Teaching Toward an Ethical Legacy in Graphic Design

By Scott Thomas Boylston.

Published by The Sustainability Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The field of graphic design has been undergoing a prolonged identity crises in regards to whom it should serve, and to what ends. While the present dichotomy between private enterprise and the public good creates a conflicting set of needs to be satisfied, it cannot be assumed that such a fundamental contradiction will withstand the rigors of social evolution. A new graduate course offers students an opportunity to challenge the dominant perception that design exists primarily to serve the financial needs of corporations, and to consider historical and contemporary case studies of visual propaganda, activism and dissent. These students eventually make the transition to teaching at the university level themselves. Such a progression from the educated to the educator represents the industry’s best hope for positive change, and the resulting paradigm shift can guide an industry now known as a neutral cultural participant at best toward one of a socially nourishing profession. This paper will focus on issues covered in the MFA course, and explore how topics such as sustainable package design, cradle-to-cradle philosophies, and poster design for democracy and tolerance can change the present course of the graphic design field.

Keywords: Social Responsibility, Ethical Considerations, Sustainable Practices, Paradigm Shift in the Graphic Design Industry

The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp.163-168. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 486.589KB).

Prof Scott Thomas Boylston

Professor, Graphic Design Department, The Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, Georgia, USA

Scott Boylston has published over a dozen short stories, a book of poetry on environmental degradation, and a book on graphic design practices. An upcoming book will focus on sustainable trends in international package design. His poster designs have been included in international shows on topics such as prison reform, immigration rights, globalization, and governmental hypocrisy. Boylston has spoken widely on the social responsibility of graphic designers at conferences such as the annual Symposium on Democracy and the annual Conference on Ethics Across the Curriculum. This spring he presented the keynote address at a Leadership Studies conference. He is co-developing curriculum and co-teaching a class on “Artists and Leaders” as a part of a national initiative on Leadership Studies. As a professor, he has developed graduate and undergraduate curriculum that focuses on the ethical considerations that a graphic designer faces as someone who is responsible for shaping a culture’s environment. Before becoming a professor, Boylston worked in New York City as a package designer and art director for international fragrance companies, while at the same time owning an environmentally-focused surf wear company.

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