Design Ethics

Several years ago Lance Armstrong came out with his yellow silicone livestrong bracelet and soon everyone had one, people reading this might have one on now. Soon, every time you were at the grocery store line there was a different color bracelet to support different causes. You also seen tons of breast cancer awareness products, Product (RED)… My question is what are your thoughts on designing products to sell based on supporting a cause? There is clearly a demand for such products, but it can be a thin line between helping and exploiting. Is it good enough to pledge a % of profits to the cause? I have worked on Susan G. Komen products in the past and that always seemed responsible since Susan G. Komen is a well know supporter of breast cancer research.

When it comes to charity, I’m an idealist in that I think when it comes to pressing issues such as poverty, oppression, inequality and so on we can never do enough. 10% is more than 0%, but unless 10% or even 20% is all you are able to give, I believe you’re failing the cause more than you’re helping it. While campaigns like Product (RED) and USA for Haiti raise awareness, I tend to wonder if these campaigns generally serve the Self more than the cause. They succeed at raising funds, but they fail at what true charity is about: a sincere, personal wish to help.

The problem with that is that charity becomes something you can buy into, and as a result I’d argue that the long term effect is charity without really caring. The consequence is that we don’t give as much as we really would like to or should. When charity becomes a fashionable product, we end up seeing it through the filter of commercialism, which strips out the humanity, which is what charity really is about.

i think it was just a way to sell something.

when you see those american flag magnets on people’s cars think about how those magnets were made in china.

Well that’s the world of consumerism, but I am not sure it has anything to do with ethics.

I think those actions, even though they might be honorable, are ridiculous, for it’s a waste of resources and effort that will not address the foundational root cause of the problem. It’s like giving fish to an hungry man instead of teaching him how to fish.
Objects such as those are a pure reflection of this materialistic culture of seeing people for what they consume. So off-course it as to do with ethics.
Is it ethical to profit from someone else’s misery? Is strategic monetary gain corrupt behavior?

I think the best example might be product (RED) which nearly every major brand has developed product for.

This is an organization that has raised hundreds of millions by selling regular products with the (RED) logo and making a % donation for buying the product but the company still makes money. In a perfect world these companies would be doing this only with the idea of helping in mind but the reality is it’s also good business because there is a market for this type of thing.