Defining your own ethical code is difficult, but if you’re going to work with a variety of different clients, it’s necessary. What types of work would you refuse to accept? How far is too far over the line? Where is the line? Designers must ask themselves these questions to determine their personal ethical code.
To help you figure out your personal ethics in design, I’ve included The Road to Hell, a test developed by graphic designer Milton Glaser to help designers establish their own level of discomfort with bending the truth.
1. Designing a package to look bigger on the shelf.
2. Designing a package aimed at children for a cereal whose contents you know are low in nutritional value and high in sugar.
3. Designing a crest for a new vineyard to suggest that it has been in business for a long time.
4. Designing a jacket for a book whose sexual content you find personally repellent.
5. Designing a medal using steel from the World Trade Center to be sold as a profit-making souvenir of September 11.
6. Designing an advertising campaign for a company with a history of known discrimination in minority hiring.
7. Designing an ad for a slow, boring film to make it seem like a lighthearted comedy.
8. Designing a line of T-shirts for a manufacturer that employs child labor.
9. Designing a promotion for a diet product that you know doesn’t work.
10. Designing an ad for a political candidate whose policies you believe would be harmful to the general public.
11. Designing a brochure for an SUV that flips over frequently in emergency conditions and is known to have killed 150 people.
12. Designing an ad for a product whose frequent use could result in the user’s death.
What do you think? Which of these would you do and which would you not do? What are some other examples of projects or clients that you think would be unethical to work with?