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Understanding the Bigger Picture

A designer created this hoodie, passed it along to a supervisor for approval, then passed it along to another supervisor for approval, and so on. Then, a designer took this picture of a young boy model. Then, a designer created the shopping experience using the picture that would result in huge financial losses for H&M.

This design, interpreted as racially insensitive, passed through multiple stages of approval, likely involving several high-level administrative employees. Although the designers involved perhaps did not intend to appear racially insensitive, by not being knowledgeable of historical context, they have tarnished the image and reputation of the company.

Even though it would be the designers punished, it will be their bosses who must publicly apologize and take the criticism on behalf of the entire company. This is a classic public relations crisis. As an individual designer, understanding that your actions can reflect credit or discredit on the image of an entire organization could prevent such issues. It also helps to know your history.


  1. nwilso wrote:

    I remember hearing about this and thinking what went wrong with the designer here. This goes back to basic common sense…yes having skills to design is great and all and gets you the job, but designers also need to take into consideration the history of what they may be designing and how it can affect the social environment. The designer could have saved a ton of embarrassment and headache with a little common sense and historical knowledge.

    Friday, April 13, 2018 at 6:06 pm | Permalink
  2. hhamwi wrote:

    I remember hearing about this a while ago as well. I don’t like this is an issue with the graphic designer that created them. I feel that is was an issue of whoever dressed them, and took the pictures.

    I think it’s very important for companies to be ethical and all that jazz. In this situation, this is what they were trying to do.

    Friday, April 13, 2018 at 6:17 pm | Permalink
  3. hnguye89 wrote:

    From what I heard, the shirt was available on Europe branch of H&M and they did not have the same connotation of the word “monkey” like in America. I do agree as it is an international site, they overlooked how it might perceive because the world is all connected now. It is not the fault of designer but their marketing department for ok this.I think it’s not uncommon with alot of marketing campaigns these days and might need more diversity on their staffs to catch these embarrassment.

    Saturday, April 14, 2018 at 7:36 am | Permalink
  4. ysaavedr wrote:

    I do think the designer is at fault in this unfortunate situation, however the high-ups who approved it are at fault as well. As designers we need to open our minds and do research to know our audience. Although this was on a European branch of H&M like my classmate said it is an international brand.

    Friday, April 20, 2018 at 5:19 am | Permalink