Design & Politics: Good Mix?

Years ago, it was considered impolite to discuss politics or religion at social gatherings. The idea was that these were potentially divisive topics that inspired great passion, and it was safer to avoid what could turn into messy disagreements.

The world has changed a lot since then, and social media has made politics a hot topic for the cyber “public square.” People are so passionate about the subject, it’s almost impossible NOT to know someone’s political leanings these days – and that often goes for businesses as well as individuals.

But should you share your political beliefs publicly if you own a design business?

There are two schools of thought on this. For those who work in a politically mixed community, sharing political beliefs on social media or other public outlets could be a turn off to some customers. People have become extremely sensitized to political postings as the country has become more divided, and many people may hesitate to do business with someone who loudly and vocally espouses an opposing viewpoint. Others are just are tired of politics coloring everything, and want to escape from politics when engaging in activities that are supposed to bring them joy, such as remodeling their home sanctuary.

At the same time, with the increased focus on social responsibility, many business owners feel their political views are part of who they are and what they want to accomplish with their lives and careers. The same way a designer may focus on green design because of a passion for environmental issues, some business owners feel that their politics are part and parcel of who they are, and they feel a moral obligation to use the platform of their business to promote their goals and beliefs.

Going political online can be risky as a business owner, particularly since a single Tweet or post (even taken out of context), can go viral, causing a powerful backlash if it ends up in the wrong hands. At the same time, designers who are also influencers can change the world, and some would argue that having the ability to influence others comes with a responsibility to try to effect positive change.

If you’re going to use social media or other public sources to share political views from your business account, consider the following:

–Share what you stand for, not what you stand against. “Positive politics” tend to be viewed in a more positive light, regardless of whether one agrees or disagrees with them. And, while you wouldn’t guess it by spending time on social media, many people of both parties have similar goals (even if they have opposite ideas of how those goals should be achieved), and will respond to positive politics.

–Avoid posting in anger, or labeling or bashing whole political parties or groups of people who believe differently than you do, both in public postings and private conversations. Even if you’re sure that your client or colleague shares your views, you don’t know if that client has a parent, spouse, child or friend who has opposing views, and insulting those who vote differently could damage a relationship.

–Don’t feed the social media trolls. This is not only a huge time waster, it can also pull you into pointless online arguments that tend to get ugly and make you look bad. And feeding the trolls only leads to more trolls.

–Be respectful of those who disagree with you. Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Antonin Scalia were diametrically opposed politically, but still found common ground as friends, in large part because they showed each other professional respect.

–Don’t lose focus: You can be passionate about your beliefs, but if you want to be known for your design and customer service skills first and foremost, be sure that’s where your primary focus lies.

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