A moral or amoral designer
As our studio approaches a move to Colorado, we have a decision to make: does working with weed make you a moral or amoral designer?
It’s easy to work away as a graphic designer just making the things on our desks look and work better. Brief comes in, lovely work comes out. We sniff the blood of a juicy creative problem and take the bait, I mean brief, without digging a little deeper to understand the impact of what we do. Where are the morals that help us decide the kind of work we should, and shouldn’t, be doing?
The reason top graphic design studios charge such high fees is that the success of the work we do has a tangible impact on people’s lives: on what they buy; what they click on; which beer they buy; and how much profit our clients make. We can sometimes even change somebody’s mind, help them make a decision, or educate them on a matter they didn’t know much about.
One of the reasons we started O Street over 10 years ago because we wanted to have more choice in the kind of work we did—we chose not only a career in graphic design, but also a smaller boutique studio because we wanted to work on projects we enjoyed, ones that enriched our lives! Certainly that means the kind of work we choose to do should be for goods and services that we fully believe in. Initially, we just wanted to do cultural work.
When the arts funding bubble burst, we widened the net to whisky clients without thinking too much about it. It is lovely, well-paid work, and a local product we are proud of in Scotland.
But working with alcohol is a tricky one. We’ve all woken up with the mother-of-all-hangovers and sworn off the poison for life. We all know people whose life would have been a lot better without the demon drink. Does choosing whisky and beer design work make us bad people? Would drinking it, but then refusing to work on it make us hypocrites? The classic designerly moral conundrum, of course, sits with tobacco.
I have a feeling I know which way we will fall here, but find the dilemma fascinating. Above everything else though, it reaffirms my belief in the value society should place on great design.
– David, O Street