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Ethics in graphic design

Discussion in 'Graphic Design Forum:' started by linziloop, Aug 16, 2012.

  1. linziloop

    linziloop Member

    Hi guys, I'm going to be writing a blog post soon about ethics in graphic design/ers and I thought I'd ask around and see what people's thoughts are on the matter as a little bit of research to begin with. So, what I would like to know is do you, as a designer, have a set of related ethics that you work to/with or is it something you have never really thought about? For example, I have a friend who offers discount to companies who are involved in 'making the world a better place' - so for example they would offer a discount to an organic farming company or a eco building business.

    Some other questions that may get you thinking and would help with my writing:

    • Would you work for a massive corporation even if you didn't agree with their business, if the money was right?
    • Would you consider offering discounts to companies based on whether they were a more ethical company?
    • Do you always think about the sustainability issues with the items you are creating?
    • Do you source eco friendly paper/material for your jobs?
    • Do you raise any ethical issues with clients?
    • Have you ever refused work on the grounds of ethics/morals?
    • Do you think there are many graphic designers out there willing to dump ethics/morals for gain in their professional career?
    • What are your thoughts on unpaid internships and unpaid pitching for work? (Think I know the answer to this one on this forum haha!)
    • How much are you willing to 'stretch the truth' when it comes to your CV?

    I'm sure I haven't covered even nearly all ethical issues here and would love to hear peoples thoughts on anything related AT all. I found this websiteb which I'm sure will be a great source for me:
    Ethics in Graphic Design |

    and I'm starting to think this could well cover a series of blog posts as it's such a huge area to cover, so I best get cracking!
     
  2. bigdave

    bigdave Moderator Staff Member

    Would you work for a massive corporation even if you didn't agree with their business, if the money was right?
    I guess it depends in what way I disagree with their business and my role. For example, if a cosmetics company were asking me to come up with an ad campaign for a range of makeups and it happens that their products are tested on animals, I'd do it. If the same company were asking me to come up with an ad campaign justifying their use of animal testing, I wouldn't.

    Would you consider offering discounts to companies based on whether they were a more ethical company?
    No. Ethics are subjective and it not my role in life to judge or reward peoples views on ethical business practices.

    Do you always think about the sustainability issues with the items you are creating?
    Not always.

    Do you source eco friendly paper/material for your jobs?
    Whilst eco friendly policy wasn't a deciding factor when selecting which printers I work with, they do all use stock from sustainable forests.

    Do you raise any ethical issues with clients?
    Have you ever refused work on the grounds of ethics/morals?
    I haven't ever been put in a situation where I would need to either discuss or reject a project on ethical or moral grounds.

    Do you think there are many graphic designers out there willing to dump ethics/morals for gain in their professional career?
    Probably

    What are your thoughts on unpaid internships and unpaid pitching for work?
    It's bad for business.

    How much are you willing to 'stretch the truth' when it comes to your CV?
    I try not to as my memory is awful and I'd forget what porkies I'd told and end up tripping myself up.
     
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2012
  3. NUGFX

    NUGFX Member

    1. depends on what it was.
    2. no
    3. not always
    4. yes i do, i have always used eco friendly including my web host is powered by wind power (or my host says it does hah) one of my old slogans was nufuture nudesign and my old logo was based on a leaf and growth.
    5. yes i have. im sorry but i dont do work for certain people
    6. IT IS A DISCRACE! and whoever bought this idea up should have there teeth pulled out with plyers!
    7. i have always tried to be truthful on my cv but at an interview i have in past said 1 or 2 small fib to make sure i get job. (but nothing over the top tho)
     
  4. Edge

    Edge Active Member

    Would you work for a massive corporation even if you didn't agree with their business, if the money was right?
    - Depends on how right :) I think there are a few I definitely wouldn't e.g. I wouldn't do anything for British American Tobacco but there are others which fall into grey areas. Sometimes, you know, you can be desperate and have people depending on you and that colours your decisions. Also companies are so damned interconnected it might be hard to draw the line. Also what if it was an unethical company, starting to do something ethical?
    Would you consider offering discounts to companies based on whether they were a more ethical company?
    - Let's say they were a charity then yes we do work with them in a different way, which effectively gives them a discount. For instance, they normally have chunks of money set aside through grants for a specific purpose and once it's used up there literally is no more. We make 100% sure there is nothing they have to come back to us for.
    Do you always think about the sustainability issues with the items you are creating?
    - I think 'always' is a strong term but we try to minimise impact on the environment by switching stuff off etc.
    Do you source eco friendly paper/material for your jobs?
    - We do web design N/A
    Do you raise any ethical issues with clients?
    Yes, if they request something that makes a website inaccessible to people with disabilities, I'll raise it.
    Have you ever refused work on the grounds of ethics/morals?
    Yes, I had a guy who wanted us to create a website for his pyramid scheme - I refused.
    Do you think there are many graphic designers out there willing to dump ethics/morals for gain in their professional career?
    I'd suspect they were no more or less ethical than the rest of the population.
    What are your thoughts on unpaid internships and unpaid pitching for work? (Think I know the answer to this one on this forum haha!)
    Just to buck the trend here. A while back we took on a guy for 1 month to retrain as a .net developer and the first month paid him nothing which I'd say was an internship. We trained him up - but he mostly picked it up himself. After a month I started paying his travel expenses. Third month we hired him. He's now our senior .net developer and earns a nice salary. There's no way we could have afforded to pay him a salary in the initial months - we're just not that big enough a company to afford - the books wouldn't have balanced. He was in a rut and hadn't even been getting interviews. He's now very happy and so are we.
    How much are you willing to 'stretch the truth' when it comes to your CV?
    Going back to when I actually had a CV I'd never make false claims but would emphasise what was relevant for the vacancy. So not at all really.
     
  5. linziloop

    linziloop Member

    Wow guys these answers are really good, thank you! I certainly think there is more than one blog post to be written. Nice one to sdesign1 for bringing up the subject of disabilities as well, that's one I had forgotten about regarding web design, and a very interesting subject me thinks.
     
  6. Katedesign

    Katedesign Well-Known Member

    Would you work for a massive corporation even if you didn't agree with their business, if the money was right?
    - If the money was very right - yes. I would consider it a tax!
    Would you consider offering discounts to companies based on whether they were a more ethical company?
    - I have done work for charities at a discount in the past. But it tends to mean that you have to charge someone else more...so unless I was working for a massive corporation whose business I disagreed with.... Generally, no I have a living to make.
    Do you always think about the sustainability issues with the items you are creating?
    - Print is recycleable...I would try and source recycleable laminating on a larger job...
    Do you source eco friendly paper/material for your jobs?
    - Most paper is already recycled (ie waste is used) and nowadays most printers offer recyled/eco friendly paper
    Do you raise any ethical issues with clients?
    Not had a problem
    Have you ever refused work on the grounds of ethics/morals?
    No - though many years ago we printed a small magazine for a very strange 'fetish' group...but unless it's illegal or offensive I'm very tolerant
    Do you think there are many graphic designers out there willing to dump ethics/morals for gain in their professional career?
    As said before there is bound to be - we are just a group of the population.

    What are your thoughts on unpaid internships and unpaid pitching for work? (Think I know the answer to this one on this forum haha!)
    I don't do unpaid pitching - I don't get to test food for Sainsbury's. Internships are a bit different. Small companies could find it hard to train and pay people. I would think that after 3 months you should know whether the person has any talent you can use. Perhaps the government/tax payer should help out this way. Back in the 80s there was the Youth Opportunity (YOP) scheme which we took advantage of and employed 2 people off it.
    How much are you willing to 'stretch the truth' when it comes to your CV?
    Never had a CV! But recognise that people do 'stretch the truth'...and as an employer as long as there are no lies and the 'stretch' is not too big - ie they can perform - then that's OK.
     
  7. bigdave

    bigdave Moderator Staff Member

    Something I have been mulling over with regard to this is that 'ethics' is a gigantic and mainly philosophical subject which is open to interpretation. With that in mind it would probably be easier to write a blog on a more specific aspect of the subject such as business ethics, work ethics, environmental ethics or social ethics within the design industry.
     
  8. linziloop

    linziloop Member

    I totally agree Dave, it's quite the monster!
     
  9. taklamakan

    taklamakan New Member

    1. Yes, I don't have any religious or social blockages
    2. Yes, for example for charities
    3. No, never
    4. Yes
    5. No, business is business
    6. No (look at point 1)
    7. Yes
    8. Never do unpaid work, respect urself
    9. I always say true on CV as employer may check you
     
  10. Joe22

    Joe22 New Member

    As a starting graphic designer I am only starting to get involved with these kinds of issues in real life. I have always thought of myself as an ethical designer but will have to see what changes in my views when I start to work for real clients in real projects.
     
  11. Dave L

    Dave L Well-Known Member

    Would you work for a massive corporation even if you didn't agree with their business, if the money was right?

    Depends. Some massive brands are involved in shady practices if you look behind the glitz (quite commonly, it seems, in their labour arrangements in certain countries) but is there anyone here who would honestly have the testicular fortitude to say 'no' to the possibility of getting their foot wedged in those doors? Really, I mean...?

    Would you consider offering discounts to companies based on whether they were a more ethical company?

    Companies trumpeting their ethical approach or whatever do it for business reasons so no. I work with companies in the charitable or third sectors and I charge less because they pay less but it's easier to swallow here because their cautious approach to their bottom line is usually there for a reason I can support. In the case of one small (and quite brilliant) charity run by a friend to whom I owe a huge professional debt, I work for free (plug: SENE - Supporting children with special educational needs in Ethiopia).

    Do you always think about the sustainability issues with the items you are creating?

    I design mainly for print but everything I do is contained within a laptop computer with an internet connection - what I do ends up on paper but I don't personally generate any (no pious claims about that - it's just easier that way, and I do have the fallback of raising the issue of my green credentials if a client wants me to wipe the dust off my printer. Ethics? Schmethics!).

    Do you source eco friendly paper/material for your jobs?

    I don't make those choices but I do know that the printers I occasionally recommend to clients are equipped to meet any such requests.

    Do you raise any ethical issues with clients?

    No, but then I've never had to; the whole of my client base seems pretty on-the-ball so far as that kind of thing goes.

    Have you ever refused work on the grounds of ethics/morals?

    No. Would I? If we're talking morally or ethically obscene by my own or by general contemporary standards then yes: I wouldn't want to be professionally involved in anything I'd have cause to be ashamed of.

    Do you think there are many graphic designers out there willing to dump ethics/morals for gain in their professional career?

    A limitless supply and, for small players and for the most part, in straightened times, I take a sympathetic view.

    What are your thoughts on unpaid internships and unpaid pitching for work?

    Depends: it all sounds very bad on the surface but if I were starting out and a short-term, unpaid internship came up that would offer me something genuinely valuable in terms of my career development then I'd consider it; I'd also pitch for free (and have done) in the context of a genuine (that word again) and properly organised competitive tender.

    How much are you willing to 'stretch the truth' when it comes to your CV?

    All CVs stretch the truth to some degree, don't they? I've not updated mine in years but if I ever needed to I'd do it through creative use of language as opposed to a creative overhaul of my life to date.
     
  12. gprovan

    gprovan Member

    This is a very interesting topic of conversation.
    I personally haven't had to make any of these decisions in my current employment. However, in a previous employment (a long time ago) the boss took on any job and stated that he didn't care about the 'colour of their money'. This resulted in him associating with some very dodgy people, some of who are either dead or in prison for the kinds of jobs they were involved in.
    I was perhaps too young and naive to do anything then, but wouldn't take these on myself now.

    I like the idea of offering discounts to ethical companies but as bigdave said, ethics are subjective and you'd end up having everyone claiming that they were ethical just to get a discount.

    I've had to do unpaid pitches which isn't ideal. This is quite the norm with some larger companies and if you're successful it can sometimes be lucrative. You have to take it on a case by case basis depending on your workload and interest.

    I've probably 'adapted' my CV depending on the job I was going for in the past. Usually enhancing the skills that they're looking for, but I wouldn't lie.
     
  13. Ian Bonner

    Ian Bonner Member

    Would you work for a massive corporation even if you didn't agree with their business, if the money was right?
    Yes I would. However there are obviously going to be exceptions to that rule. In my opinion we are asked to provide work for the business, we don't have to agree with it and we aren't being asked our opinion of it. As designers we have to put our professional head on and it is our job to communicate what we are briefed to do.

    Would you consider offering discounts to companies based on whether they were a more ethical company?
    We offer discounts to charities. When a business comes to us for design work then we are being professional in undertaking the work for them, whether we agree with the nature of business or not. By giving discounts to more ethical companies we are making a point by saying others aren't as ethical, which would be hypocritical as we would normally not turn work away.

    Do you always think about the sustainability issues with the items you are creating?
    Honestly? No. Although if the client had a budget which catered for this we would make the effort to achieve it. Given the choice we would be more thoughtful, but most jobs in our experience don't require it.

    Do you source eco friendly paper/material for your jobs?
    I usually go for recycled materials anyway but that is because I prefer the finished item.

    Do you raise any ethical issues with clients?
    We never have but thats not to say I never will.

    Have you ever refused work on the grounds of ethics/morals?
    Again, no, but never say never.

    Do you think there are many graphic designers out there willing to dump ethics/morals for gain in their professional career?
    I have never worked with anyone that would turn down a project on ethical grounds. It really does depend on the job and if you have never been confronted with something that shocking that required a decision to be made then maybe it makes us seem unethical when it's purely that we've never had it put in front of us.

    What are your thoughts on unpaid internships and unpaid pitching for work?
    I think unpaid internships are different to unpaid pitching. We all have to start somewhere and if it requires a placement for a set period to get a foot in the door then thats fine. Unpaid pitching on the other hand is a cancer of the design industry and should be outlawed. It doesn't work in any other industry but we are expected to accept it and we are frowned upon when we mention it to a client.

    How much are you willing to 'stretch the truth' when it comes to your CV?
    I have never felt the need to lie on my CV or exaggerate the truth when it comes to my business. The truth will out and its a risky game to play in an industry where everyone knows everyone.
     
  14. linziloop

    linziloop Member

    This is really interesting, personally there are certain massive corporations that I absolutely would not ever do any graphic design work for, no matter what the price. Monsanto and Lockheed Martin for example. I guess for me though, at the moment, I'm in a safe job as a full time inhouse designer, and so as far as the freelance work goes, I can kinda pick and choose. Should I go fully freelance, I would expect I would not be able to pick and choose as much as I would like to and so either my pocket or my morals standing would suffer... I'd still rather go without cash than work for some companies though.
     
  15. Tony Hardy

    Tony Hardy Well-Known Member

    I'll reply in detail to this later but I'm surprised the subject of sex and pornography hasn't reared it's head here yet in regards to ethical/companies you don't agree with.

    Who would or wouldn't create a design for a pornographic website? Would you display it on your very public portfolio?
     
  16. linziloop

    linziloop Member

    Personally I would steer clear of designing for such a website, it's not something I would feel comfortable doing, it wouldn't be something I would enjoy doing, and I wouldn't feel legally safe either - what if there was some kid porn on the site you designed and therefore were associated with in the future? Scary. Not portfolio worthy either, would probably do you more damage than good and certainly get you a 'certain' reputation.
     
  17. Ian Bonner

    Ian Bonner Member

    I would think it would go without saying that any like minded person would reject work that involves child pornography. Not only would it be morally wrong it would be illegal!
     
  18. Paul Murray

    Paul Murray Moderator Staff Member

    Would you work for a massive corporation even if you didn't agree with their business, if the money was right?
    Ideally I'd like to think I'd be strong enough to turn down work from gambling companies and quick day lenders for example, because I don't agree with their business models, but it really depends on how my own financial situation is at the time.

    Would you consider offering discounts to companies based on whether they were a more ethical company?
    Probably not, though I'd do my best to source ethical materials and such like where possible.

    Do you always think about the sustainability issues with the items you are creating?
    Nope, though I feel I should.

    Do you source eco friendly paper/material for your jobs?
    Not as much as I should. I use recycled stock where I can, but I often just let the printer worry about where their stock comes from.

    Do you raise any ethical issues with clients?
    I'll suggest eco-friendly stock where I can, but much of my work at the moment is digital so it's not really on my mind.

    Have you ever refused work on the grounds of ethics/morals?
    Yes, quite often, though I use an excuse that I'm busy so as to avoid any awkward or snide comments.

    Do you think there are many graphic designers out there willing to dump ethics/morals for gain in their professional career?
    Yes. Look at crowdsourcing/design contests. Their business models shit all over the creative industry and technically exploits the people who submit work, though I think true experienced designers are able to rise above the shit and find decent clients so it's probably not as big a deal as I once thought.

    What are your thoughts on unpaid internships and unpaid pitching for work?
    Both are a necessary evil. Internships can be a great way for students to get experience and meet people, but I think it's very easy to be taken advantage of if you're not careful. Free pitching I don't necessarily think is of benefit to the designers pitching or clients they're pitching too, though they probably don't see it like that.

    How much are you willing to 'stretch the truth' when it comes to your CV?
    I would never outright lie but I'd definitely use wording that paints me in a good light. For example I've worked on projects for some big clients such as Royal Mail, Tate, Heathrow and UKAD, though not directly with those clients. I would say who the work was for, but I'd never claim to be working for them directly, because I wasn't. I'd just leave that out and explain if/when I was asked about it.
     
  19. SparkCreative

    SparkCreative Member


    I'm not sure that this is a particularly ethical business full stop. We sell stuff to people who don't really need it. If I was a super ethical person, I wouldn't have gone into advertising at all. And on the eco thing - I don't think what we do makes a heap of difference to the environment compared to, say China's industrial pollution. In fact, with everything going online, we're probably helping without even trying.
     
  20. SparkCreative

    SparkCreative Member


    Yeah I'd do that. In fact I'm considering it. But I'd create a sub brand of my company to do it, because it would put off other clients (although it really shouldn't).
     

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