Elliot Stansfield

Founder and Designer at Stansfield Design Studio

"You can't design for something that you wouldn't stand behind outside of the design world"

Raphael Roake: I've been wondering and talking to people in the industry about how they navigate ethics within their work. So do you do that, with say picking up new clients or particular jobs that you do for clients?
Elliot Stansfield: Yeah definitely. I think it’s become more prominent now I’m independent and I can decide which projects I work on. I know a lot of designers in big agencies probably aren't in a position to choose who they do work for. Every time I go to work with a client I need to know that their product and the way in which they go about their business reflects the design that they're asking for and that I feel comfortable doing work for them. I guess I'm aware of how powerful design can be and I don't really want it to be for the wrong people and the wrong reasons. You won't catch me doing a marketing campaign for Trump any time soon.

RR: You know it's interesting because there’s so many different sorts of facets and shades of grey. People think about it in terms of the designer-client relationship but then there's the client-customer relationship. Then, say if you work with someone who's manufacturing goods, what processes in terms of the manufacturing process and then the acquisition of what they're manufacturing and then you get into the design of the typefaces, you've got image use, you've got paper stock...
ES: Yeah definitely. I’m sure it can be quite difficult to know what’s going on behind the scenes sometimes. For example, you mentioned the production of products and I don't particularly work with companies who produce on a large scale. But if I did, I suspect it would be difficult to know exactly what materials they’re using and where they’re sourcing them from. Obviously you can't be the moderator for those kind of things because you're not an expert. I mean, you're a designer, so you've got to apply some sort of common sense to it. Do what you can in regards to research and then look at the industry. A lot of industries have standards that assess quality and give you something to measure them against, that can often be a good way to tick the boxes on the client side.
RR: I've talked to a few people, one guy who you might know, Christopher Doyle?
ES: Yeah, his work’s great.
RR: He said to me that they've actually got a bunch of industries that they don’t want to engage with. He didn't stipulate what those were. But I did assume it's probably going to be in Australia, something like the mining industry and stuff like that. Do you have anything like that?
ES: Well luckily, my clients are mostly small businesses and they create quite fun and easy products that you can easily get behind. I don't deal with much smoke and mirrors. With most of my clients, I can go buy the product and sample it in person. I guess I'm not the target designer for clients like oil and gas companies and things like that. But yeah sure, there's definitely a hesitation. If I was approached, I would certainly have to make sure that it was something I was behind. I think it comes down to a political stance as well. You can't design for something that you wouldn't stand behind outside of the design world you know. Your work can't exist in a vacuum. So when you look at your Instagram feed, I suppose it needs to represent work that you would want to see other designers doing. I'd be disappointed in myself if I designed for a company that I didn't believe or trust.