The Challenges of Being an Activist Designer
Designer Tobias Røder, famous for his minimalist and provocative designs, reflects on the difficulties designers face when they go from being practical executers to thinkers and mass influencers.
Tobias Røder is a self-taught, independent graphic designer and an international design teacher. He is the manager of Studio Tobias Røder, a Design Studio based in Copenhagen that creates visual identities for the private and the public sectors. He is indeed the creator of stand-out identity designs for the Danish Government, Tuborg, and Lars von Trier. He also designed the logo for Design Matters.
In an industry that tends to ‘wrap things up’ — in patterns, colors, shapes, and effects — Tobias likes to deconstruct. In fact, his works are often labeled as minimalist, iconic, or even provocatively simple. The focus of his design work is to create something that communicates effectively the identity of the projects his clients commission. Design, in this case, is not a mere form of art anymore; it becomes a medium to send a message to the world.
In fact, what we are progressively seeing is designers abandoning the sole role of service providers to embrace the role of design activists too. Activist designers are thinkers who are aware of the environment that surrounds them and react or fight for their cause through design.
What obstacles do activist designers face when they try to fight or raise attention around social, political, and environmental problems? We met with Tobias to comprehend his standpoint on activism used in design work.
How do you see the designer’s role in relation to empowering people, breaking taboos, and creating political impact?
My job is basically to help get people’s attention. And the way to do that is by making things stand out. That’s nothing new. We’re constantly being bombarded by messages from all sides, at all times, and our collective span of attention seems to be decreasing. Today, people’s attention is…