If Joe Gebbia believes that you can “design for trust”, then I, Miriam Bourke, believe that one can use design to deceive.
In March 2016 Joe Gebbia captivated a San Francisco audience when on the TED stage he proclaimed the power of design in creating trust between two total strangers across the world. Gebbia’s belief was that good design can instill a sense of trust when there may be no logical reason that we would give out that trust otherwise. So if Gebbia believes that we can design for trust, then I believe that it stands to reason that good design can be used to mask shitty products.
Insert documentary of the day ‘Fyre Festival’. For those of you that haven’t heard about it or missed the documentary, Fyre Festival was a highly publicised luxury music festival in the Bahamas due to take place in April 2017. The event was heavily influencer backed with a number of celebrities, models and ‘insta-famous’ folk appearing in the promo video.
Other influencers, like Kendall Jenner, were reportedly paid up to $250,000 to promote the festival on their social media accounts.
The reality of the festival, however, was a few hurricane relief tents, no live music and cheese sandwiches. A far cry from the jet skis and luxury villas that were promoted.
Billy McFarland, the co founder of the event, was subsequently charged with fraud and was sentenced to six years imprisonment. And while I am glad that he is paying in some way for the damage that he caused, I still have a question regarding the role that paid influencers had in this shitshow.
I believe trust and influence are linked in a way that cannot be underestimated, especially in a world where influence is a currency. I believe influence is not a measure of power, but rather a measure of how much we trust the opinion of those that are doing the influencing. My parents, for example, live over 3,000 miles away. This distance and my lack of financial reliance on them means that they wield very little power over my decisions, however the inherent trust that I have in them means that, whether I like it or not, their opinions hold weight and often influence over my decisions.
Trust and influence are topic specific though. I would hold as much weight to my parents opinion on Drake as I would Kylie Jenner’s opinion on my career decisions. Why? Well, while I would trust that, on both sides, their intentions may be good, as far as I am aware their respective understanding of the subjects are far less trustworthy.
If I trust that a friend knows fashion, when he/ she advocates for a fashion brand that I have never heard of I will likely look into the brand.
Now if Kendall Jenner promotes that same brand then the nature of her reach and influence is such that my trust in her ability to recommend products is increased exponentially. I will not only look into the brand, but will also be significantly more likely to buy a piece from the collection. This is not only because I trust her, but also because I trust the trust that others have placed in her.
McFarland and co. designed and promoted a world that did not exist and used the influence and reach of supermodels and celebrities to build our trust in its integrity. Without influencers Fyre Festival would not have existed.
But is it our fault for trusting the influencers in the first place or do they have some level of responsibility to those that trust their opinions and often act upon that trust?
Where do we draw the line between promoting a ‘skinny’ tea that implies watching Netflix all day everyday will make you thin as long as you drink tea while doing it, and promoting $25,000 tickets to a luxury music festival that was no more luxurious than the diarrhoea that the skinny tea gave you?
When does a sponsored post become false advertising and who is to be held responsible?
I’m honestly not sure if influencers will ever be held responsible in the eye of the law however maybe we can hold them responsible as the influencees.
We, today’s consumers of social media, might need to take a critical look at the beautifully designed worlds of those that we follow. We need to just start questioning whether this world was designed to make us trust its integrity or whether it is genuinely honest? If we don’t start to question the trust that we have placed in these posts and hold the influencers responsible for the integrity of the products that they’re promoting then Fyre Festival 2.0 is on its way sooner than you’d think.