Persuasive Design in Support of Syrian Refugees?

Posted by on Dec 3, 2015 in Design | No Comments

Fans of Persuasive Design, you’ll love this.

Used with permission, © Elise Gravel

Used with permission, © Elise Gravel

A New Peace Symbol?

Could this be the new peace symbol of our times?

Popular Montreal-based author-illustrator, Elise Gravel has granted permission for this illustration to be used free of charge in support of the non-profit organization, Rivo-Résilience, to promote a positive message of welcome to Syrian refugees arriving in Quebec, Canada. Organizer, Marie Brodeur Gélinas, aims to sell the buttons for $1 to $2 each, with proceeds going to helping the new arrivals.

It has the potential to be a massive hit. Why? What would wearing a button like this accomplish? Far more than you may at first realize. Wearing one is a political statement. It makes it clear to others (non-Syrian refugees) where you stand on this increasingly polarizing issue. But it’s the way the message is delivered that renders it so effective.

Persuasive Design Elements

The genius of this grass-roots campaign lies in the choice of illustration and typography style. Watercolor conveys a calm, gentle feeling. The whimsical drawing style is reminiscent of children’s book illustration, particularly for Quebecers who are familiar with Ms. Gravel’s many children’s books, so it will trigger a highly empathic response. The typography is hand-drawn and placed at a tilt, giving it a spontaneous, home-crafted, made-by-a-human look. And let’s not forget the subject: a wide-eyed little bird bearing a twig, presumably destined for its nest. However, when coupled with the word, ‘Bienvenue’ it is transformed from a whimsical illustration into a symbol of giving and generosity. On a subliminal level, it delivers a Canadian riff on the biblical dove offering an olive-branch, the symbol of hope and deliverance.

The “You Had Me at Hello” Effect

Whether intentionally calculated or simply chosen by instinct, the result is the same: this combination telegraphs a non-threatening, kind and compassionate message on multiple levels, faster than the rational mind can dissect it. Like all forms of Persuasive Design, it bypasses critical reasoning and goes straight to your emotions. Who would have the heart to stand against this? Only a soulless meany. And no-one wants to be that guy. Especially at this time of year.

"Flower Power by Bernie Boston" by Source (WP:NFCC#4). Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia -

“Flower Power by Bernie Boston” by Source (WP:NFCC#4). Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

Like the image of the protester placing a flower in the gun which came to symbolize the “flower-power” movement of the 1960’s, it has huge potential, precisely because it will be underestimated.

Historically, gestures of love in the face of fear have proven to be the most powerful defence of the defenceless. Because they are ideas that surprise and impress us with their courage and generosity. So they spread. (Particularly on social media.) And ideas, once planted, are difficult to destroy.

Persuasive Design Results

Having taken the initial step of becoming an ambassador for this cause, you are likely to educate yourself further on the subject (in preparation for discussions on the topic with friends and strangers). You are also more likely to donate time, money or other resources to this cause in the future. An emotional connection, once made, is difficult to dismantle. Thus a habit is born. However, in this case, Persuasive Design is working to create a healthy habit or ongoing connection to a humanitarian cause. So the only danger it presents is in its potential to increase your empathy and connection to humanity, and amplify your own sense of well-being.

For more info, see this Facebook post. In the meantime, you can adopt the image above as your Facebook cover photo, an act that is being encouraged by the organizer. You can also donate to Rivo-Résilience directly.