Friday, September 29, 2006

Diversity on Campus

The white chick likes me, dawg!Copyranter posted a few days back on the sad efforts put forth in last Sunday's New York Times Magazine Diversity Issue, which reminded me of college brochures.

Browse a random sampling of college brochures and you'd think they were all done by the same design house, or you might suspect that the government has some rigid guideline for university advertising that says, "In all cases, it is imperative that every picture within your brochure contain no less than three distinct ethnic groups. They must be either smiling, walking while pensively engaged in higher educated dialog, or they may be at leisure on the lawn."

I'm sure after the photo shoot, these kids all go their separate ways, back to their corners of black/white/yellow/brown friends and say, "I got picked to hang out with a bunch of people I've never met and we acted like we were all friends for next year's brochure."I've never seen any of you before. So, what's shaking, my main man?

Are high school seniors believing this stuff?

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  • Consider the alternative. Shitty stock photography aside - prospective students do look at these images. If a few of them branch out and connect with friends outside their racial clique, good for them. If they don't, they'll be all the poorer for it. Just because 90% of college campuses are divided into a bunch of stereotypical archetypes is no reason to throw in the towel on promoting diversity.

    Now about the art direction: There are true experiences where people are brought together (classrooms, dining halls, football games, dorm living) that are much more representative of the college experience. 4 perfectly-matched kids - the black one, the white one, the redhead and the woman - do not a complete college experience make.

    I think the subtlety of casting is lost on your typical college in-house graphic design department. They are not looking for Tibor to come shoot pictures of the human condition. They are looking for fall campus landscapes with people.

    Good luck finding a creatively designed piece of college collateral (unless it's done for ArtCenter or similar).

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 3, 2006 at 1:42 PM  

  • Damn , Jim - can't a guy rant a little? I think I recognize the comments of an AD who may have had a hand in some diversity college campus brochures in the past!

    Then again - you are right. What can a college do? Gotta sell the dream.

    By Blogger Jetpacks, at October 3, 2006 at 2:48 PM  

  • Naw. But every industry has its demons. Lots of state work in my past. Lots of opportunities to tread the fine line between diversity and stereotyping.

    Rant away.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 3, 2006 at 5:17 PM  

  • There's something to that. Lotta the stuff I looked through when my daughter was choosing a school last year was really well-designed. Of course, you expect that from the better programs, some though, yeech. (Yeah, I said yeech.)

    If your kid's going to art school, you can tell a lot about a program you haven't heard of by the quality of the design/layout. Not sure there's another profession/industry where you can do that.

    By Blogger Make the logo bigger, at October 4, 2006 at 3:53 AM  

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