The study of moral ethics in graphic design is undeniably complex. Through the course of developing this website many questions not only relating to design, but towards the attitude of the human race have risen.
As discussed, moral ethics are derived from a variety of sources. This results in definitions of moral ethics varying greatly between individuals, and in order to progress with the investigation a definition for the purpose of this website was produced. It is unlikely this is a definitive definition, as was intended as a basis from which analysis could be taken.
Case studies into the ethics of graphic design display the disturbing reality of the lengths corporations will go to in order to sell a product. As discussed, graphic designers with a higher ethical consideration may have rejected these commissions, or assisted in a less immoral nature, however in the current economy and competitive graphic design world, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the designer to say no.
While studies into positive ethical contributions are refreshing, they are focussed within charities or in the case of Ernst Bettler, a fictional character. This makes it hard to present many perfect role-models to influence designers.
Expanding away from graphic design, it appears there is a lack of moral integrity through many other professions. While the outcome may be different, the immoral actions of manipulation and dishonestly (amongst others) remain the same across disciplines.
Considering the legalities; while standards can be enforced by law in the case of the Advertising Standards Agency and outside the graphic design profession by the Food Standards Association with food labelling for example, a code of ethics would help provide a moral code of conduct.
As discussed the improvement of ethics in graphic design is a difficult task. Unless it becomes necessary for all designers to be regulated and follow a stringent code of ethics, for now the reliance is upon nurturing an interest in ethics throughout a designer’s education. Furthermore, unless all graphic designers are aware of the importance of acting in a morally ethical manner, and chose to follow this path, there will always be the unethical designers avoiding shouldering the responsibility of their actions.
High profile ethical cases, such as the Shepard Fairey plagarism case (Kane, 2012) help raise graphic designer’s awareness of the consequence of potentially immoral actions. However it is unfortunate that only such drastic measures will make some designers re-consider.
While much must still be done, the foundation laid by David Berman, Lucienne Roberts, Milton Glaser and Eileen MacAvery Kane provides a base for expansion, demonstrating the importance of ethics and allowing designers to assess their ethical contribution.
Kane, E.M., 2012. Was Shepard Fairey’s use fair? [online] Ethics in graphic design. Available at: http://www.ethicsingraphicdesign.org/was-shepard-faireys-use-fair/ [Accessed 18th April 2013].