Design Literacy > Persuasion essays

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Please post your reflection on one of the Persuasion essays from the book Design Literacy by Steven Heller…

See links to more info on the essay topics below

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39 thoughts on “Design Literacy > Persuasion essays

  1. Steven Heller/ Design Literacy Book links
    PERSUASION
    Simplicissimus Poster by Thomas Theodore Heine
    Simplicissimus was a satirical German weekly magazine
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simplicissimus
    http://www.simplicissimus.info/
    http://www.old-coconino.com/sites_auteurs/simplicissimus/index.html

    Neue Jugend by John Heartfield
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Heartfield
    http://www.towson.edu/heartfield/artarchive.html
    NEUE JUGEND: (New youth)
    http://www.ieeff.org/berlin.html

    Nie by Tadeusz Trepkowski
    http://info-poland.buffalo.edu/classroom/poster/poster.html
    http://www.rogallery.com/Trapkowski/Trapkowski-nie.html
    http://www.polishposter.com/html/posterart.html
    http://oregonstate.edu/freedomonthefence/history.html
    http://www.mrposter.com/
    http://www.theartofposter.com
    http://www.poster.com.pl/poster-artist.htm

    Peace Symbol
    http://www.designboom.com/contemporary/peace.html
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peace_symbol#The_peace_symbol
    http://www.peacesymbol.com/
    Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament > history
    http://www.cnduk.org/index.php/information/info-sheets/the-history-of-cnd.html
    http://www.designboom.com/contemporary/peace_project.html
    http://www.happybirthdaypeace.com/peace_symbols.cms

    Mushroom Cloud
    The mushroom cloud remains a potent symbol of nuclear destruction.
    http://www.designweek.co.uk/Articles/139623/COLD+WAR+GRAPHICS.html
    http://www.creativereview.co.uk/crblog/posters-of-the-cold-war/
    http://www.answers.com/topic/mushroom-cloud
    http://www.zvis.com/cpg14/index.php?cat=23
    http://www.entity.cc/ICONS/free-mushroom-clouds.php

    Black Power/White Power by Tomi Ungerer
    http://www.typotheque.com/articles/tomi_ungerer_a_childhood_under_the_nazis/
    http://www.posterpage.ch/exhib/ex131imp/ex131imp.htm
    http://www.thegraphicimperative.org/
    http://americanart.si.edu/collections/exhibits/posters/pp.html

    Men with No Lips by Robbie Conal
    http://www.robbieconal.com/posters.html
    http://www.netropolitan.org/conal/robbie_main.html
    http://www.communityarts.net/readingroom/archivefiles/2002/09/robbie_conal_ta.php

    Grapus Posters by Grapus
    Grapus was a collective of graphic artists in France, between 1970 and 1991, combining design and social conscience.
    http://backspace.com/notes/2002/09/grapus.php
    http://www.aubervilliers.fr/rubrique113.html
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grapus
    http://www.noustravaillonsensemble.org/en/index.html

    Glasnost Posters
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glasnost
    http://www.reference.com/browse/glasnost
    http://designarchives.aiga.org/entry.cfm/eid_3638

    I Shop Therefore I Am by Barbara Kruger
    http://www.moma.org/collection/details.php?artist_id=3266
    http://www.pbs.org/art21/artists/kruger/card2.html
    http://www.moma.org/collection/browse_results.php?criteria=O%3AAD%3AE%3A3266

    Cigarette Advertisements
    http://lane.stanford.edu/tobacco/index.html
    http://graphic-design.tjs-labs.com/gallery-view?keyword=TOBACCO
    http://anti-smoking-ads.blogspot.com/

    Joe Camel
    http://www.artofsmoking.com/jcamel1.html
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Camel
    http://www.joechemo.org/

    End Bad Breath by Seymor Chwast
    http://www.pushpininc.com/
    http://www.roadworkdesign.com/UCLA/propaganda/Wars&Conflicts.html

    Racism by James Victore
    http://www.jamesvictore.com/
    http://roadworkdesign.com/UCLA/Lecture05.html
    http://roadworkdesign.com/UCLA/propaganda/NationalPolitics.html
    http://www.mediabistro.com/unbeige/people/we_asked_james_victore_some_questions_and_he_gave_good_answer_27602.asp

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  2. The peace sign is something that everyone has seen and knows its association. It has been popularized through the decades and has been associated with everything from the Nazis to nuclear disarmament. To many people the connection of this symbol and its meaning is clear but it still considered a controversial symbol. I associate it as being an optimistic symbol toward cooperation throughout society. But some people don’t look at it as a meaning but more of a trendy design that can be found anywhere from clothing to folders. It seems to me that it is becoming too cliché to push home the original powerful reason behind it. There is not that same strong connotation of protest and action because now you can find it almost everywhere.

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  3. Cigarette Advertisements.There is a show on AMC called Mad Men. It is about the advertising business in the 1950’s. The term mad men was coined to describe the advertising executives of Madison Avenue. In the show Don Draper struggles to find an ad campaign for Lucky Strikes after reports of tobacco being poisonous. He ignores all health claims and says “Give the people reassurance, advertising is about happiness. Everyone elses tobacco is poison, Lucky Strikes tobacco is “Toasted�?.
    This is what persuasion can do. They take poison and make it glamorous or luxurious. They take the scare out and make us feel OK. Advertising used this technique when it targeted women. They used cigarette ads to make women feel they had a right to smoke and make them feel glamorous. Advertisers even used cigarettes as a diet plan.
    Advertising can also work for good. Finally after losing a lawsuit. Tobacco companies agreed to fund an ad campaign against their product. This campaign was called “Truth�?. You may have seen one of the commercials with teens dragging body bags in front of a tobacco company saying their product kills 1,200 people a day from tobacco related diseases. The lawsuit also said if the tobacco market share drops below 99 percent after March 2003, the companies wouldn’t have to pay for the ads anymore. Well the shares did just that and that’s why we don’t see those commercials anymore.
    Advertisers need to sell. They might not sell the product but they do sell an ideal, and persuasion is their means to doing just that.

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  4. I chose to read “Paper Bombs”. Paper bombs are leaflets that were dropped from the sky during the Cold War with messages to and from the U.S. forces. One of them mentioned was dropped by the the U.S. armed forces on the enemy, saying “You are facing the mightiest nation on earth. The United States Army has never been defeated. Behind us lies the enormous power of American production. This war can have only one outcome, your total defeat.�? I find that to be somewhat humorous. We just sound completely full of ourselves. I do think that the form of leaflets is actually a very smart way of getting their point across without the use of a bullet or missile. Back to what some of the leaflets said though; I really enjoyed the response that the aggressor had to the American’s first leaflet. It said “CRUSHED: U.S. Forces, What Happened?�?, short and to the point. I loved it! At the end of the section, it says, “…a leaflet is just as formidable as bullet or missile�?, It may be true in some senses, yes, but would that ever happen? I honestly don’t think so.

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  5. I read the Racism persuasion essay by James Victore. I really enjoyed this article because he really allowed the reader to really see the meaning behind his poster but also the mood and feel of racism at that time in history. He made a poster which simply said “racism” in with the “C” being much larger and having teeth. It was such a simplistic poster as well making things much easier for the veiwer. It looked and felt as it was envoloping and eating its young which was creative. I thought it was definately a new and invigorating way to look at the topic of racism which is so cleshay and overused anyways. In my opinion barely anyone really recognizes what it is exactly anymore because of its broad use. Victore said “A New York street poster has to grap viewers by their throats and knock them on their asses,” in which case I say “well done.”

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  6. Grapus was a group of activists during a time of political turmoil in Paris in the late 60s. It’s funny, though, how it isn’t something we as Americans have necessarily heard a lot about.

    In a wave of communistic ideals, and a sense of working together with labor unions – the members of the Grapus group were often labeled negatively by the public for their left, “Marxist” views.

    They made posters to help foster political action by people who shared their same distaste for the current conservative government, to inspire and engage people to take action in protests and strikes.

    The posters themselves adopted a philosophy of ‘truth’, by making every poster to be extremely individualized by displaying qualities of personality. To achieve this, the designers chose to often use handwritten photography. Along with the grungy “cut-and-paste” Dada-esque imagery, the artists made every poster look like it was individually hand crafted – a reflection of the designers’ compassion for action.|

    I found this article to be really interesting because I’d like to see some reaction to sociopolitical issues come up in modern design. It’s definitely inspiring, though, since there are issues (such as the anti-war movement) that I am personally involved in, and might like to adopt some of these techniques to turn heads and inspire others.

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  7. When I first read Heller’s essay on Micah Wright I thought of Paula Scher, who has also “borrowed” images from vintage posters in her work (ie. Schweiz/Swatch poster.) I was drawn to Micah Wright’s posters, and the essay, because I like his juxtaposition of vintage images with current topics. He calls it his “propaganda project.” I also like the fact that he uses a combination of various media like (real) paint and Photoshop, something I hope to get into doing with my own work… a return to hands, so to speak.

    Although it may appear easy to parody a kitsch image, Wright says it can sometimes take weeks to match an image with the proper phrase. This is also something I relate to, especially with the VOTE project we’ve been working on. It seems like I kept coming up with these catch phrases and image ideas, but had a hard time finding the right combination of the two. I don’t know if that will ever get easier… but it’s definitely an interesting, recurring problem to try and solve.

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  8. End Bad Breath…hmmm…when I first saw the title to this essay I just knew it would be interesting. And indeed it was. Seymour Chwast’s piece called “End Bad Breath” was in fact a protest to the Vietnam War. The poster is made from a woodcut and the image is of a cartoon-like Uncle Sam with what at first glance could possibly seem like bits of food (hence the name)but in fact is a rendering of an air raid. This poster, along with many other images of the time such as the peace sign, were very powerful images at the time. I loved how Chwast’s image showed a bit of a childish side with such a serious issue. The idea was very creative to me. I think a lot of people now can relate to these images even if they weren’t around during the Vietnam War because we are again today in the midst of a very controversatial war, which some have even compared to the Vietnam War. We have seen similar images and sayings in this war as well, both for and against it. This essay in a way also reminded me of our vote posters because it was one of the big topics we had discussed and the students who chose that subject produced powerful messages through their posters. It really made me think about different ways I could approach each project.

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  9. Something I found really interesting was that the peace sign derived from an iteration of a white circle on a black square, followed by a version of the Christian cross which evolved into the letters N and D for nuclear disarmament.
    It was also interesting that the forklike symbol within the sign became known as the “gesture of despair�? and was associated with the “death of man�?, and was derived from the story of Saint Peter who was crucified on a cross in Rome.

    I hadn’t known anything about the peace sign except that it was a protest against war. It has so much meaning behind it and there are so many facts and I think a lot of people wear it without realizing that.

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  10. I found Tomi Ungerer very interesting. Tomi has an interesting history beginning with his childhood in Germany and then in the French army in Africa. I believe that is where he developed his a distinct sense of humor, which appears blunt and in your face. His graphic style is simple shape or line, bold colors and generic images of people and objects. His posters are powerful and emotional.
    I was especially interested in the fact he has written/illustrated 24 books. Unfortunately, many are out of print and the cover images are unavailable. His political humor cuts to the core of the issues and he is unforgiving on his point of view. I posted a web site to see his books.

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  11. I liked the chapter on Robbie Conal titled, “Men With No Lips.” I think Robbie developed a really great way to call attention to things that many were thinking about but publicly were not acknowledged. By night Robbie and like minded poster guerrillas plastered his work all over major American cities. He used street poster art not to bang people over the head with his personal views but to give just enough information to get people to think a little deeper than they maybe had been. I appreciated the fact that he didn’t give the posters a too serious, melodramatic message but used humor and good design to make a poster that was entertaining, thought provoking, and that had a hip edge to it (they could have been confused for a concert poster).
    Overall I just thought it was great the way he placed his work in the public sphere without permission. We have messages thrown at us from every angle in a city but they are all aimed at making us want to consume so its refreshing to see anything that speaks intelligently to the public.

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  12. Of the persuasion essays I particularly enjoyed the section on Micah Wright’s posters. He shows how you can turn around a popular image to say something different. He puts a satirical spin on WWII propaganda posters. He takes the posters and applies new tag lines to them, frequently criticizing John Ashcroft and the Bush administration. Persuasive designs are most effective when there is popular imagery incorporated in them, because people like to see something familiar with a new twist on it. Both the imagery and the text work to make Wright’s posters successful.

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  13. I thought the peace symbol essay was really interesting. All I knew about the symbol before reading the essay was that it stood for anti-war and peace. I never realized quite how much thought was put into its creation. It is believed that the symbol was made up of the naval semaphore symbols that stand for the letters N and D (nuclear disarmament) but its basic form also comes from ancient symbols associated with death and Satanism. I was intrigued to hear that throughout history the forklike symbol, represented in the peace sign, is thought to be associated with the death of man and the circle with the unborn child. It was also interesting to read that in the Book of Signs the forklike symbol is referred to as the witches or crows foot and right-side up represents man and upside down represents the fallen man. It was fascinating to hear how easily the meaning of the symbol can change depending on its orientation. Downward it can represent death and infertility and Upward growth and fertility. Overall I really enjoyed reading this essay because it made me realize that something that seems so simple can have so much meaning behind it.

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  14. Flipping through Heller’s Design Literacy, I found that Paper Bombs seemed to engage me instantly. It was the title, the composition, and the underlying message. Paper Bombs is obviously war propaganda, however, the form of it really enlightened me.

    In the times of modern war, air forces drop leaflets onto their enemy’s zone (hence the reference of paper bombs). These leaflets are designed to bring psychological turmoil. They contain illustrations or pictures paired with a message – always with formidable intent. The Defense Dept.’s Division of Psychological Warfare issues these leaflets and it’s a serious strategy of war.

    Of course, the effectiveness is debatable because at the end of the day, they are still just paper. Still, I can see how war tired soldiers might be emotionally rocked by a well executed bomb of this nature. A popular tactic would be to tempt the enemy with the potentials waiting at home for their taking…if they just left the battlefield. Others, namely the U.S. Army, boldly talked up their side with the intent to scare and intimidate.

    “You are facing the mightiest nation on Earth…we will drive you back into the sea…”

    No doubt interesting ploys of war, not to mention non-violent. It would be further interesting to see this kind of visual communication in other areas of life.

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  15. I was intrigued by the mushroom clouds essay. I thought it was strange that the mushroom cloud become such a popular iconic image but yet to many from the era they knew it also meant destruction and devastation. For the U.S. it meant power and it was seen as a symbol of accomplishment. The whole creation of the atomic bomb created many opportunities for designers to incorporate the word atomic or even the mushroom cloud in their designs. It was often described as beautiful and magnificent. In my mind I would see it as death and destruction but from the past it was based on the technology of this bomb and how it was made versus the end result. What I did find interesting was that they actually wanted to make a stamp with the mushroom cloud on it.

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  16. Peace Sign
    I find it very interesting that something so simple as the peace sign has such history to it. I also think it interesting that it has evolved with time. A symbol that is so small and absolute can have such powerful meaning worldwide is amazing. I would have never known how the peace sign was born until I read about it. The fact that there is logical reasoning to why the lines are placed the way they are is fascinating. I think it makes the peace sign much more powerful by including the letters N and D of the navy code flag signaling system.

    Cigarette Advertisements
    Cigarettes have come a long way. It is weird to read about what it was like in the 1920’s compared to now. Then it was something that everyone did, especially women. In the 20’s it seemed as if people worshiped them and that you had to smoke. Now days you can see advertisements all over the place to help you quit. It was a bit humorous looking at the different advertisements from the 1920’s because of the text. Sayings like “To keep a slender figure no one can deny… Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet�?. It is so ridiculous that it is funny.

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  17. I read the persuasion essay on smoking ads. It is very appropriately named persuasion essay considering they marketed smokers as healthier, happier, and more sophisticated. The way they targeted women into believing that smoking was sexy and (if lower class) could improve your social status was insane. I find it somewhat comical in that every different targeting standpoint has since been immensely contradicted, and also very sad considering it worked. It also makes me wonder …If smoking was so heavily promoted then only to find out years later how harmful it really was…Is there something that harmful that is being heavily promoted now (perhaps computer use…?)

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  18. One of the persuasion essays that I enjoyed reading about was The Peace Symbol. I guess I have never really thought about where the idea originated. When I think about the peace sign, like many, I think about the 60’s, antiwar insignia, and of course peace. I found it extremely interesting how there were so many different backgrounds to this symbol. I found the N D idea really interesting, which is suppose to be a composite semaphore signal of both of the letters. In ancient history it was linked to the “death of man�? and symbol of an unborn child. Also it dates back to the time of St. Peter, symbolizing the upside down cross. It is really fascinating to me that something with such a dark history can mean something so great today.

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  19. I think the paper bombs essay was the best one. It would be very intense to be in a battle and exhausted and see the foreign planes fly over dropping millions of leaflets, then having to read and talk with all your fellow troops about what the papers say. I think it would either be a great demoralizer, or a great moralizing factor. It could help the troops out by giving them the anger and uniting them against the enemy. It is a good tactic against the general population, so that they know whats going on, and so that they can get out of the conflict zone. It’s important that the civilians know whats going on.

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  20. Nie! As I read the article of Tadeusz Trepkowske poster titled Nie! I was impressed by the design but mainly by the idea that one poster can be used as a persuassion piece that is a voice for an entire country and culture. That alone is impressive. To persuade a group is one thing but to speak to entire country or to be the voice of one is entriely different. That is what shocked me, the simple idea that one poster can make a statment. The same statment similiar to a group of people at a rally, expressing there thoughts. To speak for yourself is easy, but to speak for a million is amazing. Nie in a design sense was done very well. But how it spoke to you as a viewer was on a totally different level .And I think that’s what is hard to do as a designer. Not to know what your view is but how to express that to successfully persuade someone to see and agree with your view.

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  21. Nie:
    Tadeusz Trepkowski created a poster that brought a view of a devastated city within the shape of a bomb. It was created in Poland under the thumb of a Soviet Russia. Designers were limited to what they could produce at this time due to the Iron Curtain. If I would have been in this era, I think that I would have suffered. I cannot imagine not being dictated in my creativity by the limits of social realism.
    This poster was created as an antiwar image. But to the people of Poland and also to the designers, this poster was more. It was a testament. It proved the redemptive power of art. The style of the poster is very simple and also very chilling. I find it to be very interesting and compositionally pleasing. It amazes me that through all the restrictions that were in effect at the time, designers were able to express their creativity and still fit within the limits. At the end of the article it discusses how posters are made for consumer groups, chairmen of corporations, and also special interests. However, the Polish posters didn’t need to express these. What they did was fool the regime into thinking that they were.
    It takes practice and a good sense of design in order to fool someone into thinking that the poster or art piece that you are doing is something else. I find this to be interesting. I think that it may be complicated to produce art in this way. I may want to try it though.

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  22. Black Power/White Power, by Tomi Ungerer, caught my attention right away. The blunt imagery of a black man eating a white man and vise versa, supported by equal text depicting their power, says a lot now, but not nearly as much as it would have in the 1960’s.
    Ungerer’s life and history seemed quite interesting. His background definitely supported and gave credence to his artwork. I appreciated a quote of his; “I am not really an artist, I am a thinker. I just use my drawings as a tool to make my thoughts accessible.” This is very interesting to me because, though I respect this quote a lot, this is the exact opposite perspective of my own. I consider my self an artist, and I enjoy drawing and illustrating a lot, but I’m really not as much of a thinker. I’ve always favored technical skill to concept. I would be completely happy doing commissioned illustrations for the rest of my life, without having to think of any major ideas or concepts; just rendering images people tell me to.
    Yet this artist gives me a hint of inspiration to go out and use art to make a statement. It makes me realize that if you have some sort of talent, you should use it; and when I say use it, I mean that it should be used to make an impact on this planet.

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  23. Tomi Ungerer’s persuasion essay was unusual and intriguing. His poster Black Power/White Power was a way for Ungerer to let out his anger towards the people threatening the success of the Civil Rights Movement. The essay explains how many people during this time were unwilling to acknowledge the threat. The thing I found most interesting in this essay was how Ungerer does not think of himself as an artist, but only a “thinker who uses drawings as a tool to make his thoughts accessible.�? His brutally blunt way of doing artwork eventually landed him a gig in advertising, doing billboards for the NY State Lottery. Their tagline, “expect the unexpected,�? gave him a chance to share his bizarre and satirical works with the world. I found this inspiring because of my personal interest in advertising. This goes to show that every type of artist, whether they are soft, harsh or rude, has a chance to share their thoughts and artistic abilities with the world.

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  24. Polish poster design has always fascinated me since Joellyn first showed me a book about them. Specifically in this case, Tadeusz Trepkowski’s Nie. It is as the book says “like poetry”. It amazes me how the so much can be said with so little. I myself find that to be extremely difficult. When you look at this poster now you see a bomb going into an already shattered building reminding us even now of the civilizations we bomb. Even after 55 years we still can feel the power of this poster. It’s relevance seems universal even if it does say Nie (no) in Polish. The poster pertains to the Poland threatened by the nazis and therefore swallowed up by the Iron Curtain near WWII era. This poster as well as many others can prove something to the viewer with only a few simple images. What amazes me still is that they had to create these masterpieces while being closely regulated because they would “have to fool a regime that was already suspicious of individual expression.

    We have it so much easier to display our individual expression, so lets use that power!

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  25. I have always been a fan of old or vintage posters. When I ran across the Cigarette Advertisements section in the book it immediately caught my attention. I found this article to be quite entertaining. It explains that during the earlier part of the 20th century advertisers would claim some pretty ridiculous benefits from smoking and even cut out the physical ailments. There is one portion that states how some ads would give women the impression that smoking cigarettes would somehow make them skinny or help them lose weight . Reading this from today’s standpoint is hilarious. I feel fortunate that we know the truth about smoking and are not pulling out statistics and information from thin air. I also enjoyed reading about how cigarette ads were “a smokescreen in the struggle for more fundamental rights.” This is something I never really thought about until now, but it makes a lot of sense. I suppose it is bad that so many people smoked in the early 20th century but if it was some kind of secret stepping stone for women’s rights then at least cigarette companies were good for something. The last thing that I found interesting was the motto that ended the article… “appeal to weakness, bolster myth, and massage fantasy.” This will be something for me to remember when working on future projects, it seems like it would be a good thing to remember when brainstorming.

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