I love Star Wars, always have. I was 9 when the first movie came out. I would drag every family member and friend with a car to see it with me. It must have been a dozen times. So many iconic individuals sprang from just that first film. The likes of Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, Chewbacca and R2D2 all blew me away. I was hooked. But then there were the Stormtroopers — the unexplainably beloved thugs of the empire. Who were those guys? Don’t get me wrong, I am a fan, but I have to ask myself, “Why am I a fan?”
Stormtroopers are clumsy, brainless thugs in spotless shining white armor. An armor, by the way, that doesn’t seem to protect them from the most common weapon of the time, lasers. (Great feat of military engineering, guys.) They wear a helmet that clearly limits their vision. You can tell by how they seem to lean in as if they are squinting through those black-shaded eye lenses. And regardless of this, they are regularly placed as guards throughout the empire?
The suit also offers them very limited mobility — probably due to the fact that, if they move too much, the helmet would spin around on their heads and blind them, causing them to fall over one another like bowling pins. And that’s the other thing— When they run, you can hear their clunky rattling armor sound from a mile away. The suit also seems to keep them from being able to easily move to cover while under fire. That’s why they seem to be easy targets. They aren’t very good at their job either. It took about 100 of them to just capture two very slow moving droids and a princess.
So why do people love these brainless thugs so much? What is the attraction? I’d say design. They look cool. People are willing to overlook their Gestapo-like image and proudly wear the uniform on Halloween. Or buy a T-shirt or a cup brandishing that ominous ivory helmet because they look cool. It’s not because they respect the fact that for every one hero wounded, there are 100 Stormtroopers killed. It’s because people are thinking, “I’d look badass in that outfit.”
Design is powerful. It can dictate a mood or inspire a vision. It can influence you beyond your logical perception. We are motivated by many things in life. Everything expresses itself in some way at many different levels. Based on our values and priorities, we all make judgments on how we wish to respond to those things. But we are victims, at times, to our very first impression of a thing. And more often than not, it’s the design that catches our eye first. Clearly, if it’s strong enough, it can influence our core values, if we let it.
I believe we all evaluate whether we will allow ourselves to go against these core values, if there are core values. We see this all the time. People root their opinion on something by the look of it or sound of it, rather than the content of what it represents. We decide how deep we are willing to go. We decide whether we are willing to engage with something based on our initial impression, trusting that its value was responsible for its design. Design truly is a “force” to be reckoned with.
Alex Raffi serves as Imagine’s creative director whose designs are also a force to be reckoned with.