Social Responsibility Of Graphic Designer Essay

The Moral and Ethical Responsibility of a Graphic Designer In Victor Margolin’s article “Rebellion, Reform, and Revolution: American Graphic Design for Social Change,” he does well in presenting Graphic Designers and their contributions to political and social change throughout history. Graphic Designers have a moral and ethical responsibility to the public. Mainstream media offers a plethora of inspiration and information for visual artists and designers alike. In recent years, the media’s journalistic integrity, or lack thereof, has been easily influenced by political agendas and bias.

It is imperative for Graphic Designers to conduct as much research as possible before creating any social or political solution. The psychological and social impact of Graphic Design requires designers to have both morals and ethics. There are many tools a designer has to use at their exposal, such as: political public opinion, psychology, and media influence. Victor Margolin provides interesting history and examples of how Graphic Design has evolved when called upon to create works in response to political and social change.

With each major war, political infringement, and civil issue, Graphic Design has stylistically changed to be more impactful in the publics’ eye. With the invention of the Television, Graphic Design has grown bolder in order to compete for the viewer’s attention. Margolin’s article begins with Benjamin Franklin’s “Join or Die” cartoon from 1754, and ends with Miles de Coster’s In These Times “Front Page” from 1987, just before this article was written. Margolin only presents images and history of Leftist designers and work in his article. There are Rightist undertones throughout the entire article.

Thus, there is a need to pay greater attention to the potential power of images in the Left political publications” (Margolin, 1988). While the Left has been responsible for the production of many powerful images throughout history, so has the Right. For that matter, all politcal parties and affiliations have used Graphic Design as a means of communication, as well as propaganda. The Right has had powerful imagery as well, including a famous handbill that circulated just before President Kennedy was assassinated, stated that the President was wanted for treason.

Although, the handbill itself is not beautifully designed or as memorable as the 1980 ‘Vote” poster by Pepe Moreno, it is just as impactful. Margolin should have stated that all powerful political imagery from all parties should have close attention paid to it, instead of just the Left. All Political Parties, through the use of Graphic Design, have employed the use of psychological manipulation within their designs and powerful imagery. Graphic Design delves deeper into psychology than one might think.

Thought manipulation and color theory are just some of the ways Graphic Designers can direct the thoughts, opinions, and emotions of the audience they design for. A designer is capable of making a person think or feel however they want. Political Cartoonists, from both the Left and Right affiliations, have been well aware of the impact a simple image can have on society, especially when thoughts and text are within the image (Sharp, 2015).

This knowledge allowed Cartoonists to give a strong opinion to a society of people who may have not previously had an opinion, in regards to certain social issues. Cartoonists understood that their target audience included average people as well as the uneducated. “Even more than most other forms of journalistic commentary, cartoons effectively expose hypocrisy, reveal contradictions, introduce new ideas, and promote fresh perspectives as news events unfold” (Sharp, 2015).

The human brain will remember an event or image that invokes a strong emotional response, such as laughing or crying, far longer than an image that does not. Just as fear and laughter can be used in design to persuade the viewer into a different mindset, so can color. Color can affect the emotional and psychological response a viewer gives. Certain color combinations can influence different subconscious reactions to design and environment. Red, white, and blue, for instance, can give someone a patriotic feeling.

This is not because of the colors themselves, but because it is what society has come to know from this combination. Other colors when combined can create an aggressive response. When red and yellow are combined, such as McDonalds branding, it creates an agitated response as well as invoking hunger. Red makes the customer want to get in and out as fast as possible, and yellow makes the customer hungry in hopes that they will buy more food. When psychological color combinations are used in design, it can create a very impactful solution, but it can also influence people in a negative way. Riley, 1995)

Visual Artists of all kinds need to be responsible for how they influence the public. Designers of all political parties, not just the Left, are capable of encouraging positive and negative change in the world. Graphic Designers, Cartoonists, and the Mainstream Media, are all aware of how impactful a strong emotional response can be, especially before a political event or poll takes place. Designers and Cartoonists draw inspiration from the media and social issues and incorporate them into their work.

It is especially important that designers conduct more research than necessary to verify news sources and to keep in mind the potential political bias of the news source they get their information from. A picture is not exactly truthful these days and it is important to understand that the media can easily turn a picture into something it is not. Designers should take caution in developing political campaigns that use media stories and images to create more turmoil.