Ethical Debates Surrounding Design and Advertising

Personally, I think advertisements and designs are a lot more cynical nowadays. This is due to all the software that is available to help us manipulate how things look, for example Adobe Photoshop. To me, the most important thing to have in advertisements is the truth. I think the truth is very important as I believe it is immoral to mislead people.

The thing I hate the most in advertisements, is the manipulation of how someone looks. I particularly don’t like how people are transformed so they look ‘perfect’. In society the ‘perfect’ look is unrealistic and unachievable with symmetrical faces, big eyes and radiant, spot and blemish free skin. This hyper reality that has been created in advertisements has put a huge affect on how we see ourselves, and is one of the main triggers of body dysmorphia. According to the National Health Service, “body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is an anxiety disorder that causes a person to have a distorted view of how they look and spend a lot of time worrying about their appearance”(1). BDD can “also exist alongside an eating disorder, such as anorexia or bulimia”(1). Eating disorders are often triggered by images that are used in advertising, because people are usually made to look thinner.

Another issue with advertisements is when they lie about what their products do. I think it is extremely immoral to suggest a product does something when it really doesn’t, as it gives consumers false hope. For example I find adverts for mascara very frustrating, this is because the models clearly wear fake eyelashes and the ‘extra length’ mascara hasn’t extended their actual eyelashes.

Although the manipulation of images is mainly negative, it can be used for the greater good. For example if it is difficult to capture an image of a large group of people all smiling at a camera, I think it’s good that you god swap people’s heads from images so that you can create the perfect picture of everyone together. I also think manipulation is good for people with really low self esteem. For example if someone has really bad skin and they want to look good in a photo, I think it’s good that they could use a tool like the spot healer on Photoshop to clear their skin. However this manipulated image could then be used for immoral purposes, such as on social media to create a false idea of what someone looks like (like on Catfish).

Overall, I believe that most designs and advertisements are immoral. Due to the negative impact media has, I think there should be more laws on what we are allowed to manipulate in advertising.

(1) http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/body-dysmorphia/Pages/Introduction.aspx

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