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Around this time of year, lists begin to appear everywhere, recapping on the best of the year on all levels and in all walks of life. It is also the time of year for institutional recognition. So far, nothing new. It surprised, and delighted us, however to see published, on the 4th of January, 2013, that the artist Jan has decided to decline the Gold Medal for Merit in Fine Arts awarded by the Spanish Ministry for Culture citing “personal ethics”. Almost simultaneously, the French comic artist, Jacques Tardi, rejected the Legion of Honour awarded by the French government because he didn´t wish to “receive anything from the current government.” This indeed was new. Or was it?

Perhaps not. A quick internet search revealed that the painter Claude Monet did exactly the same as Tardi and, more recently, the Spaniard Daniel Gil would have nothing to do with the National Design Award of 2001. The sculptor Santiago Serra refused the National Plastic Arts Award because, as he said in a statement, “art has given me a freedom which I don’t wish to renounce.”, and, in 2012, Javier Marias remarked that it would have been a disgrace to accept the National Fiction Prize.

All this may lead us to reflect on the exploitation of artists and art, and to ask ourselves if the acceptance of institutional awards is reconcilable with the desire to freely express ourselves through art. However, it’s time discuss something else. This is a design post after all, and we would like to salvage from all this some of the blogs from designers who possess the same ethical approach as that which comic book artist Juan Lopez Fernandez, known as Jan, spoke about. It’s another good way to start off the year.

With the same title and critical intentions as the work of Aldous Huxley, there is the Un Mundo Feliz blog. We would also recommend the selection of blogs listed therein.

Voces con futura is a wonderful blog where you can find posters by designers with conscience.

Grafous describes itself as a social, sustainable, activist, graphic design blog. Keep an eye on it.

Ethical design doesn’t have to be opposed to marketing. If you need proof, check this blog, Osocio: “the best of non-profit advertising and marketing for social cause”.

On an international scale, we can also highlight Art Threat: culture and politics.

Back on the Spanish front, another blog we have to mention another of our favourites (there are plenty others we should mention, and of course we invite you to extend the selection) Democracia, and their corresponding blog Contraindicaciones.

We finish up by citing a declaration of what design ought to be. That’s right, design for design’s sake, without the need for adjectives like “social” or “critical”, because design in itself is an opinion.