Context comes first

Ever since i returned to Egypt i’ve been sitting through the same conversations, endless advice and warnings about surviving life in this country; how all people are bad and how ugly our world has become. On the other end of these conversations i always find my self wondering: Aren’t we the people?! am i and the person talking excluded from this spoiled batch?! Think about it, if i sum the number of people giving me ‘the talk’ and the people who will, we’d make an enormous group of good people!

There is a lot of debate on the blank slate theory. Is our goodness only nurtured or is it naturally built in us? I can’t put my finger on a pleasing answer until now, but i believe that context plays a powerful role.

There is plenty to say after watching chipsy’s ad -known in other countries as lay’s, but none about how terrible Egyptians are.

This is purely design’s fault. On one hand, the ad was no failure since the tagline was ‘chipsy can not be resisted’, but on the other it was highly unethical of them to bring the worst out of people. There are two main designed influences that primed peoples behaviour: words and material.

‘All the chipsy is yours, if you know how to reach it’

There are two main keywords in this sentence written on the chipsy cabinet that sparked the reaction you see. First is the use of ‘you’ and ‘yours’ in Arabic; unlike English ‘you’ in arabic only addresses a singular form and there is another term for the plural form which was not used. This set the receiver of this message on a competitive self-centred mode. The other word is ‘reach’ which suggests a physical action of getting to a place, it implies the presence of an obstacle that needs to be removed for you to get to your reward. And since the cabinet is placed in a busy area, with lots of other potential treasure hunters, therefore people only used their lizard brains, their survival instincts. Using different words like ‘win’ instead of reach and addressing a plural audience would have made a difference.

It might seem trivial, but as posted earlier words are very powerful. These words anchored what the people inferred from the design properties. The use of cheap materials like what appears to be a wooden cabinet with a perspex door decreases the risk factor one considers when taking any decision. Using a metal or an automated machine would have made such a huge difference, even if the same action was required! it would have increased the risk of getting in trouble against the benefit of eating crispy chips. And lastly, but definitely not the least, the perspex door, the easiest way to remove a door that looks like glass, is to break it!

There was no other way of getting to the chipsy other than breaking the door.

This could have easily been designed better, changing few words, hinting different needed actions like looking for keys for the locked chains and you’d see people behaving differently. You wouldn’t see people excitingly smashing doors and grabbing their treasure before anyone else. Most probably if me or you where in front of this crispy treasure we would have acted in the same way, these were all triggered behaviours.

It’s very easy to assume that humans are not good, especially in a corrupted country like Egypt. It is logical to think that people are bad, but we have to remember that we have irrational minds, that we do not always behave in accordance to what we believe and value. And most importantly we should never forget that we are one of those people.