Saturday, 12 November 2016

A creative conscience—when is work wrong?

For most creatives, they live by a set of rules – no tobacco, no oil, no drugs, no offence to others – but where do we draw that line, of when work becomes wrong?

If you own a company that's otherwise deemed bad by society, you can pretty much count on that most creatives won't take on your work; and even if you find one that might, you'll likely not get anything portfolio worthy. This seems fair enough right? Surely no creative would want to attach their name to making drugs look more desirable—but where do you draw the line between acceptable and evil?

If you open up google maps, you can see a very clear wiggly line, viewable from all digital celestial crafts, defining where Russia starts and Finland finnishes (geddit?) That's fair enough, there is a clear line to show the divide between two binaries – in this case two countries – but who drew that line and if you were down at ground level, could you really identify that line so clearly?

It's all well and good saying that making tobacco desirable would be a disaster for your conscience, but do people really feel the same way about doing the same for alcohol? I'm not convinced they do.
I mean, they both hold roughly the same health benefits as each other; that benefits being less-than-zero.

I couldn't think of a studio in existence that would happily brand a strain of heroin but it's often a dream project to brand some new artisan high-caffine coffee brand, both are technically drugs but one is more acceptable because society views it differently. Heroin isn't a pleasant opiate and certainly hasn't aided many lives in it's time around this planet; but our coffee trade supports poverty exploitation, global warming and a lot of tax dodging so it's not really a saint either—looking at you Starbucks.

If we take Kalashnikov for example, they are the creator of the worlds most famous portable death machine, the AK47. Now like any business on earth they'll have branding and with a global trade to append to, they'll likely want strong, military grade branding at that. Someone has to do it, but that someone is creating the stamp of a murder weapon. Should they see the job as money to pay their bills or should they associate themselves all deaths produced by said items, due to being part of the process of purchase. Is the weapon any less grotesque to brand when seen as an item of liberation or freedom fighting than it does when an item of torture and horror?

The real question I'm asking is, do your morals actually matter? Surely they will to you, but if society saw certain things differently would your morals change, or should you just perceive yourself as a problem solver and make a disconnection between yourself and your final production?

For myself, I'd struggle to work with anything that stood against my morals, just as I think anyone else might—but lets not forget that what we perceive as evil right now, may be a lot more innocent in days to come. Remember cigarettes were once healthy and being gay was previously a choice.

The point I'm posing is, whether it's a pharmaceutical drug or the spoon-heated kind—why is one more acceptable than the other? It's a matter of perspective being upheld in an industry built upon objectivity; it seems just as bizarre as it does common sense.
I'm asking when is work wrong, or even if we should be the ones to judge what is wrong and what is not—are we to provide a service and cut ties with it or should we see ourselves responsible for the sale of every product embellished by our work?

I mean, I can imagine feeling very proud if my work helped a small cereal brand increase it's market share by 15% but I can't say I'd feel the same if it was firearms in the hands of dictators; but realistically would my design be the prime factor for this increase or would it just be part of it, or could I disassociate myself from being part at all? I did help, but I didn't create the product. Is that just pleading ignorance or perhaps a personal mindset—I didn't kill anyone, but I didn't stop it either.

Am I complicate to death, or just the bi-product of a global misjustice? Did I help the liberation front, or did I fill the eyes of someones last snapshot on earth? I only did the logo, right? I'm not sure really.

The question is when is work wrong? Do we hold ourselves accountable for creating desire in an object that would not desire ourselves or should we draw a line to allow the consumer of a product make their own mind up and create a distinction that you are creating the visuals for a person or company rather than desire for it's consumer. I personally stand by my own morals, but it's still a question whether in the world of work, that my morals really matter at all.


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