Greenwashing and the grocery store

The packaging on an object is designed to attract our attention, to both the brand and the product. We judge which product to purchase most of the time by looking at the packaging and the identity that it represents, even though when you’ve bought the product we will most likely throw it away. The packaging is used as a way to communicate to us to tell us the value of the product, what makes it different from all the rest, giving us a reason to by that instead. Anna Kealy writes in Natural Fantasy on the myth-making powers on food and packaging design ‘Recent health scares combined with an increased awareness of the benefits of natural foods has resulted in a growing number of consumers willing to pay a premium for healthier products’

She explains that as a result of this companies are now more focused on ‘green’ packaging, designers are now tasked to make the visual and verbal communication so that we can categorize them as unprocessed and organic even though they may be the complete opposite.

‘Packaging design adds a level of emotional resonance to the food we eat, linking us to a natural environment or tradition that is often far removed from the reality of the boxed, processed item on the shelf’. Here she suggests that we are more likely to purchase something that visually looks more natural and fresh because it would make us feel better about it, that we feel healthier. This is in comparison to purchasing food products with ridiculous amounts of chemicals and preservatives that we would be consuming into our bodies. Colour plays a large part in visual communication, in her article Anna tells us that ‘’green movement’ isn’t simply green.’ Companies use warm creams and reds, anything that looks natural, in order to imply that their products must also be organic and natural. After reading her article I have understood that even from our most simple everyday products we are unknowingly taking in a message from the companies and purchasing something that isn’t what it seems.


Ethics, Ideologies and the practise of design.

Clive Dilnot (2009, p 180) quotes designer and educator Victor Papanek from Design for the Real World (1974, pp 9-10):

‘Today, industrial design has put murder on a mass-production basis. By designing criminally unsafe automobiles that kill or maim nearly one million people around the world each year, by creating whole new species of permanent garbage to clutter up the landscape, and by choosing materials and processes that pollute the air we breathe, designers have become a dangerous breed’

As designers we wonder where the ethical boundaries lie. I believe it is different for everyone. We can start to understand this by how it affects everyone around us, in this quote it is suggested that it is unethical to produce a design that is not sustainable; that by creating products that cannot be reused or recycled we are turning the world into a huge dump which not only takes up space but also affects our health. Another thing that may be considered unethical is the production of vehicles that are unnecessarily dangerous, why produce a car that can go up to 120mph when the national speed limit on a dual carriageway is 70mph. This gives people the chance to take advantage to look ‘cool’ and ‘brave’ but also potentially the chance of killing or seriously injuring someone. Or would you classify unethical as using the Swatiska as a symbol for something, after so much history is it an image we could still use to represent something other than the past?

In Lucienne Roberts’ article ‘Being good: Most avenues take me back to eth- ics’ (2006) in Eye magazine, she writes:

“Is our work good if it engenders happiness for example – if it adds to someone’s quality of life by making the world a more beautiful (I know that’s a loaded term), delightful or pleasurable place?”

This allows us to see a different side of this argument, by providing an aesthetically pleasing view, people are more inspired and creative towards their work. Also by creating something entirely new we are given the opportunity to evolve and become more knowledgeable about the world.

Seeing these two arguments in my opinion as a designer I feel as though the combination of the two is important, we must design to help the world as well as help people and the future.


When something occurs we understand it by knowing what it means. Judith Williamson in Decoding Advertisements: Ideology and meaning in Advertising discusses what a sign is. She describes a sign as consisting of a the signifier and the signified. ‘It is neither the thing nor the meaning alone, but the two together.’ If we applied this to something, for example a wedding ring, the ring is the object, the ‘signifier’, the meaning is that the person is committed to someone; this is now ‘signified’ together forming a sign. Now we go further and apply this to advertisements.


‘What an advertisement ‘says’ is merely what it claims to say. It is part of deceptive mythology of advertising to believe that an advertisement is simply a transparent vehicle for a message behind it’. Here she is suggesting to us that although an important part of advertising is the message, is the message even what we think it is? People on a day-to-day basis are sold products they don’t even need, but are made to believe they want. How are we deluded into this? Its simple, we are told what we want to hear; the products make our life easier, look better and feel happier. Later Judith Williamson moves on to colour in visual advertising. She describes how a simple thing, a glass with a warm yellow coloured drink and a couple of people sitting comfortably outside in a cornfield affects how we look at the image. By linking the colour with what it means, the golden colours reminding us of sunlight warmth and a holiday, instantly makes us want the object, to give us that feeling again. Its quite interesting how such a simple thing like the tone of a colour can evoke such feelings, it is the link we have to make ourselves, not the one that’s obvious telling us to purchase the drink.

Emotion and the Branded Object.

All branded objects have a meaning, but what do they really mean? Until my second Contextual and Theoretical Studies class I’d always looked at advertisements or branding to what they are selling or representing, however that has changed. after reading Judith Williamson’s (2013) ‘Apple’ Source: The Photographic Review no. 76 Autumn. The review is on an advertisement by Apple and about an iPad that is being held by a child raising it above her head, where the light is illuminating her face. She suggests ‘we are witnessing a scene of annunciation – she is being touched by something ethereal, even godly’ Just looking at the advert I normally would assume that its showing us how the newer generation is growing into the newer technology, the same way I grew up with a Nokia phone playing snake. To me is also suggests that if someone so young is using it, it must be so easy to use, or that it occupies the child long enough to maybe give their parents a break. However Judith Williamson has looked into it with much more depth, she has looked into the religious aspect, where the iPad seems to be shining a ‘pure’ and ‘heavenly power’ on the child. Not only that, on the image it says quite clearly ‘Designed by Apple in California’ which as she has said gives an ‘implicit contrast’ to where all of Apples products are manufactured in comparison to where they are designed. Judith Williamson entertains the idea that although the designing process is in California the consumers are not necessarily there. She has also researched into who is employed with the manufacturing of Apple products and has found that the company has been accused of having under age staff, people working 66-69 hours a week, and pregnant women working 11 hour days. She concludes with the statement ‘The overall implication is that the Design itself is part of the Holy Spirit, and Apple is God, ‘touching’ the world through its products. In reality, of course, the relationship is the other way round: those products are made by the touch of many exploited hands.’

The advertisement which was supposed to put their product under the spotlight has been flipped on to Apple with her words. The meaning has brought out the atrocity from within their almost ‘holy’ product, from an otherwise peaceful image.

What is a Brand?

What is a Brand? There are many definitions for this word, in my opinion a brand is:

  • Representation
  • Reputation
  • Identity

Brands are all around us, it is the key to selling products, when you think of an iPhone, Apple immediately comes to mind, because that is where the product came from. When we look at products, individuals or spaces, we can come up with a many ways to represent them. For example logo’s, colours and statements, studying Spatial Design, I have found these things are extremely important to create a theme in order to design a space. In my Contextual and Theoretical Studies class we were given a task, we had to get in to groups and brand our lecturer Sarah Snaith. We started asking her questions about her hobbies, where she’s from, how she came to where she is now. Our group in particular created a logo to represent her, the image below shows the process of how we dealt with this task.


We first analysed her, her history and her current situation, and designed a logo to represent her story. The logo shows that she’s from Canada with their skyline, That she’s settled here in London with the skyline from here and her Vision of how she sees the world through her glasses.

Branding has many different aspects, it gives people expectations about what kind prices, products and services they can get. So how do we know about the brands? They communicate with different target audiences after researching what appeals to them. Brands use marketing to expand their image, advertisements, celebrities, social media and something that makes the brand what it is, its history. An example of this would be Chanel, they are well known for their heritage and how their products came about, most importantly their world famous perfumes.