Daniel Voss

Concept Designer at Weta Workshop

Student at Massey University

"Absolution doesn't
help anyone."

Raphael Roake: How do you, if at all, navigate ethics in your practice?
Daniel Voss: Doing research is a big part of starting any project, and this can reduce any chances of crossing boundaries. While increasing the quality of the work it also makes me aware of any potential ethical conflicts during the creation of work. There are several ethical problems I am constantly on the look out for but by doing research I can be sure of what effects my work may have.
Concept artists use a lot of reference photos, so if there is any obvious conflicts in this with appropriation I will remove these reference images to avoid making its way into my final concept as it can happen subliminally.

The worst scenario for me is not realising something is wrong until the work is complete and out there.

RR:Do you think we (as designers) have a responsibility to consider and challenge things such as the ethics behind the companies/products/services we engage with?
DV: Yes, this has crossed my mind many times during my education and as I have started working. I know what I believe as an individual and it seems incomprehensible to not consider my personal ethical views when I'm creating works. Sometimes my concerns with certain things; especially climate change begin to fuel the creation of works.
It seems that a lot of artists and designers are interested in thinking deeper about how the world is functioning right now, what is and isn't working and how media is influencing this. If designers create high quality and exciting work that also has good ethical intentions behind it I believe there can be significant changes made to our society through design and other arts.

Fortunately, science fiction; a genre of film I enjoy designing for is loaded with concerns about the future, take District 9 for example which examines race relations in South Africa through the use of Aliens.

RR: Are there any cases of this happening in your practice or in the wider industry that you thought were interesting or different?
DV: I did find in the industry and from certain key persons in industry that ethics are a continual concern. There are good intentions around this area as far as I know, and when a problem arises. I am aware of deep research been doing into areas of ethical concern.
RR: How far do we push that with clients or bosses?
DV: Making a boss or client aware of the potential ethical issues I think is important yet I can understand the perils of business and that sometimes jobs must be taken despite the ethical problems with them. Reducing the ethical impact of the job and 'treading lightly' around touchy topics is better than going out of business in my opinion. Absolution doesn't help anyone.
Despite never working for them; I would prefer just to walk away from some businesses such as tobacco, fast food and oil as the basis of them is ethically challenging for me.

RR: Any advice for young designers on navigating this space in their careers/beyond?
DV: Stay true to what you believe is right, film and games are an exceptionally strong influence on our society so use it wisely. Sometimes there may be compromise to survive as an artist or designer but keep the intentions good in the big picture.