Graphic Design Ethics

Published: 2022-10-12
Graphic Design Ethics
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Design Personality
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1160 words
10 min read

The urge to touch hearts and lives through art is a dream every graphic designer would like to meet. Stefan Sagmeister is an example of a graphic designer who has inspired many through his work and message. Stefan believes that one can go as far as they like with their work as long as they are happy. Many think that his words are controversial especially after eating fatty foods to gain weight yet he curved into his skin. This paper explores Stefan's message to examine whether it's ethically acceptable amongst the graphic design community.

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About Stefan Sagmeister

Stefan is a crucial designer who carries the day in today's world art. Through his work of art, one can see the big gap between fine art and commercial art. For him, he doesn't widen the gap but bridges this gap by redefining the industrial design as a personal and emotional profound art. His works comprise of a vast spectrum including album covers, logos, installations, and posters.

Many know Stefan as a world-renowned graphic designer with a unique characteristic of a conceptual typographer and performance artists. Most of his work get identity from rendered topography, a variety of materials and techniques, and use of controversial imagery. Through his actions, Stefan pushes his audience to their ethical limit, though in a questionable manner that is undoubtedly interesting. He focuses on themes like sexuality, humor, and imagery about human emotions. Many regard him as a nonconformist as they look for that shock factor and characterize his work like that with bad taste.

Stefan's Message

Stefan's works have earned him many clients and wards. Despite this impressive record, the awards do not do justice to the legacy of his work. The controversy that he stirs up is not either conveyed in these awards. What makes him outstanding is the strong work ethic and his unusual approach to design. Because of these two approaches, how works have stood out in crowds and made him an influential artist and designer.

Stefan's work is a reminder that artists should do the job that appeals to the audience. The work should be original, groundbreaking and unique as possible. The aim of doing this is to ensure that your work produces the best and exceptional results. Stefan reasons that its only after one pushes his/her work beyond boundaries, that will he/she push their skills to the limit. A good example is his 1999 poster for an AIGA lecture in Detroit. He had the wording of the sign cut into his skin. Many looked at this approach as barbarically honest to the design of this piece. This was an outstanding work in the era of digital maps; remaining poignant for 16 years.

What Do We Learn from Stefan's Controversy?

How sustainable is this type of design? When such a piece of work as what Stefani produces is produced, it is ordinarily shocking and new. Possibly, designers may ethically consider self-destruction as a useful method for design. How then can any designer keep his/her personal from design? One would also ask how the same would affect a designer who looks at Stefan as a role model. There are many artworks apart from the AIGA Detroit poster that Stefan has produced with his body on the line to convey his message.

Another example is Sagmeister on a Binge (2003). This was done after he gained 25 pounds in weight because of a week's course meal full of junk food and drink. He had also displayed all the food in a before/after style set of photos. The main message he was sending was about the level of pain and self-sacrifice that every good designer puts into their work. In doing so, he formed controversy and worry to younger designers that putting your body in danger is the easiest way to gain media attention.

From another perspective, there is a need to appreciate Stefan's work. It bears a strong message to the society especially looking at the less unsettling pieces of his work. He has a lot of talent to offer the industry apart from the design that only exists to draw controversy. In another poster design for Lou Reed (1996) named 'Set the Twilight Reeling.' Stefan highlights the use of a handwritten script to show the lyrics of the album. The bold simplicity in the poster makes it outstanding especially from the high definition photograph in the background. The message is that Stefan is not limited to creating vividly modern and shocking pieces of work. The poster shows his ability to create more commercial and client-focused work. A look at the whole album shows his achievement of the balance between making standard commercial pieces and creating mound-breaking design experiments.

There is a lot that designers at all stages can learn from the works of Stefan. The reason for such a claim is that it's straightforward to get pulled towards either extreme of the commercial or person design spectrum. Designers ought to learn that creating a piece of art just for money could be highly limiting. It can limit an artist both creatively and emotionally.

To enhance his creativity, Stefan takes an extended sabbatical leave every seven years to counter the creative slump caused by his high profile commercial work. He also makes the leave to work on other projects that interest him most. That remains a very innovative career move. It has sparked conversations in the design world and inspired many in the creative art industry. Most designers have learned to invest in personal time.

It is also good to note that not all of Stefan's work has been met with a positive response. For example, his piece 'Banana Wall'(2008) showed over 10,000 bananas at varying stages of ripeness. For a limited time, the piece of work showed the phrase 'self-confidence produces fine results' before rotting away. The 'Banana Wall'piece was criticized for wastefulness. Many young designers could learn a lesson of considering social responsibility in design from the criticism, especially when they are conscious of the problems of third world countries.

In conclusion, Stefan stands as an influential artist who employs his unique styles to get the attention of his audience. He goes as far as using his body in artwork to display his message. Though this may seem controversial as discussed above, the young designers have lessons to learn from him. The sabbatical leave he takes to reorganize his creativity, as well as pain and self-sacrifice he used to produce outstanding work, are some of the things young designers can learn from him. The designers at all levels may not use their bodies to attract the attention of the audience, but they can design other ways to make their work captivating; Stefan just invented his controversial style.


"Stefan Sagmeister". Hannah02.Github.Io, 2018, Accessed 19 Nov 2018.

Strizver, Ilene. "Typetalk: The Typographic Expressions Of Stefan Sagmeister - Creativepro.Com". Creativepro.Com, 2018, Accessed 19 Nov 2018.

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Graphic Design Ethics. (2022, Oct 12). Retrieved from

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