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Is offending a few people to potentially draw in a crowd worth the risk?

Is offending a few people to potentially draw in a crowd worth the risk?

Alec suggested this question and I think it is relevant to all of the recent questions I’ve been asking on BrainFuel.

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  1. Are you adding value, or just shock?

    How do add value by being offensive? Are you shaking things up to break people out of their comfort zones in order to add more depth and understanding, or are you just working to bring attention to yourself at the cost of someone elses respect?

    To me, offensive behavior rings of activity that wasn’t fully, or well planned out. It does nothing really to add to the value of the situation at hand.

    Alternatively, heated arguments, shake up sessions, being angry and “mean” in order to bring about a needed change or a deeper meaning toward a positive resolution can be good.

  2. Everything eventually offends someone. Say what needs to be said. Say it as gracefully as possible, but if you offend someone, don’t worry about it.

  3. Trying to please everyone is a great recipe for mediocrity…or so I’ve read. I definitly have a personality that wants to not offend anyone, but i agree that you can’t walk around your whole life on eggshells.

    I’d agree with Mark, just like anything it’s a balance of knowing when to use tact & when to drive a point across without it. Don’t be offensive for the sake of offending, and don’t be tactful for the sake of not offending.

  4. I deal with this every day at the college museum where I work. There are a couple of deeply entrenched staff members who are uber design snobs. None of them have an actual degree in graphic design, yet they act as though their aesthetic is sooooooo much better than anyone else’s. And yet most of the in-house publications they produce, while being technically decent design, are incredibly boring. Moreover, they are completely out of sync with what attracts the 18-22 year-old crowd, which happens to be our primary audience.

    I recently had the opportunity to design a postcard style invitation for a pizza party we threw in hopes of attracting new student visitors to the museum. I used an image of the Venus de Milo with a line saying, “Free pizza? Damn, if only I had arms!” I received a throng of emails from students saying how much they loved the invitation, and we had over 100 students show up for the party. A success.

    But, there was apparently one student (or maybe two) who thought that it was not very politically correct to show a person with no arms (i.e. with a disability) and supposedly poke fun. The design snobs used that little complaint as an example of why only they should get to design things on behalf of the museum.

    My question: Was the success worth the risk of offending someone with a sensitivity to disabilities (even though at the time it never occurred to me, or to anyone else for that matter, that it might be offensive)?

  5. Steve: What I meant by risk is that by being risky and doing something people say you shouldn’t do, like some of the above comments suggest, could you potentially reap unexpected rewards. Like the pizza party — it was a success.

  6. I’m convinced this is what Sony did recently with their add that was offensive in Europe where a white woman was grasping a black woman’s face, titled “White Is Coming.” Advertising the upcoming white PSP. How could anyone not have known that would be offensive. Clearly it was designed to get the publicity it has received.