Ethical Design?

Mark Busse – No Comments

As practitioners of communication design, perhaps it is too seldom we consider the consequences of our work. The ever present client pays us for our skill at harnessing visual language to communicate a message and ultimately cause effect, such as increased sales perhaps. But at what expense? At IBC we often joke around and say we use design to convince people to spend money they don’t have enough of on stuff they don’t really need. This joke isn’t always so funny. The famous First Things First manifesto, first released in 1964 and updated by Rick Poyner in 2000, contends that design is about democracy itself and the very creation of contemporary reality. A lofty claim perhaps? Think about it — all around us are signs of design’s touch. Isn’t there some risk then of causing some harm by using design in the blind service of our clients? Poyner and his co-signees claim there are higher callings than merely manipulating the masses through visual language devices. I agree. So does design icon Milton Glaser apparently. Glaser’s short submission to Metropolis Magazine a couple years back compares a designer’s road to perdition to that of Dante‘s Purgatory. He even goes so far as to use the dreaded “e” word (ethics) and presents a 12 step designer’s descent into hell. Could it be that design is actual serious business? Somebody please tell my mom.