All around us there are messages, both obvious and not. On every screen and almost every surface we pass there are images meant to influence ideas and decisions. What do these visual messages have in common? There is a graphic designer behind them.
Working as a graphic designer is not as simple as taking a contract; creating the graphics; sending in deliverables to your client; and then getting paid. There is a great deal of ethics to consider, even before you take that contract. Now more than ever it is important to show great morality when deciphering the true messages we are asked to portray. You have to consider the implications of what you are creating and weigh the consequences it could do if put in the public eye.
“We must continue to be committed to the highest professional and ethical standards as per our professional associations such as the RGD & GDC,” says Ashlea Spitz, “and deeply review any public-facing advertising projects from an ethical perspective.”
The Association of Registered Graphic Designers Code of Ethics has a section dedicated to the responsibility we have as creatives to the communities we live and work in. In it it states that we will not do anything that constitutes a reckless disregard for health and safety, we will not accept contracts that infringe upon human rights or involve the promotion of hatred, discrimination, or exploitation, and that we are to consider the environmental, economic, social, and cultural implications of our work.
You might think harmful messages are easy to spot, but it doesn’t always appear as obvious as you think. Propaganda is understood as a form of manipulation of public opinion. The semiotic manipulation of signs is the essential characteristic (“Propaganda is a major form of manipulation by symbols” ). Propaganda is a particular type of communication characterized by distorting the representation of reality, and with the proliferation of advertising across all mediums, what we see is not always what the reality is.
Here are some types of propaganda you might encounter:
Does that feel like big shoes to fill? Today it is the least we can do when you consider the effects messaging has on society, “Advertising today is not what it was yesterday, or what it will be tomorrow, but as designers; ethics, inclusivity, and accessibility will remain incredibly important.” – Ashlea Spitz, RGD, CGD, M.Ed.
Now more than ever it is important to show great morality when deciphering the true messages we are asked to portray. You have to consider the implications of what you are creating and weigh the harm it could do if put in the public eye.