Lee Newham, branding expert and regular reader, gave this answer:
“If I was financially secure, and if I felt strongly about it, no, I wouldn’t take the client. If I wasn’t busy and needed the money, I would think about it …within reason.
“Regarding cigarettes, I don’t think the design of a cigarette pack encourages people to smoke. It only encourages people who already smoke to buy different cigarette brands. Over 50% of the front of cigarette packaging says this product will kill you. If someone doesn’t get that message, quite frankly, they are beyond help.
“Alcohol causes much more problems than cigarettes, and I have designed lots of alcohol packaging. Where do you draw the line?”
Where indeed do you draw the line? When starting out as a graphic designer, can it be necessary to put ethics to one side in order to build a portfolio?
Consider this as an example: I believe in how the fashion industry is twisting reality and contributing to eating disorders in many young women, but if I was approached by a fashion model to launch a portfolio site, I don’t think I’d have many sleepless nights. Is that just me being hypocritical?
If, at the beginning, you feel bad for working with a cause you don’t support, you can always balance the scales by providing a service for local non-profit organisations, and giving a little back to the community.
How much do ethics affect your design practices?
If you didn’t believe in what a client was offering, would you simply rule out a working relationship? Would you think about it first or does it all depend on your current income? How responsible is your graphic design?
Update 1: 10 January 2010
Don’t shoot the messenger, on davidthedesigner.com
Update 2: 26 April 2011
“The Coca-Cola Conspiracy” and ethical design
Update: 3: 14 May 2012
Ethics in design (and who you won’t work with)