We must take responsibility for our actions

It is not often that I read something that causes my eyes to pop out of my head and makes me spray my tea across my keyboard, but Alex Cameron’s piece Designs on morality had just that effect (Private View, DW 16 April).

The idea that anybody can seriously claim that designers who take an ethical approach to their work are undermining the design industry is, frankly, absurd and insulting.

As a designer I consider that I have the right to accept or decline whatever offers of work the marketplace is kind enough to shunt my way. If I disagree strongly with the ideals or methods of a client then I have every right to turn the job away and encourage them to seek the services of somebody else. Perhaps they should seek somebody who, like Cameron, sees the discipline of graphic design as an ethical vacuum where any moral crime is tolerable so long as the twin gods of creativity and communication are serviced.

Cameron states, “As graphic designers, we have a responsibility to get on with the job at hand – communicating the ideas and products of others to the people who are being asked to buy into them.” All well and good.

But I would add that we have another responsibility, to ourselves, to ask ourselves whether those ideas and products are such that we would wish to link ourselves with them.

I am not so naive as to think that many of us in the real world can live up to such idealism; a vegetarian designer in a studio that gets a fat account from McDonald’s has to either swallow his/her principles or refuse to work on the project and risk facing the sack. Idealism is often the first victim of financial pressure.

I would ask Cameron one question: if you were approached by a major manufacturer to produce a brochure intended to sell electric shock batons to the Chinese security forces, knowing the appalling uses to which they would be put, would you accept the job?

If the answer is “No”… well, don’t look now Cameron, but you just became an ethical designer. And guess what? The design industry is still standing.

Rick Lecoat

Shark Attack Design

London N4

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