There’s an art behind graphic design that has always been clear to see for those in the industry. It takes long hours, hard work and a lot of commitment to really make a difference in this field, and many have done so. The great part, in some ways, is that anyone can learn the craft and really work their way up to the top - so long as they are committed.
Beyond that, though, there are quite a few elements that need to be taken into consideration. The time it takes to master such a craft is one, but it also isn’t just about the quality of the product. It’s one thing to have natural talent, but it’s another to know exactly what to do with it - and what not to do with it.
Today, we’re going to take a glance at some of the ethical dilemmas that face those working in graphic design every single day. Some may seem more serious than others, but they’re all worth remembering when venturing down this path. Even if you’re just looking for some help in this department from a designer, it’s good to know what to look for.
When talking about graphic design, it’s important to acknowledge the rise of new trends - and also the everlasting impact they can have. Right now, and likely for the foreseeable future, unlimited graphic design appears to be the best route forward. In the digital age, especially, it can come in clutch for so many reasons, and we’re here to explain why.
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There’s often a quick turnaround that could be as short as 24 hours, and there’s a constant stream of communication with your dedicated team of professionals. With a great platform behind you and the ability to cycle through ideas at a quick rate, why wouldn’t you jump at this opportunity?
Ethics are of the utmost importance in any line of work. Your first thought may be to complete your job to the best of your ability, but that’s not the end of it. In fact, that barely scratches the surface. There are so many rules and regulations to follow in any given industry, and in graphic design, that certainly rings true.
We’ve seen so many threats come to the surface over the years, and as technology continues to develop, that scrutiny will only intensify. It’s not a case of being pessimistic about what the future holds, but instead, being realistic. When you have that mentality, you can start to plan for any obstacles that are on the horizon.
There are points and points that could be made that would last an eternity, but for now, we’re going to run through eight that are worth keeping in mind when you get started.
It feels quite apt that this comes in at ‘rule number one’, because it seems to be where most problems lie. It’s the first hurdle to overcome, and it can be difficult, especially if a graphic designer is only just getting their feet wet in the industry. What can and can’t be used? How severe are the repercussions if copyright infringement is taken seriously by the offended party?
At best, you’ll be required to remove the work from whatever platform it has appeared on, derailing the momentum of the entire operation. At worst, well, lawyers could be involved quicker than you can finish your breakfast. It can often be tempting to throw something out there with good intentions, but it won’t hurt to check it over with a colleague in case you land yourself in hot water down the road.
The fact that this is still happening in 2023, and probably for many years to come, is a real shame - and it’s a sign of how badly things still need to change. Cultural appropriation, by definition, is the inappropriate or unacknowledged adoption of a culture by members of another culture or identity. Either way, it doesn’t matter if it’s poor judgement or intentional because it shouldn’t be a factor.
Ethical design revolves around a lot of serious issues and talking points, and we can’t just shy away from those topics. Perhaps it isn’t the nicest thing to bring up or acknowledge, but graphic designers need to understand the power they have within their work. As more and more progress is made and the examples are slowly eradicated, we should see rapid personal and professional growth.
Accuracy is key, and that much is obvious. Sometimes you can get designs that aren’t overly complex, but they don’t need to be because they’ve been able to get their point across in a simple and tasteful way. If you’re misleading people, regardless of whether or not you’re aware that it’s happening, it can create a really bad stigma surrounding the brand in question.
The word clickbait is thrown around a lot these days, and some would even say it happens too often. It’s not as if we’re talking about an online news site writing headlines that are going to lure you into clicks because a lot of graphic design pieces don’t even operate like that. Still, misinformation is a slippery slope, and it’s not something you want to be associated with.
There are certain issues that can crop up in any design work, and instead of just rattling through to meet a deadline, you need to do the tedious things first. That includes putting clear disclaimers and policies on the piece, and even though it seems like a bit of a drag, it really doesn’t require that much extra work - and it can make a substantial difference.
Whether it be an advertisement, a general notice or something that’s legally required to be mentioned, just bite the bullet and make sure it’s included. There are so many different headaches that can come from possible feedback, but one of the biggest is action being threatened because something went live without being double and triple checked.
Accessibility is so critical, especially in a society whereby so many are already struggling with discrimination in so many different forms. So, in ethical design, it’s important to use the proper representation and be as inclusive as possible. It’s not a case of doing so for the sake of it, but instead, doing so to make everyone feel comfortable with what they’re seeing.
It doesn’t feel like there needs to be any kind of argument or backlash behind this, either. As time goes on and we continue to learn and grow, there are always going to be new lessons for us to learn. Even though it may not seem like it initially, graphic designers can also stand to benefit from putting their best foot forward.
Above all else, the one thing we need to be looking for and striving for in life - and more specifically in ethical design - is safety and security. There can be something behind the idea that the end product should give the audience a shock to the system, but that comes in very rare instances. Instead, why not provide some much-needed reassurance in an already complicated world?
That makes it sound a bit deeper than it perhaps is, but it’s true. Through the means of art, it’s always a pleasure to feel safe and secure and to promote that ideology in your work. It doesn’t need to be in your face and it may not necessarily meet the brief, but you can always find ways to get that message across. It may not be ‘sexy’, but it’s definitely needed.
It’s not a ‘new’ feature to be edgy and somewhat controversial, and in fact, a lot of design elements lean into that. Some of the greatest artists of our time, or any other time period, went down that road very purposefully. They wanted to make a statement, and while that can be admired in one sense, you have to be very careful with where you draw that line.
The line in question, of course, is always very thin. The general public tends to have a strong stomach for most subjects, but it really is a case by case situation. If you’re promoting something or designing something that is going to create a conversation or debate, then you can’t afford to drift over into a territory that leaves you vulnerable to serious scrutiny.
There’s something to be said for trial and error when it comes to graphic design, especially on the ethical side of things. When you’re in the process of tackling a new project, and you’re really trying to get to grips with the specifics, stop and take a moment to look back over past work. Where have you gone wrong before, and what changes did you make to rectify that?
It’s never easy to face the reality of your mistakes, but it allows graphic designers to grow and become more accomplished in their work. If you’re expecting a challenging and complex design that requires some real attention to detail, then it can’t hurt to go back over what you’ve done previously and see what lessons you can take.
Hopefully, that quick insight will help to give you a whole new perspective on what it means to be a graphic designer. Yes, it’s always great to see the finished product in all its glory, but that doesn’t come out of thin air. Ethical design needs to be followed and respected, and even though that may not sound fun, it makes for a crisp, refined process, which is what we should all be striving for.
Here at Hatchly, that’s something we look to implement from the moment we wake up to the second we lay our head on the pillow at night. We work around the clock to not only give our clients something extraordinary but to make them feel secure. We aren’t going to cut any corners, and we aren’t going to put anything other than 100% effort into everything we do.
So, if we sound like the kind of company you can get on board with, feel free to check out the rest of our site. If you’re interested, get in touch!