Column is a monthly feature that explores the world
of creativity and aesthetics.
Ethics and Creativity
de Sousa, Director, AbleStable
There are times when creative professionals
may be asked to work in an area that
with their conscience, when the work we do may
in some way directly or
indirectly support activities or businesses we
would otherwise choose not to be associated with.
I've devoted this column to a scenario that touches
on some of the issues surrounding this ethical
creative services, and
the actions that might be contemplated.
that all characters and companies appearing
in the following section are fictitious.
Any resemblance to real persons, living
or dead, or companies present or past,
is purely coincidental.
is employed by "EyeProvide", a graphic
design company that has
received news they have won a major new commission
a series of promotional materials.
This is of particular importance to EyeProvide
although they produce high quality designs for
their clients, the company has serious cash
flow problems that are jeopardising the future
of the deign studio which employs a staff of
With this important commission
EyeProvide can not only continue to keep their
studio afloat, but also gain new commissions
as the commissioning business is a major company
with many subsidiaries and associated opportunities.
boss at EyeProvide calls a meeting at the end
of the day to tell the staff the good news:
are a multi-million dollar enterprise. We're
all going to be working on this just as soon
as we've completed
work on the Big Bank campaign which shouldn't
take more than a couple of weeks."
excited and relieved. Everyone at EyeProvide
knew that if something didn't turn up the company
would have been in real trouble. She asks:
great, what's the brief?"
a two year contract to design all promotional
print and web materials for Quantum
We're getting started straight away. When you've
the design for the Big Bank Loan Poster I want
you working alongside as the lead designer..."
boss smiles and there's a spontaneous round of
applause for Joe from everyone attending the
meeting. Joe's a popular member of the team
and the news that she'll be leading the design
team on the project is a major step forward in
night, after Joe gets back from celebrating with
her friends from the office, she sits with the
laptop in front of the TV, connects to the Internet,
and starts casually researching some background
Quantum AeroSpace. The company
produces gas turbine engines used in aviation.
After further investigation Joe
discovers Quantum Leap
AeroSpace supply their engines to both the commercial
sector and the military. She reaches for the
TV remote and switches it off. She thinks:
they just supply engines for the UN... I doubt
hunch is right, Quantum AeroSpace sells to whoever
will buy. The next day Joe met with her boss.
was up last night researching Quantum AeroSpace
and, well, I don't want to say this but, I'm
not happy working on this project."
boss looks puzzled:
do you mean?"
not happy with Quantum AeroSpace and their
connection with the arms trade."
arms trade? But... OK, they sell engines,
I guess some of those engines are used
in contexts we'd rather not choose, but they
don't produce weapons. They're a business seeking
commercial opportunities. Like us."
boss can see Joe's uncomfortable.
You're working on that Big Bank poster right?
Do you know how much money that bank makes from
their dealings with the military?"
that bother you?"
pauses. Her boss continues.
shoes you have on. Do you know whether the makers
of those shoes also produce army boots?"
the point, I don't know. Perhaps I should know
but I don't know for sure. With
Quantum AeroSpace it's different. I'd be knowingly
promoting their business, part of which supports
the arms trade."
boss nods in an understanding way.
look. How about I try to make sure you don't
work on the parts of the project you're uncomfortable
with. You can lead on the technical
brochures. That should be fine. Right?"
knows in her heart that's not so fine. After
a further pause her boss continues.
see, I haven't a problem working with Quantum
AeroSpace. I live in a country
restrictions on trade that ensures our company
won't be associated with anything
beyond the bounds of what is considered by the
Government of the day as acceptable. If Quantum
AeroSpace manufactured arms I would be
more sympathetic to your viewpoint, but as it
is, I don't see this any differently than working
Bank campaign. My conscience is clear"
boss looks Joe in the eyes.
you can't work on this project, then you'll
have to bring me a proposal of what
you're going to do over the next two years
as all our resources will be dedicated to Quantum
AeroSpace, and as you know, beyond that we're
looking to benefit from the work we can get from
companies. You also have to ask yourself
whether you're happy with that. Think it over."
hands are tied".
Joe does is dependant on how strongly she feels
about working for a company whose products are
used by the military. She is concerned with what
good, bad, right or wrong.
By defining her
personal ethics she is trying to make clear what
is of importance to her and how she lives. She
for herself or for others, virtue, or be focused
only on the creation of beautiful
designs. Joe is trying to work out for herself
what she ought to do.
the reader can complete Joe's narrative. How
imaginatively you solve the problem will no doubt
own values and perspective. If I was to complete
the story I might seek to uncover a solution
that either kept Joe at Quantum
AeroSpace yet in a new capacity
that was agreeable to her conscience and also
progressed EyeProvide's business, or she might
go it alone on what would be a long and challenging
concerns seem rooted in the fact we are social
animals. In social life we need to restrain our
behaviour for the better good of the group. Our
ethical dimension has however become far more
than this. What makes us noble and of interest
technological mastery, our ability to compete
in a commercial setting, or our formidable creative
skills. What is of most value is how we live
and behave with others and the world around us.
Without considering how we live our lives and
act based on the conclusions we reach, we are
little more than microbes in search of food and
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