I was working for an educational publishing company, making lots of illustrations for different projects to be used in home schooling in Africa and the States mainly.
All going well until I was asked to work on a Christian teaching project. I’m not religious, but the subject was the nativity story, and that has such a weight of existing iconography behind it that I thought I’d be on safe ground – no ground breaking here. I must admit that part of me was a bit wary of the influence of these teaching aids and I did feel a responsibility towards the audience. I decided to approach it with rigorous research into the history, architecture and dress of the period. My clients were happy with the reconstruction of the setting, the dress and artifacts in the illustrations. My camels were on point. The first revision came because they thought the characters were too ‘Middle Eastern’. Of course, I hadn’t realized that I had to draw from a middle class, white, western aesthetic. The final straw (that broke the camel’s back) came when I was called in to discuss the angels. “Can you make them look more like real angels?” I couldn’t and so we parted company. A lesson learned and a commission, which I doubt, I’d accept now.
On a lighter note, I had a fight with my husband whilst illustrating a children’s story for the Independent newspaper. The main character was a very fat giant, chasing twin boys. I was able to turn that very fat giant into a portrait of my husband, complete with his very distinctive Newcastle United tattoo. Revenge is sweet and illustration can be a powerful thing.
There are so many sites that discuss this subject, but here's a few interesting and quite diverse links about ethical design. The first is a piece about the Vatican's report into advertising 'God and the ethics of advertising' and featured in Creative Review as part of an ethics edition. The second, is written by the Simon Moore, the designer who rebranded UKIP in 2015. and poses some controversial questions (is bad design worse than poor ethics?). The third is a link to Milton Glaser's famous 'Road to Hell' essay, in which he gave his students increasingly difficult ethical questions to answer.
BURGOYNE, P. (2007) God and the ethics of advertising [online] Available from:
[Accessed 17 December 2016]
MOORE, S. (2015) Rebranding UKIP [online] Available from:
https://www.creativereview.co.uk/re-branding-ukip/ [Accesed 17 December 2016]
GLASER, M. (2002) Ambiguity and truth [online] Available from:
https://www.miltonglaser.com/files/Essays-Ambiguity-8192.pdf [Accessed 17 December 2016]