By: Valerie Cochrane
Contemporary Culture & Design
In today’s society propaganda is something that we don’t perceive as odd or out of the normal. The more risky and basically blunt or straight forward as the message is we still accept it and are influenced by it every day. But thinking back to way before the First World War began propaganda was there influencing people’s lives as well. What exactly is propaganda though? Is it a picture, drawing or image? Is it a hidden message or a message that is clearly spelt out for us to read? Could it be advertisement to promote something? Essentially it is all of the above (As shown in Figure 1). Propaganda in the dictionary terms is a way of communicating with others but also trying to influence or persuade them towards a specific path. Everyone has the freedom of speech but in order to not get caught trying to dictate what others should do or to bluntly display a message that is frowned upon, propaganda was created so people could hide behind it.
When you look at the history of propaganda it has most definitely progressed through time. Propaganda has two sides to it, Wartime and religion (As shown in Figures 1 & 2). Wartime is the most obviously recognized such as Uncle Sam poster. The religious aspect to it links even further back to when Christ was alive. Images, drawings and paintings were created to provide a visual insight to stories. But what’s in-between those two sides? If images were simply images helping people who could not read way back when, how did it turn into a dictation when the war came around?
An image is worth a thousand words. I truly honestly believe that saying, which is why you need to be extremely careful when publicizing anything. The real question is how does this relate to interior design though? From the moment the printing press was created in the 16th century, freedom of speech grew drastically. Come the 18th and 19th century propaganda was understood to be used for political messages or social activities (As shown in Figures 4 & 5). It may not have directly related to interior design in the way you’re expecting though.
Promoting household items, furniture or wardrobes were not necessarily a high priority since most people were poor. The odd flyer would be printed now and again to promote those types of things but there were other ways of showing off the latest and greatest of everything. This means that the right background needed to be selected, the eye catching furniture, the must have outfits and the unique artifact had to be incorporated into the design (As shown in Figure 6). Simple things like that make the world of difference to people viewing it. Even when there was no color in the printings to visually catch your attention, the amount of detail and products had to catch your attention instead.
The problem with this is that people may love everything in the image but might not know what exactly the product is called or where to get it from or even how much it would cost them. Propaganda was highly influential but had to be done tastefully at the same time and appeal to a specific demographic. I don’t think I would necessarily change how propaganda was used because it did get the messages across and lead us into a new world. I would have restricted what images were allowed to be graphically viewed though. It is inappropriate for young children to see violence. The best way I would describe propaganda is corruption. It corrupts our minds into believing things without knowing all of the facts. It promotes desire and wants for things that we either cannot have or do not need. It may be a necessary part of our society but I believe it had far too much power over people than what it should have.