The Girl In The Plastic Bubble

I decided to watch The Story of Cosmetics just so I could have nightmares tonight. Pleasant dreams can be so boring. I guess you could say the Story of Stuff project achieved its goal in educating and raising awareness about an important issue because I’m sufficiently freaked out about every product I’ve ever touched and think I might start living in a plastic bubble.

This is me now.

Okay, so aside from making me afraid to live, the Story of Stuff video made me actually think about real issues that I tend to shove away and tuck back into the far recesses of my mind because it’s just easier to go through life pleasantly oblivious to real dangers. So…nice work, Story of Stuff, because you accomplished your mission.

The video was simple, straightforward, and made what could be a complicated issue fairly easy to understand. The black animated sketches on an all-white background worked well to make the content the star of the show to educate the audience, rather than steal their attention away from the important facts. The buttons at the bottom also made it easy to click around from section-to-section, which was a useful interactive feature. If I wanted to skip ahead to find out more about something I was particularly interested in, I could. Or, if I wanted to go back to a previous section and get the freaky facts re-hashed all over again, I could do that, too. The “donate” button that appears when you hover over the screen was also a nice interactive touch, urging viewers to take action and give money as they were astounded by the facts. I didn’t, but only because I’m a grad student with nonexistent money. Luckily, I could easily hit the “share” button and alert others about this video across different social media platforms, so they could donate with their existent money instead.

While I think the simplistic approach works sufficiently for the Story of Cosmetics, it also gave off a slightly juvenile vibe. Like…you could show this to a classroom full of third graders and they might even feel like you’re talking to them like they’re dumb. I realize the creators wanted to make the information easily understood by all…but talking about such heavy issues using a somewhat “childlike” approach may take away some of the gravity of the issue. I don’t think you necessarily have to go as extreme as a Sarah McLachlan ASPCA “Stop Animal Cruelty” video to address important topics because you don’t want your audience feeling entirely helpless and sobbing alone on a couch by the end…

Wait.

You don’t do that?

Pretend I didn’t just admit this was me then.

But all I’m saying is, maybe a more “realistic” approach would make their story even more thought-provoking and make more of an impact. If they used real people and not stick figures, provided evidence and statistics to back up their claims, had experts weigh in, etc…it might come across more scholarly, make more of an emotional impact, and may garner more attention and inspire more action to create change. But then again, maybe people are tired of watching documentaries about how the world is ruined and we all have cancer. Stick figures may have well been the best approach to tell me I’m a walking carcinogen.

Despite whether or not it was the best visual approach, The Story of Stuff videos do a good job of educating their audience and creating an interactive product that would pass any of Qian Xu’s usability tests.

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