David Berman’s Do Good Design

I’ve recently had the pleasure of connecting with David Berman, a professional designer, author and speaker regarding the possibility of working with him on future projects, if not directly, at least in spirit, as we are both interested in designing and developing a world which is sustainable. David’s recent book Do Good Design (with the word Design crossed out leaving us with just “Do Good”) is an inspired and well informed work that shares not only the principles of why sustainable and ethical design is important but shares excellent examples of design work that doesn’t promote a sustainable or healthy future. Listed as “Do Good’ at your local library or Amazon book store, it’s definitely a worth while read.

David points out how, by making truthful advertising, we can distinguish between products which are worth while to the world and those which are not, how our words in advertising are governed by slander and liable laws whereas graphic images are not, and he warns us to keep our eyes open to visual lies that we’re being told about what’s real and what’s not, and to be watchful for the unhealthy behaviours that advertising promotes including unhealthy eating, consumerism and unhealthy attitudes towards women. In a world which is far too often focused on consumption, the exploitation of the innocence of children and youth, we need to place a much higher value on good and ethical ideas. And David points out that companies are adopting the lesson that good and truthful advertising coupled with sustainable and high quality products lead to repeat customers, long term business and the opportunity to exercise ethical behaviours, all while getting paid better than average rates.

Good and ethical design, as opposed to just doing what you are told, requires a little more creativity and effort, and designers who practice with these values begin to excel and become more creative. So not only are they better designers in the long run, they are naturally inclined to get hired more and get paid better. As more companies become aware of the need for sustainable products and behaviors, designers who have developed sustainable and ethical practices will become increasingly favoured.

David suggests a three step commitment for all designers which would also be suitable for all professionals.

1) I will be true to my profession

2) I will be true to myself.

3) I will spend at least 10% of my professional time helping to repair the world.

I suspect that hidden in that last commitment, David realizes that it’s very hard to commit just 10%. Why you ask? Because it’s very hard to feel integrity only 10% of the time. Once you get in the habit of doing design to help repair the world 10% of the time, it becomes incredibly difficult to go forward justifying doing damage to the world the remaining 90%. People just don’t work that way. It’s an educational and awakening process. As you start making the commitment to doing good, you suddenly become more aware of behaviours that don’t fit and you naturally stop doing them.

For more information on some of David’s ideas, see http://www.davidberman.com .

My best to you all,

Garth Schmalenberg

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