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Design Ethics- Final

Say I am a designer who is working for a design firm. My boss comes into my office one day (Yes, I have my own office. I am a great designer. Play along.) She tells me that the firm just got a new client, and she would like me to take the lead in designing their ad campaign. “Who is the client?”, I ask. “Hummer,” she answers.

I look at her, shocked. Hummers are absurd. We have a fossil fuel shortage yet people still feel the need to drive huge military vehicles through the suburbs. What, do they expect an ambush on the way to the grocery store? Are they planning on driving to the top of a deserted mountain with their family this weekend? If not, the hummer is a complete waste of fuel. Not only that, the fumes from these urban assault vehicles pollute our air.

But, that being said, should I take the job? My boss tells me that I have to, Hummer requested me specifically. Great. Now what should I do? Should I design the worst ad I have ever made? Should I cleverly hide secret messages in the ad that subliminally tell people to not buy a Hummer? Or should I go so far as to refuse to work with Hummer and risk losing my job?

I should take the job. I should create the best ad possible to sell those gas guzzlers. Sure, I think Hummers are wasteful, are dangerously large on the roads, and are unethical themselves. However, I have an obligation to my firm to represent them in the best possible way, and that is only by doing my best on this campaign. I also have the ethical obligation to the client to design an effective ad campaign to the best of my ability. They requested me because they had seen my other work and decided that my ads were what they want. After all, all I would be doing is helping to promote these SUVs. I wouldn’t be forcing anyone to buy one. If that were part of the gig, then I wouldn’t do it. People should be able to look at the ad, research it and make their own decision. And if I were to refuse the job, the ad would still get made and all that would have changed would be my new unemployment status.

However, even though I would take the job, that doesn’t mean I would violate larger ethics in the campaign itself. I would make sure that Hummers are not depicted as anything they are not, such as environmentally friendly. I would make it clear that while I will design effective ads, I will only include true information and nothing, whether it be text or images, that is misleading. If they were to insist that I include falsehoods, then I would walk away, whatever the consequences. If they are so worried that consumers won’t buy their product if it is truthfully promoted, maybe they should spend their ad money on tweaking the product so the ads don’t have to lie.

Ok, so I would promote Hummer. That doesn’t mean that I would design ads for absolutely anything even if I don’t agree with it. There is always a line. When it comes to promoting people that I don’t agree with, we approach my line. For example, if I were in the same situation but instead of Hummer as my client, it was a presidential candidate whose views I did not share, I would not take the job. Yes, I could get a lot of exposure as a designer if I did, but I would not want my name attached to a candidate that I do not support, even if it meant losing my job. People can do much more damage to our world and society than a car can. Also, you can test drive a car and decide for yourself if you like it. Unfortunately, there is no equivalent for political candidates. All people have to base their vote on are ads and interviews.

That is where my line is. If the client is asking me to promote an object, like a Hummer, that I think is unethical, I will probably take the job. People can look at the car in person, can test driving it, and talk to people who already have one. They have all of this information in which to base their decision. When it comes to more important things, like political candidates I do not support, I probably would not take the job because in this situation, the ads themselves have a much greater impact on the public.