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Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Ethics of Design

As a student practicing design with strong values and beliefs how can I sit on the fence when designing? Every design, every advert has its influence;  the ideology of Santa Clause, being rebranded from a man dressed in a long, green, fur lined, robe depicted as Charles Dickens, Ghost of Christmas Past. To German mythology reflecting the god Odin or Saint Nicholas known to bestow generous gifts upon the poor to save them from impoverished lifestyles, portraying him as a gift giver.

"Starting in 1931, magazine ads for Coca-Cola featured St. Nick as a kind, jolly man in a red suit. Because magazines were so widely viewed, and because this image of Santa appeared for more than three decades, the image of Santa most people have today is largely based on advertising." Cartoonist Thomas Nast drew Santa Claus for Harper's Weekly in 1862; Santa was shown as a small elf-like figure who supported the Union. This illustration of Santa developed for 30 years and along the way changed the color of his coat from tan to the now traditional red, and white that we associate with childhood.

("My Hat's Off to the pause that refreshes")

Coca Cola were perhaps the beginning of this capitalist snowball, sending the beverage overseas during the war, and creating international business. "Post-war America was alive with optimism and prosperity. Coca-Cola was part of a fun, carefree American lifestyle, and the imagery of its advertising - happy couples at the drive-in, carefree mums driving big yellow convertibles - reflected the spirit of the times." Or this was how it was supposed to be, the adverts of the 50s and 60s influencing an entire way of life in america; 50s suburbia, a utopia.

Individually I am more of a socialist and pro environment,  our consumerist 'needs' are destroying the beauty of the natural planet.  However I feel my beliefs are contradicted by being interested in advertising. Advertising promotes capitalism, replacing the old before its worn out, 'the story of stuff', 'consumerism a love story'.

The morals and ethics of design, the artistic style and development behind good advertising, and then this need to have the latest and greatest destroying the planet. Can I really sit on the fence? Would this mean then that my design may have a political agenda like Kennard Phillip's work.

Photomontage: Do we really need a third runway, in an already gigantic airport, with planes leaving every minute of the day, just to boost travel finance and thus the economy.

Photomontage: A comment on the bankers receiving compensation after they lost all of our money and we again have to pay. Which then relates to this capitalist society of the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

Benjamin E. Lippincott describes post modernism or capitalism to be individual and fascist in its learnings, in that it really doesnt give us much choice, it is not a democracy to decide wether a new version of an existant product is required. Unstable way of creating society geared towards the least urgent of human needs.  The difference between having a car to get from A to B and having a car to demonstrate personal wealth. 
The previous generation that has started this love of consumerism are essentially to blame for this moral degeneration. We have been brainwashed into thinking this is right, yet we continue this way of life because it's what we know, we have developed and grown accustomed to certain aspects of urban life but there needs to be less of a grip on materialism. By the time it takes any effect, it wont be a problem to those of us around now, however does this mean we should ignore the issue?

By using economically friendly printing and distribution methods, less packaging ect, or to produce good design, that can sit on the fence when appropriate and then make a political statement when necessary, is that then ethical design?
I guess I'll only really find out how strong my morals stand one way or another as i continue into this career path. I would hope that I can somehow change the attitudes towards the environment and consumerism through design, and still be recognised as successful. 
As graphic designers we are advocates of mass communication, and these messages have an enormous impact on ordinary people, every idea needs to be over considered.


1 comment:

Ivo Serentha and Friends said...

My compliments for your blog and pictures included,I invite you in my photoblog "photosphera".


Greetings from Italy