3.1 What have you done?

As mentioned, the three research methods that have been pursued are Literature Review, Focus Groups and Interviews — the first having been covered in the previous chapter. In its most succinct form, the main intention of this research was to investigate the presence and significance of responsibility and ethics within the local creative industry. In order to do this, it was imperative to pursue research methods that would provide contextualized, unbiased and unprejudiced information on this subject. Above all, the research methods should be qualitative in nature, not quantitative.

Why focus groups with students? Understanding the perspectives of design students would provide insights on several aspects, such as the significance and focus given to the topics of responsibility by local educational institutes and the general mindset on these topics from the point of view of student designers. As with the case of most student designers, they possess a unique perspective on these topics as most are on the verge of entering the creative industry. With the topic of ethics being steeped in subjectivity, focus groups were ideal as they allowed room for discussion, clarification and elaboration on given answers, as opposed to simply requiring participants to answer a set of predefined questions. This also aids in ensuring that participants understand the questions asked, the intention and context behind them. Both of these aspects are vital to ascertain that the material provided by participants would be interpreted correctly during analysis.

Why interviews with lecturers and professionals? The goal was to obtain contextualized information based on the participants’ personal experiences and opinions on the state of the creative industry. Professionals were approached as they are at the forefront of the creative industry, and are thus able to share their perspectives on design responsibility and its significance from a practitioner’s point of view, as well as to shed light on the everyday challenges that designers face. Lecturers were approached due to their roles as educators of the younger generation of designers. As with the focus groups, interviews also allowed room for discussion, clarification and elaboration, which are crucial aspects to ensure the integrity of the information gathered. Ethics is a highly subjective and somewhat personal subject — interviews were ideal as they also allowed for the sharing of more personal experiences; experiences that may be omitted if a survey or a focus group was conducted instead.

To ensure credibility and objectivity in results, all efforts were made to ensure that the participants chosen came from varied race, gender and financial backgrounds. With the present constraints (time-wise) for the formulation of this research, this study aimed to achieve a sample size of 20 participants for the focus groups with students. For the one-on-one interviews, this study aimed to achieve a sample size of 10 industry professionals and five educators. Questions were formulated in an unbiased and unprejudiced manner in order not to confuse and influence the participants responses.

Were you successful in achieving your targets? Yes, but there were some limitations. I’ve managed to conduct focus groups with 21 students, but due to the poor reception from other institutes, all 21 of these students originate from LASALLE College of the Arts. To supplement the quality of results, I’ve conducted 3 interviews with students from other institutes, so that makes a total of 24 student participants. As for interviews with professionals and lecturers, everything turned out satisfactory despite poor initial response — The sample size of 10 and 5 respectively was achieved.

3.2 What have you found?

Focus Groups:

Students don’t seem very concerned.

On the overall, students do not appear have given ethics and responsibilities much of consideration, as proven by the existence of numerous contradictions, as well as the many instances where participants were unable to answer. A number appear to be unrealistically optimistic and principled, but a few have given valuable insight and proven to be knowledgeable. But a great number seems to be jaded, and they believe that they design responsibility is nearly impossible. For most part, students appear to be more concerned about other things, and design ethics is a very low priority for them. Perhaps as youth going on to working adults, they are more concerned over more pragmatic things. Students also seem to be more concerned with the aesthetic aspect of design as opposed to the functional and social aspect of design.

Interviews: There are many

scale of ethics at play here.

On the overall, local designers appear to have an average understanding of design responsibility, and displayed an average level of interest and awareness on the social aspects of design. Educators appear to be more socially-concerned than professional designers. But this is also perhaps not because they are ill-educated or apathetic — it appears to be also partially due to the state of the industry, in that the Singaporean visual communication industry is still at its youth, and thus does not attract much clients of a controversial nature. But many interviewees have agreed that it would be increasingly important as our industry grows. In answers gathered, contradictions are a lot less common in the interviews as compared to focus groups; probably because professionals are more well-prepared in their answers, or because they sometimes exercise their right not to answer. Answers gathered from lecturers cannot be taken as indicative of the entire local academia for two reasons; the fact that the large number of lecturers who have turned down to be interviewed because they deem these topics to be too sensitive, as well as the observation that ALL of the lecturers interviewed do discuss ethics and responsibility in their curriculum – it is entirely conceivable that lecturers who do not actively discuss these things in the classroom also do not wish to be interviewed on such topics.

Ultimately, the considerations of ethics and social responsibility appear to be of less importance because the state of the industry calls for it. All local interviewees were personally approached, but internationally, many students, professionals and educators have actually actively responded the call for interviews. This fact suggests that compared to the international scene, locally there is little discussion, dialogue and interest in the topics of design responsibility and ethics. The analysis of the information gained through this research method would likewise be useful in answering research questions one and two, on the causes and effects of design irresponsibility. There have also been a few designers who have given incredibly useful insight on the subject of design ethics, and as such would be useful in answering this paper’s third research question on how ethics can be defined in a useful, practical and universally applicable level.