By Kenny Meek
Advertising and The Design Museum: An Exercise in Inaccessibility
For those who don’t know, I’m not exactly what you’d call a typical london ad lad. I didn’t go to any remotely fancy university, my high school focused more on finding a trade, and I certainly haven’t had have any delusions of receiving a trust fund or inheritance from long lost uncles any time soon. For me, money hasn’t really been something I’ve associated myself with. Be that because of parental upbringing or my inability to grasp onto the stuff for very long. See, all of my entry points into the industry that we call ‘advertising’ have been given to me from individuals who have seen something in my character. Maybe potential, maybe they just like the cut of my jib. I don’t really know, but I’ve been incredibly fortunate to make it here to SCA 2.0 and the generosity of others won’t go unreciprocated.
With all that said, some people don’t have the chances to impress or the sheer luck that I’ve had. For many, making it out of their housing scheme is the key priority, never mind impressing some D&Ad judges. For every designer or art director out there, there are thousands of people who haven’t even considered a career path in this industry. For them, their next paycheque is top priority, not some award or creative brainstorm. What’s worse is that these people could be what advertising is missing. They could bring insights, ideas and a tone of voice that would make the ECD at Saatchi squirm.
Isn’t that what we want? Something new, something different?
So far all I’ve seen in this space outside of SCA in terms of inclusion has been a half hearted attempt to encourage women to join in and get their hands dirty. It seems borderline condescending and almost exclusively targets people who are already in the creative sector or want to be. Completely missing the issue at hand; education and inspiration.
To me, the problem is that unless you can afford to, you’ve been very lucky, or you’ve been educated in it, then you ain’t stepping one foot into this place, and that why it’s dominated by pale faces and rich southerners,
This weekend I had the time to visit The Design Museum in – surprise surprise – Kensington. As soon as I walked through the door I was met with a shop that sold books ranging from £20 to £60, a set of chairs breaking the 400 quid barrier and a lampshade that’s price was so bullish that it made my eyes water. As I strolled through the central lobby, it’s walls – completely devoid of content – began to ring alarm bells in my already confused brain. I started to wonder; ‘where’s all the stuff?’. The answer would be beyond a clinical hallway across the room. I see some exhibition signage. It reads something like ‘The Best Designs of the Year’. ‘Sounds like a good time’ I mention to my partner. ‘It’s £7.50 and up’ she replies. There were three of these exhibitions on display. All with a price tag.
‘Oh well, some museums have fancy exhibitions. I guess there’s still a lot of free stuff we can see’. We climb some well designed steps, in a well designed lobby, holding onto well designed handrails, excited to see ‘what other museums will be showing one day’. I won’t bore you with a review but needless to say; the ‘free stuff’ wasn’t very mind blowing. See, what ‘THE DESIGN MUSEUM’ has managed to achieve here is without a doubt, the biggest f*ck you to anyone outside of our super special snowflake ad bubble. All content outside of some logo’s, a fancy garment or two and a tube map is hidden away from everyone, behind closed doors, only opened by the contents of your wallet. The Design Museum isn’t a place of learning, it’s retail store.
This is the issue we’re facing and it’s staring everyone in the face.
People won’t get into this industry if it’s entry point continues to have a price attached to it. Period.
Why get into design or advertising when almost all of the information on what this career entails is found in the form of online anecdotes? The Design Museum and places like it are really the only venues outside of a computer screen where creativity is on display in a formal space. They should embrace young minds and people who don’t typically find joy in the curves of a typeface. They should say ‘Here, look at us! How cool would it be if you could make this?!’. Unfortunately they don’t. In fact, not many people do.
If even looking at something requires you to fork over cash, how can we expect teenagers with zero income to find inspiration? For all they know, design is something to be hoarded away, only for those with a mum or dad who can entertain the idea of paying for it. It’s extremely discouraging and we shouldn’t blame anyone but ourselves for this attitude. We haven’t cared for outsiders for years and only places like SCA 2.0 really champion them.
Why leave the scheme when what’s out there is beyond reach?