Milton Glaser’s Road to Hell in 12 Steps
My great uncle Milton Glaser did a great article on bending the truth; And it can be a slippery slope for graphic designers.
A few years ago I had the pleasure of illustrating Dante’s Purgatory for an Italian publisher. I was impressed by the fact that the difference between those unfortunates in Hell and those in Purgatory was that the former had no idea how they had sinned. Those in Hell were there forever. Those in Purgatory knew what they had done and were waiting it out with at least the possibility of redemption, thus establishing the difference between despair and hope.
In regard to professional ethics, acknowledging what it is we do is a beginning. It is clear that in the profession of graphic design the question of misrepresenting the truth arises almost immediately. So much of what we do can be seen as a distortion of the truth. Put another way, “He who enters the bath sweats.”
Finally, all questions of ethics become personal. To establish your own level of discomfort with bending the truth, read the following chart: 12 Steps on the Graphic Designer’s Road to Hell. I personally have taken a number of them.
1. Designing a package to look bigger on the shelf.
2. Designing an ad for a slow, boring film to make it seem like a lighthearted comedy.
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 a package aimed at children for a cereal whose contents you know are low in nutritional value and high in sugar.
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.