Justin Jacoby Smith is an organizer, web geek, Buddhist, and poet.

marketing, art, & lies: connecting the dots

So Jonah Lehrer says marketers are master storytellers, finding ways to tell stories that we want to insert ourselves into. David Berman says that very thing makes them unethical liars. Max and I had a short back and forth about the Berman article (thx again to Robin for the heads up!)--I found myself thinking that where Berman argues marketers lie, he's suggesting an implicit immorality in lying.

Today I discovered Ian Leslie who, in his article at Intelligent Life, takes as a given that artists & designers are liars of a kind--and, he says, lying is part of what we do.:

 Perhaps this is why we felt it necessary to invent art in the first place: as a safe space into which our lies can be corralled, and channelled into something socially useful. Given the universal compulsion to tell stories, art is the best way to refine and enjoy the particularly outlandish or insightful ones. But that is not the whole story. The key way in which artistic “lies” differ from normal lies, and from the “honest lying” of chronic confabulators, is that they have a meaning and resonance beyond their creator. The liar lies on behalf of himself; the artist tell lies on behalf of everyone.

So maybe the appropriate ethical question is--for whose benefit is the artist/designer/marketer telling lies?

Picasso famously said that "art is the lie that makes us realize the truth," and it seems clear the Artist is in pursuit of something meaningful in his lying. The marketer, of course, is constructing his narratives in the service of his employer--the ethical question here mutates into whether or not the employer is one worthy of promotion. And the designer?

Are we designing for the client? Or designing to express a way to meet a need? If we're doing the former, we may be closer to marketers. If we're doing the latter, we might be closer to artists.

PS -- can you tell I spent the whole weekend getting head-in-the-clouds with Max? We've got some big upcoming projects, can't wait to tell you guys more.