April 25, 2014

Graphic Designer Peddy Mergui Questions Consumer Culture


Is any given brand necessarily an indication of quality? Peddy Mergui, a Tel Aviv-based graphic designer and founder of Talking Brands, poses this question at his exhibition Wheat is Wheat is Wheat: Peddy Mergui now at the Museum of Craft and Design in San Francisco through June 15. Superimposing the brand identities of luxury labels such as Apple, Prada, Gucci, and Versace onto regular everyday items like milk, flour, and pasta, the Mergui items on display pry into consumer ethics. What does a customer actually purchase when he or she pays top dollar for a brand? Is the package itself more important than the product?


Walking through the grocery store or any store for that matter, Mergui observes, we are constantly barraged with an inundation of product choices. The option of testing each product individually would take far too long, requiring research and time to figure out which selection best satisfies the need. So oftentimes, instead of taking a scientific approach to how we spend our money, we rely on markers or indicators of quality: brands. Brands make a product distinct from others by a simple symbol or name, and companies vie for consumer brand awareness, in hopes of boosting sales. Mergui aims to make this process more transparent.


According to Mergui, his products also call into question the role of the graphic designer. “Designers should ask themselves, ‘What is the ethical boundary for our ability to influence consumption?’” In the world of consumption, there is a constant interplay between companies and consumers with designers caught in the middle, figuring out how to make the products most appealing and enticing. Mergui criticizes both the designers and the customers, calling for us to be more aware of the influence of branding on our decisions. Looking at his hybrid products, he says viewers should ask, “Is it right? Is it awkward or grotesque? Does [the brand] make us feel more valuable?” And beyond the exhibit, these questions should stick with us the next time we return to the store.  

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