Debating Ethics

A few words from our Publisher on the relevance of ethics in teaching or studying the applied visual arts.

We hear  and read a lot about ‘green’, ‘sustainable’ , ‘bio’ and ‘ethical’ but when you see how these words are used it is often for political or commercial gain. Yet these words are a part of the full meaning of ‘ethics’ as used by the ancient Greek philosophers.


Design plays an increasing role in our lives and often determines how we see things. Design can influence our thoughts about an object or message. In this way a designer can change our perception and thinking. On what basis and with what authority does he do this?


The teaching of ethical considerations in law, medicine and sociology is commonplace, but until very recently it was totally ignored in most forms of design and other areas of applied visual arts education. Yet students are asking questions and wanting to understand the implications of what they will be doing within their chosen fields. Applied visual arts teachers are not schooled in philosophy – in fact many come from industry to teach on a part-time basis. They need an educational tool to help them.


AVA believes that the world needs ethics and no less so in design than elsewhere. Ethical considerations are important to our planet’s future, not only in physical terms but in the attitudes and practices that we show toward our fellow man. The practitioners of the applied visual arts, be they designers or managers, be they in the field of graphics, fashion, advertising, illustration or product design, will have an ever-increasing influence on society as design continues to play an increasingly central and influential role in our daily lives. So it beholds us as a company that publishes material teaching design to promote ethical consideration in our books.


In no way do we intend or want to set ourselves up as arbiters of what is ‘good’ and what is ‘bad’, what is ethical and what is not. Ethical considerations are for the individual to ascertain his own personal position and this will surely vary with age, race, culture, gender and education. Considering ethics is not an easy or straightforward exercise. One can so easily go off at tangents, follow inessential lines of thought and discussion and ultimately lose the central thrust of that discussion.


To help this discursive process, AVA has tried to set out a methodology for the consideration of ethical implications of the discipline. This is included in the form of eight pages at the back of the book and includes a pertinent case study for discussion. It is there to promote awareness of the need to consider the implications of one’s discipline of study and to help teachers guide the discussion in a logical and coherent form. In doing this we hope that future generations of practitioners in the applied visual arts will be conscious of their role in influencing society and the effects they could have on it.


To further promote the awareness of ethical consideration we have added an ‘ethics’ badge to our logo … and what we hope to achieve by this is ethical awareness, reflection and debate, surely the crucial elements in any education in ethics – or in trying to achieve the best possible solution for the happiness of the greatest number of people.


Here are some examples of the ways in which ethics could be considered in relation to publishing (specifically printing), taken from the definition of ‘ethics’ in The Visual Dictionary of Pre-press and Production


If you are interested in the application of ethics to visual arts subjects, you may be interested in the following AVA titles:


Design for Sustainable Change: How design and designers can drive the sustainability agenda – by Anne Chick and Paul Micklethwaite

Design for Sustainable Change
Design for Sustainable Change


Good: An introduction to ethics in graphic design – by Lucienne Roberts

Good: An introduction to ethics in graphic design
Good: An introduction to ethics in graphic design


The ethics case studies from the back of our books are also available for download as supplementary material to academics who are registered with our website.

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