs towards a "tough on crime" punitive era. The way policies are written and implemented has an inordinate influence on public opinion and ultimately the people they affect.

This connection between policy framing and design reinforces to me that no matter what you're designing, whether it's information, an app, or a law, the context of your inquiry and the way in which you discuss it will inevitably shape the outcome.