Sunday, 17 November 2013

Design Ethics (Triangulation)

Using the texts Garland, K. 'The First Things First Manifesto (1964); Poyner, Lasn et al (2000) ' The First Things First Manifesto 2000'; Poyner, R. (2000) 'First Things First Revisited' and Beirut, M. (2007) 'Ten Footnotes to a Manifesto' write a triangulated critical analysis of two media images (works of graphic design / advert / TV commercial / publicity poster / magazine cover / news story). This analysis should discuss the ethical role of the designer, and ideally should compare one example of 'ethical' design with another 'unethical' one. 



A number of authors have considered how the consumerist market has affected the role of graphic designers. Garland, (1964), Adbusters, (2000), Poyner, (1951) and Bierut, (2007) have discussed how graphic designers have become accustomed to producing design for the consumerist market rather than focussing on more meaningful design that could positively change society or benefit the world in some way. For instance, Garland when writing First Things First, describes how designers are applauded for producing work that sells trivial items as the techniques required to promote are presented as desirable uses of talent. However, he goes on to explain that using talents in this way is a waste of skill and talent due to the lack of contribution to society. Using Garland's view Example A would be classed as ethical design as Burril produced this print to raise money for the non-profit organisation Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana. Burril applied his skills to produce work that would benefit the world rather than for personal profit adding to the consumerist market. Whereas Example B would be highly unethical as the designer is promoting a credit card, through glamourising the product, encouraging the audience to ultimately get into debt.

Garland's point is emphasised within Adbuster's First Things First as it discusses the ethical implications involved with using design skills to promote consumer items such as credit cards. It explains how designers are wasting their energy and time on manufacturing demand for inessential products, blurring the line between advertising and design and in turn changing the perception of design.

However, Beirut questions the main issue discussed in the manifesto through stating how design for the benefit of social causes often uses many of the same techniques and apparatuses as the persuasive designs that sell the trivial items, of which are criticised in the manifesto. Burril's print was produced for the benefit of the area affected by the oil spill, however it raises funds for this through using his well-known status in design and recognisable style to encourage people to purchase the print. This is not dissimilar to the way in which The Capital One advert uses a celebrity to glamourise the product, encouraging the people to sign up to a Capital One card. When thinking of this unclear distinction between graphic design and advertising in this way it could be argued that both are equally as unethical using their skills to sell.

Poyner’s discussion in First Things First (Revisited) links to points made by both Adbusters and Beirut as he refers to the way in which advertisers began to use the graphic trends of the nineties, and since this point the distinction between graphic design and advertising has become increasingly more difficult to define. Poyner goes on to state that young designers of this time have continued to produce very similar design, focusing on aesthetics and style rather than communicating any deeper meanings, thus losing sight of important and beneficial possibilities. From this he questions the role of the designer in the consumerist world, linking back to Garland’s argument surrounding the use of design skills to sell being unethical and wasteful rather than being put to positive, more widely beneficial uses. Poyner implies that these trends have become so popular they have prevented graphic designers from creating design that could change the world or make a positive difference. However, Burril’s charity screen print goes against this argument as this shows how said design skills can be used positively. This suggests that when breaking away from what has become the norm for designers, they can still make a positive difference and so play an ethical role within society.   

These authors support the development of an argument on how graphic design has become more focused on consumerism rather than design for the greater good of the world. The line between graphic design and advertising is hazy as both apply similar techniques to achieve a desired effect. Although it can be argued that advertising is largely unethical and graphic design is more ethical, the fact that they often use such similar techniques to promote and influence audiences suggests that graphic design can have equally as negative and unethical connotations, thus implying that the role of the designer has become increasingly more unethical in recent years. 

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