What is an author? An originator, an inventor, someone who we attribute a thing to. Often connected with ideas such as novels and music, an author has a clear sense of creation alongside that thing. However, what happens when the original author is lost in a sea of corporation or multiple contributors. For example within a film, who is the author? We often talk about the film through the idea of the director… “A Steven Spielberg Film”. However, he didn’t write the original script, he didn’t read each line word for word with emotional conviction or build the costume for the alien antagonist?

This is often the case with designers who carry out briefs for massive brands and corporations. Once the invoice is paid and the work leaves the studio it is very rare that a designer will attribute themselves to the design beyond the realm of their own website. It thus becomes the work of the brand… “thats the London 2012 logo” not the work of the designer “the logo designed by Wolf Olins”. This then bodes the question of who holds cultural and ethical responsibility for such works. Has the ownerships/authorship has been publicly attributed to the brand itself and does the blame then fall on them in the event of any scandal.

To discuss this we can look at The Debate between Jan Van Toorn and Wim Crouwel, where the idea of designer responsibility was heavily considered. Crouwel took the stance that it is the job of the designer to create work exactly how the client desired and therefore make work, that for the consumer, appears transparent directly to the client, aligning itself to the idea that the works becomes that of the brand and not the designer. On the other hand, Toorn suggested that design is political and that the designer has a moral responsibility for the work they produce and regardless of the clients desires it is up to the designer as an individual to choose whether to put those ideas into the work.

We had a discussion around this issue in class, considering the types of companies we would want to work for and whether personal morals would come into play if we were presented with a brief. One of the biggest questions came around fast food companies, where ultimately designers are promoting food that is bad for customers health and well being. However, my argument was that these companies are fully aware of the effect they have and, therefore,  their designer and work are conscientious of that.


As a designer you are within an environment where being honest is seen as a best form of advertising within the current climate of fast food selling and production. Whilst this method of working appears transparent and would seem to agree with Crouwels ideas, there is also a level of the designer working in an environment that fits their moral responsibilities.

Personally I agree with Toorn’s ideas. If a designer is willing to have an input on a work and put their own stamp on something then they must be willing to suffer the consequences if that decision was not politicly or morally correct. Otherwise too many designers would hide behind brands and get away with mistakes that will ultimately never be learned from.