writer on arts and culture
How do we choose our clients? On this subject, Philip Johnson, self-professed "whore," was apt to quote H. H. Richardson's admonition that the "first principle of architecture is to get the job." That is rather cynical, perhaps, and in fact there were some clients (the mafia, for instance) for whom even Johnson would not work. But how do the rest of us know when and where to draw the line? Is it acceptable to work for a government with a spotty record on human rights? How about a corporation with a poor environmental history? How do we balance commercial imperatives with a desire for a moral practice?
To be a design professional is to navigate ethical territory that is rarely black or white, but some shade of gray. What compromises are and are not acceptable in this world?
paula gave the final word
When I look too closely at almost any business or institution I can find something morally wrong there. Ballet Tech, a New York City Public School for Dance was supported by Philip Morris as was the New York City Ballet. Mobil put on Masterpiece Theater Free Shakespeare in the Park is brought to you by Bank America, etc.
Government is wasteful, disorganized, political and bureaucratic. Retail companies may make things badly in China, use questionable labor or outsource things they shouldn’t. Little non-profits who are not funded by someone disgusting, may pay a small fee. They believe the fee is a lot of money for them, so they behave like a giant corporations and allow everyone and their mother-in-law have a say about the design. You end up with something not worth achieving while you have been forced to make a donation.
Obviously, all major corporations are worse. With all of my potential clients I am reminded of the Abraham Lincoln quote, “If you look for the worst in a man, expecting to find it, you surely will.”
I have to look at each project on an individual basis. Who are the players? What is their goal? What is their expectation of the final product? Does it do any public harm? Who gets to use it or benefit from it? Is it something interesting to work on and/or do the fees pay the rent so I can pay my staff. Does it afford the opportunity to raise expectations?
I find that if I take a boring or problematic project purely for the money, there isn’t really ever enough money.
There are projects I simply can’t take on. I can’t design communications for right wing organizations, or the army or air force. I can’t work for the national Republican Party. I have trouble with most religious organizations, unless there is absolutely no organized religious message attached to the project. These are highly visceral reactions. They are personal. Everyone is different. I’d rather print something on non-recycled paper than invoke God in a message. Call me crazy. Compromises are personal.
Monday, March 7 at 10:01am
Selected list of words appearing in this and other conversations.