Monday, 27 October 2014

What is Morality, how does it apply to Graphic Design ?

Some useful Definitions 
according to 'Good:An introduction to ethics in graphic design', by Lucienne Roberts

Ethics (noun)
Moral Philosophy
Moral principles

Ethical (adjective)(to be... ethical)
Relating to morals
Morally Correct

Moral (adjective)(to be... moral)
Concerned with the goodness or badness of human character or behaviour, or with the distinction between right and wrong

Morals (noun)
Moral Behaviour

Good (adjective)(to be... good)
Having the right or desired qualities
Efficient, competent, reliable
Kind, morally excellent, virtuous, charitable, well-behaved, enjoyable, beneficial
Right, proper, expedient

Good (noun)
That which is good; what is beneficial or morally right

Right (adjective)
Just, morally or socially correct

Right (noun)
That which is morally or socially correct, just, fair treatment

(all definitions taken from The Oxford Compact English Dictionary)

'Morality is of course part of ethics, but it is not the whole of ethics. Morality is about some of our responsibilities to others, whereas ethics is about one's 'ethos', one's whole way of life. It is about what sort of person one is.' -Anthony Grayling, The Heart of Things.

This is what I myself find interesting, 'Morality is about our responsibility to others', means to me how we can all be right by one another and how we can all help one another, but it also includes what we can do for the earth and the environment, in protecting our earth we protect ourselves and life, I also feel that animals are involved within this and they apply to our 'responsibility towards others'. I am not saying that everyone has to stop eating meat, as animals do eat other animals, but I think that we can be more humane and less destructive in our everyday lives. I think that the quote above has helped me to clarify the direction of my research, and clarifies it to others. 

Morality is therefore interlinked with the responsibility and our feelings of being responsible.

As well what I find interesting about the definitions of the words above is that they are all similar they seem to work and circulate with one another they are all relative, and to really understand one you need to understand them all, which to me means the topic is complex, and has areas of undefinability. 

For instance; like I have previously looked into 
Who defines what is good, nobody has the same views upon what is wrong and what is right ?
There is no international recognised scale of what is really good or bad, and there are always people in dispute, however I do believe events or acts that are constituted as being very bad or very good the majority agrees upon, for example the Nazis 'Final Solution' formulated in 1942, lead to the murder of 6 million Jewish citizens and many other minorities, this is probably one of the biggest atrocities in history and I would say is the top end of the 'bad' scale, and most of the world would agree. 
Yet this plan was designed, it was all a result of many factors that allowed Hitler to rise to power and dictatorship. On the one hand he allowed the design of thousand of propaganda campaigns, but on the other he banned all other forms of Art and Design, closed the Bauhaus and arrested anyone who would continue to create design against him or anything he deemed as appropriate. But people still continued to create in secret, but the majority in Germany at the time would have seen these people and their work as 'bad', because they had been hypnotised by all the propaganda(bad) around them, and this to me is a case study of what is wrong and right within design and life.
Is wrong and right, good and bad influenced by larger powers around you ? 
I think that the answer, for the general majority again is yes. 

However back to the general .... 

So what do moral factors and morality have to do with people who design and make things?  

The answer is clear. The way that we design and make things affect the safety, comfort and well being of people who come into contact with our designs and who will be affected by them.  So, the morality of our thinking and decision making has an impact on every aspect of our design and technology work and on the people who will use our products.

Morality: The Design Opportunity

The identification of a problem or design opportunity offers us a chance to do something about it.  Our moral choices are that:
  • we could do something that would be considered by others to be good for people, our environment and living things such as birds, fish and animals;
  • we could do something that would be considered by others to be bad for people, our environment and living things such as birds, fish and animals, or;
  • we could decide to do nothing at all.
The moral dilemma is whether to act when we know that action should be taken and whether to do what is right and good for others particularly when it is difficult or not so good for us.

Morality: The Design Specification

The design specification lists the specific things that a design should include and the specific attributes that a design should have.  The morality with which the design specification is compiled helps determine the quality, safety and suitability of the design.  So the specification should be compiled with the aim of creating a product that is right and good for people and the environment. 

Morality: The Design

A design is a detailed plan of a product, system or environment that takes into account how the product, system or environment should be manufactured and how it should be used.  A design may be judged as being a very good design because the finished product does precisely what it was intended to do, however, the way that the product is intended to be used may be judged as being morally good or bad, or right or wrong.
Take for example, the design of land mines.  A land mine is intended to be hidden just below the surface of the earth and to explode when a light pressure is applied to the top of it.  The fact that hidden land mines indiscriminately blow the legs off unsuspecting adults, children and animals, questions the morality of all the people involved with commissioning, designing, manufacturing, advertising, distributing, selling and using the product. 
So the way that a design is intended to be used is a factor in determining whether the designer’s actions are morally good or bad, or morally right or wrong.  The morality of the designer’s decision making, together with the designer’s practical skills determines how much the world will benefit from the design. 
Morally, designs intended for the general public, should be inclusive, i.e. designed in a way that everyone can use the finished product, system or environment comfortably and safely.  New designs for public facilities such as public telephones, public parks and public buildings are generally inclusive designs aimed at giving everyone equal access to them, around them and exit from them.   However, even inclusive designs cannot cater for every conceivable need that individuals that make up “the general public” can have, so designs have to be modified, customised and redesigned to meet the specific and special needs of individuals.
Ideally, a design should be a good solution to a problem or a design opportunity and should benefit humans, plants, animals or the environment, with minimal or no detrimental affects.  All designs should take into account the health, safety and well being of the makers and users of the design.

The article above is more specific to design but I think that it is in conduction with my own ideas about morality within graphic design as I mentioned before. The highlighted phrase I think is the most important thing to take away, but to add to it I think that a design should also be designed in purpose to be good or encourage positive change, and awareness. It should be responsible.

In discussing ethics and design, there are at least three different levels for us to consider.
The first has to do with professional behavior in daily business interactions. The next level deals with specific professional expertise needed in such areas as accessibility, usability, consumer safety and environmental practices. This leads us to the third level, which is about overall professional values-a broader framework of moral principles and obligations in life...

The designer's role
Depending on your design discipline and the nature of your client's business, you may need to be aware of additional responsibilities and legal obligations in the following areas.
Universal design and accessibility 
Places, products and services should be universally accessible to people of all ages, abilities and physical conditions. You'll want your creative work to reduce barriers and be welcoming to everyone. Your designs should facilitate mobility, communication and participation in civic life. In fact, some aspects of these moral obligations to the public have been written into law in the United States and other countries such as Japan and the United Kingdom.
For example, if you work in the United States and you design a physical space, your project may be subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), which is a civil rights act that affects private businesses as well as governmental organizations. ADA requirements are of particular importance to industrial designers, interior designers, and architects. These requirements apply to new construction as well as to alterations.
If you are designing electronic products or digital services in the United States, you must be aware of Section 508 of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998. It's of particular importance to user interface designers as well as software and hardware developers. This law requires electronic and information technology purchased by the U.S. government to be accessible for people with disabilities. It sets accessibility and usability requirements for any websites, video equipment, kiosks, computers, copiers, fax machines and the like that may be procured by the government, thereby affecting all such products in the American market.
Consumer product labeling 
If you are involved in the design of certain consumer products or packages, you and your client need to be aware of any applicable labeling requirements. In the United States, a number of federal and state laws have been enacted to protect consumers from unknowingly purchasing products that might be unsafe or unsanitary. Similar laws are in place in Canada, Japan and the European Union. The laws cover a variety of product categories, including such items as food, pharmaceuticals, textiles, bedding, furniture, and toys. Specific formats vary, but the labeling requirements often include identification of contents and country of origin, as well as the inclusion of safety instructions and warnings. For example, here are two websites with information about food product labels:

Ecology and sustainability 
With each passing year, issues related to ecology and sustainability become more critical for the entire world. Designers can make a big difference-not only through responsible choices about materials and processes used in current projects, but by staying well-informed and providing expert guidance to clients about long-term plans and activities. Industrial designers in particular are faced with a dual challenge-the need to constantly re-create and improve products while avoiding the excesses of planned obsolescence and throw-away culture. Innovative thinking will help reduce consumption and waste, reduce the use of toxic materials, encourage reuse and recycling, increase energy efficiency, and encourage the development and use of renewable energy sources. In many countries, ecological principles are being written into law. Germany has taken the lead in establishing requirements for manufacturers regarding the use of recycled materials, the use of sustainable energy sources and the reduction of waste. General reference information is available to designers from a number of sources including several professional associations. Here are some places to start:

Clearly, the universal design concerns and ecological responsibilities mentioned above are part of a much broader system of moral values and obligations-not just how we do our work, but what it is that we are doing in the first place and the impact it will have on the world. Although many designers agree on professional behavior toward clients and peers, there is less consensus about the obligations of designers toward society in general and the role that we should play in finding solutions to complex global problems. Here we move beyond objective instructions on how to do something, and into
subjective decisions ...

[From this I have gathered that the subject I am looking into is subjective, I was familiar with the word but wanted to define it to myself fully. 

What does the word Subjective mean ?

1.existing in the mind; belonging to the thinking subject rather than tothe object of thought (opposed to objective ).
2.pertaining to or characteristic of an individual; personal; individual:
a subjective evaluation.
3.placing excessive emphasis on one's own moods, attitudes, opinions,etc.; unduly egocentric.
4.Philosophy. relating to or of the nature of an object as it is known inthe mind as distinct from a thing in itself.
5.relating to properties or specific conditions of the mind asdistinguished from general or universal experience.
6.pertaining to the subject or substance in which attributes inhere;essential.

And so from this definition I now know that my subject matter is in fact subjective, is based upon personal feelings and opinions and that there will be no concrete right or wrong, like right and wrong itself. Which means I will need to look into my topic throughly and form my own opinion based upon the evidence I find that supports what I think, but also to find opposing evidence and come to my own conclusion, which again is subject to opinion.] 

... about what is right and good. It's possible to function as a skilled designer and a successful businessperson without being a good global citizen. Here are just a few of the many interrelated social, economic and political challenges that we face:

The expansion of consumer culture 
Designers are involved in many different activities, but a significant portion of our work promotes corporate commercialism. When serving commerce, we need to be aware of the influence and impact that our work has on the public. Marketing and advertising shape consumer culture, including the self-image and personal values of buyers. Our involvement in materialism and conspicuous consumption may even extend to the creation of artificial needs and the promotion of unnecessary products through advertising and marketing messages that are manipulative or deceptive. These concerns are also present in the political realm, where the latest consumer marketing techniques are used to manufacture consent on political issues and to sell candidates to voters. Two very interesting commentaries are available online about the relationship between commercialism and design.
The increasing power of corporations 
Most leading design firms work for large corporate clients and it's no secret that good design sometimes supports bad companies. Private profit making is often at odds with public good. Designers function as advisors to corporate clients and as advocates for the end user. In this capacity, we can exert a positive influence on clients and inspire responsibility. To do this, we must dig deeper, ask questions, express doubts and propose alternatives. We must actively work to resolve contradictions between business and societal needs. On each commissioned project, we must ask ourselves: Is the message truthful? Is the service beneficial? Is the product useful, made well and produced in a sustainable way?
We also shape our careers through our choice of clients. Some designers consciously shift their activities away from for-profit clients and into the not-for-profit realm, into activism and cause-related marketing. Many designers have taken the leap to developing their own, non-commissioned projects. Design entrepreneurs working at a small scale have more latitude to explore new business models and practices.
The globalization of trade 
Many designers work with multinational corporations-either as outside consultants or as in-house employees. In most global businesses, raw materials come from one part of the world, manufacturing happens in another place, and final sales are made somewhere else. Through their activities, multinationals spread capitalism. They influence governments and have significant impact on local cultures. Unfortunately, their activities can lead to economic imbalances. Additional concerns include labor conditions, human rights and environmental practices, particularly in developing countries.
Design is a problem-solving process and the world today has so many problems. Designers need to play a larger role-not just responding, but initiating. We need to bring our personal beliefs and professional activities into alignment. Through our work, we have the opportunity and the responsibility to put our system of basic values into action-to model the behavior that we want to see in the world.

In tackling complex issues, we need to be aware of larger contexts, and to reach out to other professionals. In many instances, the scale of the challenge will move us beyond our training. We need to partner with experts in many other disciplines-economists, anthropologists, biologists, political scientists, and sociologists, to name just a few. To these collaborations we bring humanist roots, historical perspective, cross-cultural awareness, critical thinking, project leadership and a holistic approach.
We must also be actively involved in the political process to reshape institutions and reset priorities. Design is a powerful tool for shaping the world and how we live in it. Ethical design is our way to contribute to the betterment of all and to ensure abundance, diversity and health to future generations.

AIGA - 'advances design as a professional craft, strategic advantage and vital cultural force. As the largest community of design advocates, we bring together practitioners, enthusiasts and patrons to amplify the voice of design and create the vision for a collective future. We define global standards and ethical practices, guide design education, inspire designers and the public, enhance professional development, and make powerful tools and resources accessible to all.'

Glaser and Kalman as advocates for social responsibility 

During a “Big Think” interview with designer Milton Glaser says that the ultimate challenge for designers is to create beautiful, not just sustainable, design. Glaser believes that we respond to beauty as a species; beauty is the means by which we move towards the attentiveness that protects our species as a survival mechanism. Glaser thinks that ultimately it’s the responsibility of the graphic designer to inform and delight by creating beautiful designs. Social responsibility in graphic design has advocates in both the private sector and the public sector, in large organizations and small, and on an individual basis. 

Since 1942 the Ad Council has been addressing critical social issues. Campaigns like “Rosie the Riveter,” “Smokey the Bear,” and “Crash Test Dummies” have delivered critical messages to the American public. A private, non-profit organization, the Ad Council uses volunteer talent from the advertising and communications industries, the facilities of the media, and the resources of the business and non-profit communities. 

Graphic designers like Tibor Kalman prodded fellow designers to take responsibility for their work as designer-citizens. Throughout his career he urged designers to question the effects of their work and refuse to accept any client’s product at face value. Kalman inspired graphic designers to use their work to increase public awareness of a variety of social issues. Across the globe as well as on an individual level, graphic designers are being challenged to create work that’s socially responsible. Read about “Water for India,” an example of teaching social responsibility.

No comments:

Post a Comment