Friday, August 28, 2009

Go Army! ...Oh, Veterans? Eh, Good Enough

The 2010 United States defense budget is officially $533.7 billion, but has been estimated to be closer to $780 billion. The Department of Veterans Affairs budget is about $56 billion. That means that we spend 10 times as much to fight wars as we do to take care of the people who fought them.

Granted, weaponry is pretty damn expensive. So is getting soldiers to the two fronts we are currently fighting on (and the many other places were are present) and making sure that all 1.5 million active duty personnel and over 800,000 reservists have the resources they need - though the extent to which we do that appropriately is questionable. But, according the VA we also have 25 million living veterans, and a full 1/4 of the US population is eligible for benefits.

I am by no means an expert on military affairs, but as they say, money talks. And sometimes it speaks directly to you through advertising. Which is why when ads for a mental health hot line for veterans started showing up on every public transit system in the area, I took notice. Unfortunately, the initial relief I felt in knowing that there was a concerted effort being undertaken to address veteran's mental health was quickly overcome by incredulousness over the awful design.

If you look closely you'll notice that the proud American flag in the background looks like it was copy and pasted from the internet and then blown up, the outline of the soldier has some serious anatomical problems, and the god-awful yellow text is incredibly hard to read.

It turns out, that the grainy flag isn't just a dpi problem. Nope, the VA must have thought the grainy Stars and Stripes was "arty" because the graininess is the same on this ad that is four-times larger:

But, does design really matter? Yes, it does. While it is great that a concerted effort is being made to address the needs of veterans' mental health, these slipshod ads illustrate that while we have been forced to address the issue, it does not necessitate the same attention given to recruiting the soldiers who will eventually need these services.

The active military has moved past the print campaigns of yore into snazzy television commercials and flash-laden websites (granted the commercials now have softer, kinder feel). In fact, every branch of the military has a separate recruiting website.

The VA, however, only has one. And it looks like this:

It would be a fine website, if it were 1999. This is the Army one, where you can watch videos, play games and even have a virtual sergeant show you around:

Thankfully, there are many private citizens working with government agencies in an attempt to fill the gap and address veterans' needs. If you or anyone you know needs support, visit The National Resource Directory's (nicely designed) site.

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