In the ART21 documentary “Jenny Holzer: Writing & Difficulty,” Holzer states, “It’s not just the difficulty in having something come out right, it’s about the staying with it long enough to have it come out right. I am afraid to talk about values.” Taking into consideration your impressions of this video and Holzer’s commentary, thoughtfully respond to the following:
What are your thoughts on the responsibility of the graphic designer to discuss cultural values in his or her work?
In my opinion, unless the designer is working on a personal piece of art, then there is no responsibility to discuss cultural values. In professional graphic design work, discussing values in the work is tied to the client and the project. If I am employed on a project where there IS a value statement to be made, then it is my responsibility to graphically articulate it to the best of my ability. If I am employed on a project that has NO discernable values statement, then I have no responsibility to impose my own values statement into the piece. That responsibility is in every project though, to create pieces that capture whatever the intended client message is… whether it be a values statement or otherwise.
Does bringing an internal value discussion into your process impact the way you create messages?
The impact for me would be in whether the message is one that resonates with me or not. If I am given a project that HAS a values statement to make, then I would say yes, it would impact the way I graphically articulate the message depending on how I personally connect to the message. For example, if I were to be given a project involving children, I would have a greater personal tie to the project then if I were to be given one involving war. I may agree with both values statements, but the one with children will connect personally with me MORE because I have children. I have no military or war connection in my family or myself personally, so even if I agreed with the message, my experience with the subject matter is limited.
If I am doing a personal art piece with my own values statement, the connection would be there, so again, yes it would impact my process.
In every piece, my process involves researching the subject matter. If I have a personal connection to the values message, then my research is also paired with my experience and perhaps my passion for the piece will be increased.
If I were to be given a project where I DISAGREED with the values statement, then that would also impact me. Depending on how much I disagreed with it, I may even turn it down…. Which I have done before many times, both in my own firm, and when I worked in other firms. Perhaps it’s because I live and work in Vegas, but it is common that I come across a client that wants me to design a piece where I disagree with the values or morals behind the message. And in those cases, a designer has to decide how much of a prostitute they are willing to be. For me, I have certain types of pieces that I refuse, and others that I don’t… anything to do with tobacco, strip clubs, or anti-Christian organizations, then I refuse. But on the other hand, I have done plenty of gambling and alcohol related design work for casinos and bars. Writing that out sounds hypocritical, LOL! But ultimately, we each need to decide what we are willing to do and still be able to sleep at night. I sleep well.