Dynamist Blog

Propaganda Is Now Officially Hip

"An interesting Metafilter discussion on Obama campaign graphics." (Via Design Observer.)

I'll note, however, that propaganda has been hip for at least 40 years. All you have to do is check out a book like War Posters: Weapons of Mass Communications and you'll fine that through WWII, most of the graphic propaganda is put out by governments and their supporters and is mostly patriotic and pro-military (whichever country or military that might be). After World War II, and especially since the 1960s, in the non-communist countries it's almost all anti-government, anti-military, and anti-establishment leftist. In the communist countries, notably Cuba (where posters were and are a big deal), it's, of course, pro-establishment leftist. In both cases, it's hip.

Why Do Kids Get the Pretty Hospitals?

Interviewed by Healthcare Design Magazine, Tama Duffy Day, one of the leading interior designers specializing in health care, finds reason to hope hospitals are looking for better design. I was particularly interested in this exchange:

[Interviewer]: One thing I've wondered is why the excitement and creativity of design for children's hospitals isn't carried over, typically, to more general hospitals accommodating adults. Your thoughts?

Day: I think that's an intriguing question and, in working on about 20 projects for the Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., I've wondered the same thing myself. The best answer I have today is that, when you see a sick child or infant, you want nothing more than to support them and offer them hope — almost as though whispering "hang on." Interestingly, when you look at the other end of life, it seems the opposite — we turn away, almost as if to say "let go." I think that's changing, that we will be creating more hopeful places for people as they age.

It's an interesting theory, but I'm not convinced. After all, many (most?) hospitalized adults are not at the end of life or even close to it. Rather, I think hospitals have traditionally believed that caring about the look of one's surroundings is frivolous--childish, we might say--and therefore unsuitable for the serious business of adult health care.

I wrote about health-care aesthetics here. In the course of my research, several people told me that radiation therapy facilities tend to be more attractive. Since cancer patients have to go every single day for radiation therapy and therefore want short commutes, there are many free-standing radiation clinics that compete for patients, leading to more attention to aesthetics. Alas, the UCLA radiation therapy area, while by no means ugly, is unremarkable.

The New Test Kitchen

Safeway has opened a fast-casual restaurant in Menlo Park, California. Unlike the delis that have popped up in many supermarkets, Citrine New World Bistro isn't in a Safeway store. Neither is it a way of diversifying out of the grocery business. Rather, it's a way to test Safeway's private-label products on real diners, with an eye toward spotting emerging trends. The menu lists the Safeway brands involved, so the restaurant also serves as advertising.

This venture strikes me as somewhat similar to the Apple Store, which looks like a retailer, just as Citrine looks like a restaurant, but also serves as advertising, turns a product into an experience, and allows customers to ask questions and give the company more feedback than usual channels allow. It's also a pretty environment--not what I associate with Safeway.


From initial reports, the Chinese earthquake sounds pretty terrible. With magnitude of 7.9, it was 10 times as strong as the 1989 San Francisco quake and, accordingto U.S. Geological Survey stats (but not the LAT), more powerful than the 1906 quake that leveled San Francisco. And San Francisco, in either case, was much less populous than Sichuan province, which has 100 million people.

As bad as it was, however, the Sichuan quake would have been much worse had it occurred a few decades ago, when China was less open and prosperous and, thus, less resilient. As this MSNBC video points out a weaker 1976 quake killed a quarter million people. Back then, the Chinese government tried to suppress news of the quake, a stark contrast to today. Reading between the lins of this LAT report about local concerns, however, it seems Chinese government officials still don't quite know how to channel the charitable giving that inevitably follows such a disaster. But the Red Cross seems like a good start.

On a related note, I found this review of a new book about the 1755 Lisbon quake made famous by Candide interesting.

Superhero Fashion

4.%20Iron%20Man%20head.jpgWith Iron Man an immediate blockbuster, it's appropriate that the Metropolitan Museum of Art's star-filled Costume Institute gala--and, more important, the accompanying exhibit--celebrated superheroes. Having written for The Atlantic on fashion in art museums and the glamour of superheroes, I made a side trip from Washington to New York for the press preview. I wrote a short item about the exhibit and also narrated a slide show. (Thanks to my colleague Jennie Rothenberg Gritz, who produced the slide show.)

The highlight of my museum visit was meeting Michael Chabon, author of the brilliant novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay and of the exhibition catalogue's opening essay.

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