How do Sydney graphic design agencies ensure cultural sensitivity and ethics in their designs?

September 25, 2023

As a Sydney graphic designer specialising in visual communication and content it is always at the forefront of mind to be respectful of boundaries and rules that protect against cultural appropriation.

In a world saturated with visual symbols and imagery repeated from different cultures and amplified by the capabilities of the internet including ease of digital copying and distribution for little cost, it is easy to see how visual images can seem naturally occurring rather than borrowed from other sources.

Cultural awareness is of the utmost importance when it comes to graphic design. In Australia the Australian Indigenous Design Charter: Communication Design (AIDC:CD) has been specifically tailored for the communication design profession. It sets out policies and protocols for the respectful use and cross-cultural representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture.

The mission of AIDC:CD is to “improve and maintain high ethical standards of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples representation in design practice.” It is a charter built upon a framework designed for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous designers and aims to develop methods that assist designers to understand and appropriately represent Indigenous culture in their work.

Graphic designers and artists have a responsibility to make sure that when it comes to different Indigenous communities they are not exploiting or disadvantaging them in any way through commercial representation of their culture.

Directions under the AIDC:CD encourage designers to engage with the representation of Indigenous culture to enhance visibility and to contribute to a more inclusive national Australian identity. It asks that designers embrace this notion in a respectful and ethical manner.

Some suggestions for designers included in the AIDC:CD are to engage with local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander designers connected with relevant communities and provide opportunities for them to oversee the creative development and design process. They also encourage information sharing with relevant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stakeholders and to provide copies of the published design works.

According to AIDC:CD many graphic design firms are increasingly identifying Indigenous culture as “providing a unique point of difference” particularly in the context of representing land and location in place branding. It is also points out that designers can often be in a situation where they are asked to represent national identity narratives in their work but feel uncertain about how to do this in a respectful and ethical way and so become overly cautious and avoid Indigenous cultural representation completely.

The AIDC:CD is aware that recognition and visible representation of Indigenous culture in design communication are intertwined. It supports the idea that graphic designers are in a unique position to contribute to a greater mainstream presence of Indigenous culture “provided Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are recognised as the primary guardians of their cultures.”

If you are searching for a Sydney-based graphic design agency that is culturally aware and up-to-date with best practices when it comes to visual communication, then you have come to the right place! Contact us today at Fresco Creative to talk with one of our experienced graphic designers.