Monday, October 21, 2013

Where’s The Line?

I Do Anything For Love (of Money)… But I won’t do that (for recognition as a graphic designer!

bat-out-of-hellHere’s a salute and a tip of the hat to one of my favorite performers; Meatloaf! Bat Out Of Hell is still one of the best music albums and if you don’t have it than you don’t know what you’re missing. Not only is the music first rate, but the album cover art is iconic. I remember when it caused quite a stir and it’s one of those things that made me say; “Yea, Damn it – THAT’S what I want to do!”

The artist’s name is Richard Corben and his name should be remembered with others like Roger Dean, Jean Giraud/ Mœbius, H. R. Giger, Andrew Probert and Ralph McQuarrie. These guys really did it and some of them are really doing it – going beyond what’s expected in conceptual art and raising the bar.

As Graphic Designers and Commercial artists we sometimes have to push the boundaries for our clients and dare to go a little too far. It’s easier to go too far and throttle it back than it is to not go far enough and try and squeeze a little “more” out.

What brings this thought up is a post from one of my favorite commentators on Graphic Design, Stephen Heller. He wrote a recent post about the one thing we should never do ever again; design cigarette boxes. You can read the whole article here… What Designers Won’t Do (Today) By: Steven Heller | October 21, 2013

Here’s the question that might say more about me as a person than a graphic designer: If I was asked to create a cigarette package would I really turn it down? Fact is, people are going to smoke one way or another while at the same time someone is going to make money designing this package – would I rather go with the cabbage or without?

Is really all about the money?

Is it really all about being citizens of the world and do we have some obligation to turn away work because of our conscience? What would happen if a politician from the other side of the political isle that I totally disagreed with knocked on my door with a briefcase full of cash and offered it to me to work on his (or her) campaign, would I take it? (And would I be able to keep the briefcase? Just wondering…)

Does everyone have the right to a graphic designer the way suspects have the right to an attorney?

“You have the right to remain uncool. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of public opinion. You have a right to a graphic designer. If you cannot afford a graphic designer, one will be appointed for you.”

Fact is, these are all ethical dilemmas we’re all going to ask each other from time to time. There are going to times when we are asked to do things that might be against our values and taste and it’s up to us to not only know when to draw the line, but how do draw the line respectfully.

Once again I have to remind folks that we don’t only ourselves; when we’re going graphic design work we represent our employers and our institutions where we learned our trade. I’m not just a graphic designer but I’m a graphic designer who respects and honors the teachers who taught me what I needed to know to get this far. I would do them a disservice to do any work to embarrass them.

This might sound in complete contradiction of what I wrote earlier about pushing the boundaries for our clients and dare to go a little too far; there’s a balance each of us have to find. Where do you draw the line? Let me know via Facebook or Twitter. (

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