Graphic design reaches a lot of people, in some really powerful and subtle ways — so it makes sense that you’d need an equally powerful discussion of it’s application, with an appropriate sensitivity to the subtleties of the matter.
Compared to, for example, working at a nursing home — the rewards for a conscious, wise and clear approach to ethics aren’t as obvious in design. A lot of the good or bad you can do, is done to people you’ll never meet, to the environment or in influencing more abstract social entities (like fashion, politics, etc) — so it’s harder to work just by your gut feeling alone, but while medical ethics is one of the biggest fields in applied ethics, design ethics doesn’t even have a wikipedia article*.
Graphic designers have responsibilities to their users, to the environment, to their colleagues, to their customers as well as to other people and creatures who are otherwise affected by their work, including future generations — so how do we approach these responsibilities?
I’ve had a look at four different sets of ethical guidelines: the ones of AIGA, the Danish Design Association (DDA) and Grafill; the Norwegian organisation for graphic design and illustration (
their ethical guidelines are not on their website for some reason yes they are, sorry about that). I’ve also had a look at the ethical guidelines of The Australian Sociological Association (TASA) for comparison on some relevant issues.
*at the time of writing, anyway
Part 2, within our sphere.