professionalism for designers


‘Professionals’ strive to achieve the best, most robust possible outcomes rather than settle for the minimum required. What we call ‘being a professional’ is a combination of a commitment to a high standard of performance and integrity, with a perspective on the needs of individuals as well as society.

Professionalism is 'an ideology that asserts greater commitment to doing good work than to economic gain and to the quality rather than the economic efficiency of work.’ (Friedson, 2001 ). To expand on this idea, the professional has a responsibility to the societies they live in that goes beyond immediate financial remuneration. Professionalism is the difference between doing something for immediate personal gain or gratification (regardless of the impact on others), and doing something because it is right, and builds long-term confidence in the profession at large.

The initial step towards professionalism is self-awareness and self-definition. Only once the community of practitioners adopts a common approach can the wider society be expected to acknowledge the professional standing of the discipline. And only at that point can the discipline benefit from enhanced respect, status and influence – and the related independence and material by-products. The common cause required for the establishment of professional standing requires structured community recognition – a professional association.

What is called 'being a professional' in the field of design is a combination of three elements. The commitment to:

  • a high standard of professional performance (ensuring personal capacities to provide high standard designing; this is based on initial and on-going education, and on a professional approach, mindset and outlook)
  • a high standard of professional conduct (integrity, honesty, transparency, etc.; this relates to ethical practices and relationships with clients, collaborators and colleagues)
  • a high standard of professional responsibility to society (this relates to professional obligations to the greater community, humanity and the planet)

The reputation of the design profession stands on the individual performance of all designers. Designers have a clear responsibility to their peers to publicly uphold the values of the profession as representatives thereof and to maintain a high level of standard at all times so as positively affect perception of the profession.