Lady Doritos? Right Next to My Pink Pens and Girly Beer

Controversial Lady Doritos, Image Obtained from The Daily Beast

The time around the Superbowl seems to be riddled with PR and advertising news, whether they are scandals or stories of success. This year, one of the stories that stood out from the rest was the accidental announcement of a brand new “Lady Doritos” line, intended to solve the issues that women supposedly have with eating chips: the loud crunch, dust on the fingers, and how to fit the snack in a purse.

I had heard of the scandal before this assignment, and my first thought, as a PR major, was, “Who on Earth let this CEO talk about this product?” In the various PR classes I’ve taken, we have learned that one of the biggest aspects of being a PR agent is advising the leaders of the company you work for, specifically to avoid crisis situations such as these. Either the CEO hadn’t been given a briefing before the interview, ignored the advise of her PR agents, or a PR agent failed to do their job. In today’s political and social climate, it is surprising to me that any large organization would think that a gendered-food product would receive anything but back lash. I do not think that the company had a good idea of their prospective audience, for this reason.

A Washington Post article, written about the issue on Feb. 5 of this year, describes how even if PepsiCo conducted research which indicates that women prefer quieter and cleaner snacks, those preferences are based on sexist societal gender norms which allow men more freedom, even the freedom to eat a messy snack in a messy way, and I have to agree.

If I were working for Pepsi, I would publicly address the issue on popular social media feeds to insure the public that the product isn’t real. In today’s world, issues hardly ever get slipped under the rug; an apology is needed if a company wants to avoid permanent damage.

When asked if any companies have ever correctly done gendered products, I have to revert back to the thinking done in the Washington Post article which describes how differences in product choice, correlated with gender, most likely arise due to socially constructed gender norms, and not due to actual biological preferences. Due to this, aside from clothing, I would argue that no company has ever done gendered products “right.” Products that are marketed toward a specific gender inherently must use gender norms in that marketing.

 

 

My Bathroom as a Design Study

There are many aspects of design which companies use to market products, including variations of color, typography, balance, minimalism and use of space, proportion, and many more. For Public Relations Publications, I was asked to look in the world around me for examples of objects, ads, designs and other things which illustrate the many concepts of design.

Being that my collection of beauty products is nearly the size of a small shop, I wanted to turn to my bathroom to look for examples of design that I am exposed to every day. The products I chose to analyze all cater to very specific audiences, and that is apparent in the design of the product containers. It was also interesting to me to compare the theme of designs with the cost of the item.

The first product I decided to analyze was an instant tanning spray made by L’Oréal. The most obvious design element being used is the color of this bottle, a metallic bronze. When looking at the section of tanning products in a local drug store, they all tend to follow a general theme of brown and bronze colors. To a consumer, these products are immediately distinguishable as tanning products, even from afar. It is worth noting that the name brands, such as L’Oréal, tend to have fancier packaging, being metallic and abstractly shaped, whereas the off brand products were simple, tan squeeze bottles.

This product is a floral-scented body wash from Bath & Bodyworks. I think that this bottle is a great example of a couple of design elements, including typography and dominance. Coupled with the blue and orange color scheme, the bottle literally screams beach at possible consumers. The large text creates an overwhelming beach feeling, making it appealing during winter months when shoppers are eager for warm vibes.

Furthermore, the designs on the bottle are textured, with the fish being slightly raised, and the background font shining a metallic gold.

This Burt’s Bees lotion serves as a good example of unity, when all of the design elements come together to create a whole image before the eyes are drawn to specific elements. At first glance, the bottle is light and inviting, in tune with the product being sold, which is a lotion marketed as having revitalizing properties to dry and damaged skin. Burt’s Bees used a combination of warm letters, a yellow background with a radiating design, and the clean center to create the overall appeal. 

This conditioner is marketed to a different audience than most of my other beauty products. Rather than a product intended to enhance general beauty, this product is for those who are frequently exposed to chlorine and want to protect their hair from the drying effects.

It uses color design elements to create a simple, clean look. It avoids design elements which indicate gender, and leans towards a practical use. The bottle achieves this clean look by using a lot of minimalist elements and negative space. The main things that take up space are the sans serif font and the illustration of the swimmer. To me, this appeals to a wide variety of consumers. 

For the last product, I chose a bottle which I personally believe fails in many aspects. The typography down the bottle is inconsistent, with three fonts being used for no obvious purpose. The logo symbol, which is supposed to make the brand pop, is a small, hard to read font, especially when placed on top of the dark background. The various light colors, used on the dark background, create no sense of balance, especially when placed next to the distracting pink floral shape in the left corner.

Overall, this bottle fails to use design elements in a way which would create balance and help send the message. The message of the bottle isn’t immediately clear, as one has to read closely to figure out the the product is a natural conditioner made for curly hair.

You Know What They Say… Fonts are a Gateway to the Soul

One of the most compelling things I have learned as a public relations major is the subconscious effects that design elements can have on the audience one is attempting to reach. I had no idea the depth of thought which goes into choosing which fonts to use, how to design a layout, or even when choosing color schemes.

Design directly influences the way that an audience absorbs the information put in front of them.  Typography, defined by Business Dictionary as the “study of the design of typefaces, and the way in which the type is laid out on a page to best achieve the desired visual effect and to best convey the meaning of the reading matter,” is a large aspect of design. Those creating publications must decide which fonts to use, the spacing between letters, and font size, and many other things, all focused on finding the best way to display content.

In Public Relations Publications, students were given the opportunity to play a couple of online typography games to practice various typography skills. The first game I decided to play was ‘Type Connection‘, a game that turns the fonts into eligible bachelors.

The First Step of the Game: Choosing a Main CHARACTER

With this game, I ended up creating a successful ‘date’ between Adobe Garamond Pro, a strong and serious font, and Maple, a font which tends to bring warmth and comfort to the table. Together, the two make a great combination to show off information in an inviting way, such as on an upscale restaurant menu.

This game helped me realize the depth of analysis that goes into typography, as the matches went down to the minute details of things like the transition from line into foot serifs.

The next game I decided to play was ‘Kern Type‘, the kerning game which teaches players how to properly space letters for legibility.

The Kern Game Teaches Players to Properly Space Letters

After adjusting the spacing of letters, I was to compare my work with that of a professional typographer. Needless to say, I didn’t do too well my first couple of tries, a testament to the difficulty of spacing. I was surprised at just how specific the letter spacing needs to be. Often times, I knew that the word didn’t look right, but lacked the skills to adjust accurately. When playing this game, I played alongside a friend of mine who is a design major, and was horridly outpaced.

The last game I decided to play was ‘Type War‘, a relatively simple game, compared to the others, which challenges players to visually determine what font is shown on the screen.

The Type War Game Challenges Players to Identify the Font Shown on the Screen

Type War was the hardest game for me, but it gave me a great opportunity to become more familiar with the various fonts. I began to notice some patterns in the fonts, such as some fonts having serifs, and others not, a helpful distinction.

Overall, playing these various typing games gave me a chance to become familiar with a couple key aspects of typography.

 

Professional Portrait

Taken in Oct. 2017, Lincoln, Oregon. Photographer: Sarah Smallwood

My name is Sarah Smallwood. I am a Norman, Oklahoma native currently attending college at the University of Oklahoma. I am pursuing a degree in public relations with a minor in environmental studies.

Being a junior in college, I have narrowed down my future goals to include working as a public relations agent for an organization working with the environment, either in marine conservation or outdoor gear and clothing. My hobbies include photography, video-gaming, and a multitude of outdoor activities.

My passion for the environment and conservation is what drives most of the fundamental decisions I make. I believe that climate change is simultaneously one of the largest threats to society, while also the most overlooked. I want to advance the cause of conservation and wildlife advocacy by managing the relationship between the public and wild-life related entities, whether that is a conservation firm or a clothing company which sells hiking and camping gear.

As a public relations major, I am expected to combine effective writing and communication skills with research and strategic thinking. In a world that increasingly relies on personal devices for sources of content, the area of design is becoming vital to public relations specialists. Currently, I am a novice to design and all that it entails, still learning how to use an advanced camera and editing tools.

I look forward to attempting to master various design tools and techniques, and learning how to apply these to my career goals.

An Analysis of H&M’s Garment Scandal and Apology

Screenshot of H&M’s Scandalous Product from USA Today

In early Jan. 2018, the global clothing company H&M released a young boy’s hoodie which read, “The Coolest Monkey in the Jungle”, modeled on a young African American boy. The clothing ad immediately caused wide-spread backlash on the internet, as well as store protests and online boycotts.

H&M released an apology in response to the issue, explaining that the racist undertones were accidental and a consequence of negligence, not intentional discrimination.

After reading the apology statement, my initial thoughts are drawn to the crisis management tactics they employed. The company acknowledged the central faults with the ad while also defending the company in a, in my opinion, tasteful manner. It is clear that H&M wants the public to not only know they are sorry, but also that the incident was purely accidental. However, the company also acknowledges that accidental racism is still racism, and that future steps will be taken to prevent incidents such as this.

H&M has a page dedicated to the apology, has removed the ad from the internet and the hoodie from the market, and has hired a diversity manager to oversee operations and advise. Because of these things, I am inclined to feel that H&M is being sincere with both their apology, and the actions the company is taking to back-up the apology.

Before this assignment, I was aware of the scandal, but as unaware of the official apology and the actions H&M has taken to repair the situation. After researching the issue, I now feel more positively towards H&M and am interested to see what the company does in the future as it continues to operate in today’s social climate which is focused heavily on present-day institutional racism and discrimination