Design and social responsibility: the balance between ethos and personal identity

Design and social responsibility: the balance between ethos and personal identity

Doctora Danai Delipetrou: Centro Oficial de Estudios Superiores Barreira A+D


In recent years, design is much more than a market-oriented profession: it has become a social activity. The present paper aims to unravel the challenges experienced by designers in an effort to keep up with their social responsibility. As society and its needs evolve, so does design. Great part of the very evolution of graphic design is society’s constant change, the problems to be solved and the tools necessary to solve them. Design’s social dimension is present throughout the creative process and even before it, as it directly influences the decision-making as to values and ethics required to address current problems, make them visible and, eventually, help solve them. When it comes to the very process, to design with social responsibility means to design sustainable -therefore, environmentalism is present in the discourse. When it comes to the community for which a design is aimed, the latter should include minorities. Therefore, inclusion and diversity also form a part of designers’ social labour. Finally, regarding the objectives of a socially responsible design, those include social critique, human rights and multiculturalism. That said, numerous elements play their part in the process analysed, such as culture, environment, economy and politics, but they are all determined by a common factor: ethics. The dilemma between professional and personal ethics has been present in an intent to find the source of design’s social dimension. Even though professional and personal ethics in this case are two sides of the same coin, personal ethics -mainly personal conscience- will always be the ultimate key to decision-making, since freedom of expression and freedom of choice are part of all professionals’ fundamental human rights.

The aim of the present paper is to underline the complexity of being constantly aware of social responsibility at all stages of design, as well as the challenges faced by designers when searching for a balance between said responsibility and their own identity throughout the creative process.

Keywords: graphic design, social responsibility, human rights, ethics, diversity