Interview with Safia Minney People Tree 2008
1) How long have you been working with People Tree? What motivated you to use your creativity to promote Fair Trade and environmental issues?
Ive been working with People Tree for 4 years. I had wanted to become involved in the fair trade movement since travelling in India and Nepal for a summer while i was in college.
It was a very eye opening trip, when i left i was a fairly apathetic art student but i was so dumbfounded by the poverty that by the time i came back i was reading all these books on economics.
I found it very difficult to understand how such hardworking people could be so poor.
2) Why did you get fed up working in the conventional creative industry, and want to design for social change as well?
As a designer, to keep myself interested and passionate i always really try to put full effort into the work i do. I had been working with some big companies and did some quite high profile jobs but ultimately I felt i was wasting my time in design and advertising when it came down to it. It was very superficial and mostly the people i worked for only cared about sales, money and the position of their logo. They werent small companies so i didnt care much whether they sold more products or not. In fact some of the more ruthless multinationals (and their marketing people) i worked for i would have quite enjoyed to have seen their sales take a downward plunge. I started thinking that when it came down to it all my really hard work and effort was being wasted. Some of the designs looked pretty good though!
3) What is your vision for social and environmental justice?
I think one of the biggest problems today is that multinationals are able to dodge laws too easily because there are not enough international laws, and individual governments are powerless when a company is operating internationally. They are effectively above the law. They need to be held to account a lot more than they are now, whether it is enforced by effective International law or from pressure from an educated public.
I think transparency is very important. If people could actually see the difference that their choices made, their buying choices would be very different. Nobody wants to treat people that they meet personally unfairly, but the problem is that all these transactions are happening outside our view. The only way we can see or hear from the people that we effectively make transactions with everyday of our lives is when the media shows us a story of injustice that makes it to the news. If the public knew more they would change but the companies involved have an interest in clouding the issues. I have a lot of hope for the transparency that the internet can bring.
4) Does it matter to you that People Tree can never pay you your market worth? We pay you in T-shirts and handmade notebooks and Fair Trade chocolate instead.
No! I still love working for People Tree. Its very satisfying to work with something that is making a difference, also i have to say that the people i have met in People Tree are fantastic, as a freelance illustrator i have worked for literally hundreds of different companies and i can honestly say that i dont think that any of them have the same passion about what they do. Its been very life affirming after working with marketing teams. Also the chocolate is very good.
5) Where would you like to see your designs on People Tree handmade paper products sold?