Design Less Better recently had the opportunity to talk to one of our favorite designers, Milton Glaser, about our favorite topic, design ethics. We are very proud to bring you this interview.
DLB: We all know about your socially conscious design work: the war buttons, Light Up the Sky, We Are All African, and of course the Design of Dissent anthology. Aside from making work with explicitly ethical messaging, how do you express your values in your day-to-day design practice?
MG: I don't think my ethics in ordinary design practice are different than anybody else's. Fundamentally, I try to do no harm, not to lie, and to have the same sense of responsibility to the community that any good citizen would have. My idea is that if you have a definition of good citizenship, you behave within that definition. I don't think it's terribly complex.
DLB: Could you expand on what's involved in being a good citizen?
MG: Well, it's a long and moralistic definition, but I think everybody knows what it means. It means that you don't deliberately go out and attempt to move people to anything that will harm them; you don't misrepresent anything that you're responsible for transmitting. It’s not a very complicated idea. Telling the truth is simple. But the truth is also full of ambiguity. Sometimes you don't know the truth. Sometimes the truth can produce pain and difficulty.
But I think the fundamental thing in the design field is not to urge people to buy something or to move toward something that would harm them. Beyond that, it gets into a long and maybe overly complex series of issues.