Citizen Designer

Throughout history graphic designers have written design manifestos and taken action to focus their energy on designing for good. Whether it’s a call to action to use our skills to create things like PSAs rather than products for planned obsolescence, to motivate designers to use environmentally friendly materials rather than toxic ones, or to create materials that support social justice efforts, there is a group of dedicated graphic designers who believe that design is meant for something bigger and better than simply contributing to the cycle of consumer consumption.

In Ken Garland’s 1964 “First Things First” Manifesto, he states: By far the greatest effort of those working in the advertising industry are wasted on these trivial purposes, which contribute little or nothing to our national prosperity.”

In David Berman’s book “Do Good Design,” he asks designers to consider their core values and mission and pledge to:

1. Be true to their profession
2. Be true to themselves
3. Use 10% of their professional time to create a better place

Citizen Designer: Perspectives on Design Responsibility,” written by Steven Heller and Veronique Vienne, includes more than 70 essays that look to answer what it means to be a citizen designer.

The recent U.S. election has created a groundswell of activism against our newly elected leader, and graphic designers are among them. Resist is a free 40-page tabloid newspaper featuring political comics and graphics that was distributed at Women’s Marches across the country on January 21. The Smudge is a new monthly newspaper created in the spirit of the underground and alternative presses of the 60’s and 70’s to offer a unique voice and perspective on current political issues.

The Citizen Designer Pledge from AIGA NY asks individuals to vote, choose at least one cause to champion, meet with fellow citizen designers, and attend a local governance session once a quarter. The pledge goes on to outline commitments for companies as well as the newly formed organization’s commitments and their dedication to solving larger problems.

If you want to get involved and merge your personal values with your work, take the pledge today.


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