Responsibility of Designers to the General Public

As this topic could in most cases be considered controversial, this paper is simply the written with views and opinions that I feel about this specific topic. According to Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary the term “responsibility is defined as
“1 : the quality or state of being responsible : as a : moral, legal, or mental accountability.” (http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary?book=Dictionary&va=responsibility&x=0&y=0 )
The question raised in this topic is what, if any, responsibility do graphic designers have to the general public? Should graphic designers be held liable for what their employers have them to do? In my humble opinion, I say no. There is no responsibility of designers to the general public. It is the ones who pay for these designs to be held accountable. It is in my opinion that only the laws of the country and the moral laws or character of the person determine the responsibility of that person. While one could contest that a graphic artist should be responsible for making something that they knew could have a negative impact on others, I contest.


The freedom of speech granted to us by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution allows people and graphic artists to express themselves in ways that some or even most of us would not approve. However it is well within their legal rights to do so. No matter how much we may despise or dislike the views that someone else has presented in the form of graphic images for whatever purpose, we cannot take away their freedom of expression. That is what makes this country great, because it is that freedom, which allows the people who dislike or oppose a specific ideal, to oppose it. It also allows them to present their contrasting view. I feel that as long as the graphic artist is abiding by the laws of the land then he/she is protected in a legal sense. However since he/she is putting forth some work for the public to view, he/she is open to public scrutiny.

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I feel it is up to the person viewing the artistic piece to take responsibility for what they view or do not view. For far too long now, we as a society have tried to shift or lay blame elsewhere rather than on ourselves. It is up to the individual to educate themselves on the topic the piece presents so they can have a firm stance in their position. For every piece of graphic art, there can be another piece that contradicts it. Therefore the individuals need to understand that you can’t accept everything at face value. Individuals need to censor themselves from what they are offended by or opposed to rather than expecting someone else to do it for them.

As a freelance graphic artist, you have the right to choose what works you do and do not do. So it is the morals of that individual who is taking responsibility for themselves first which intern may be with the intent to benefit the public. However not all graphic artists have this freedom. Those who work for firms or large companies have to do or create what they are assigned to. Does this mean that graphic artist should be held in question by the community if the advertisement does not conform to general public’s popular opinion? Absolutely not, it is the company or higher power in which the community should question.

I see the graphic artist position, not as a menial position, but a position that is doing or creating something that conforms to the will of someone else. The graphics being produced do not necessarily conform to the ideals of its creator. Graphic artists have to pay the bills and survive just like everyone else, and just like every other job, they sometimes have to do or make something that they might not like or want to make, nevertheless they still more often then not have to do it.
In conclusion, graphic artists have no responsibility to the general public. Their responsibility lies within their own person moral standards, meeting the needs that their employer requests, and abiding by the laws of their country. It is the general public who need to begin accepting responsibility rather than shifting blame. Only through education will the general public be able to accomplish this. If for some reason responsibility must be laid upon someone for negative effects to the general public as a whole, it is the company, group, or individual who incepted and funded the idea that should accept responsibility, not the graphic artist.



Works Cited:
Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary: http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary?book=Dictionary&va=responsibility&x=0&y=0 ,
Accessed 02-13-05.