Blog Post A: Design and a question of morals

The ethical role designers have in any industry can have impacts that affect entire societies. This can be seen in the tobacco industry within Indonesia and the gambling industry within Australia. The way these products are marketed is designed, by a designer. This designer has taken on the role of creating an effective campaign to advertise a product that may not necessarily have ethical intentions.

The tobacco industry has an immense presence in Indonesia “[becoming] a ‘natural’ part of the Indonesian landscape” (Reynolds, C 1999). The cigarette packets in Indonesia have a range of different aesthetic styles to cater to different target audiences. This was discovered when talking to students from ITS University who reported that some tobacco companies market their products towards teenagers with brightly coloured packaging and flavoured cigarettes, a big offender of this is Esse Cigarettes.


Additionally, advertising campaigns promote smoking addictions through personal image created through graphical design. Strong messages such as “Never Quit” by Surya communicate strong messages with clear intentions, it is at this point that we have to ask ourselves as designers; are we crossing ethical boundaries. –


While it is easy to criticise the Indonesian tobacco industry for its tobacco marketing campaigns, related issues exist all over the world, even in our home country Australia. During October 2018, advertising for The Everest Cup horse racing was projected onto one of Australia’s greatest landmarks. Huge protests were created to stop the illumination of the Opera House sails with gambling advertising. Prior to this, the sails had only been projected onto for special occasions. Australia already has a problem with gambling, and the promotion of gambling contributes to the ever-growing problem. “Australia shows that 63% to 82% of teenagers gamble each year” (Monaghan, C et al. 2008). Behind these advertisements there is a designer at work with the intentions of selling a potentially harmful product at the cost of others. There is a power behind design to influence behaviours and it is with responsibility that these skills should be used to good effect. The question is left, where should the line be drawn to where design can be applied to sell or market an industry? For the tobacco industry in Indonesia that powers a huge part of their economy, should this be allowed to continue to allow for jobs to flourish or should counter measures be taken to drastically reduce the numbers of child smokers? This is a decision that can only be made by the designer and their ethical responsibilities.


Reynolds, C, 1999, ‘Tobacco advertising in Indonesia: “the defining characteristics for success”’, viewed 21 December 2018, <;

Monaghan, S., Derevensky, J., Sklar, A, 2008, ‘Impact of gambling advertisements and marketing on children and adolescents: Policy recommendations to minimise harm’, viewed 21 December 2018, <;

Image 1: Alex Lee, KT&Gs overseas sales hit all-time high, viewed 21 December 2018, <;

Image 2: Anton Jøsef, Gudang Garam | Surya Pro, viewed 21 December 2018, <;

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