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Ethical design: a foundation for visual communication.

Buwert, Peter


Peter Buwert


The central original contribution to knowledge proposed by this thesis is the setting forth of a conceptualisation of ethical theory specifically in relation to design, with a focus on visual communication design. Building on earlier work by design theorist Clive Dilnot in the area of design ethics and on philosopher Giorgio Agambens formulation of the philosophical concept of potentiality, a way of thinking about the relationship between design and ethics is proposed which concludes that design is in fact always inherently ethical. However, this conception of ethical design purposefully leaves questions of the qualification of good and bad unresolved, stating only that the ethical is the prerequisite condition in which both good and bad become possibilities. Designs significantly unethical capability to suppress and anaesthetise individuals ethical experience is highlighted through a proposal of a process of an/aesth/ethics. Observation of the relationship between design and ethics in the real world through a series of interviews demonstrates something of the complexity of designs relationship with ethics and the diverse range of positions, beliefs, attitudes and paradoxes abounding within the design profession when it comes to addressing the question of good design practice. Six sites of ethics within contemporary design discourse are introduced and discussed. The ethicality of design practices in relation to these sites are then analysed through the lens of the proposed ethical framework: identifying strengths, weaknesses and potentials within these observed strategies. The way of thinking about ethical design proposed here demonstrates potential in contributing to designers ability to critically consider the ethicality of their own practices. From this foundation they may be better equipped to begin addressing the question of the qualification of the goodness of design. In conclusion, proposals are made for how this framework could be practically developed and used to support and encourage ethical design in the real world.


BUWERT, P. 2016. Ethical design: a foundation for visual communication. Robert Gordon University, PhD thesis.

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Aug 17, 2016
Publicly Available Date Aug 17, 2016
Keywords Aesthetics; Aesth/ethics; Criticality; Ethics; Graphic design; Potentiality
Public URL
Award Date May 31, 2016


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