We define 'professional conduct' as the manner in which a designer comports themselves professionally. Professional conduct relates to ethical practices and relationships with clients, collaborators and colleagues.
Above all, a designer should uphold the values of honour, dignity, truthfulness, honesty, morality and integrity in everything they undertake.
ADVOCATING AND EDUCATING
It is the responsibility of designers to convey the value of design to clients, end users, government and the general public. They should be active advocates in showing the potential of design to address issues of equity, health and safety, quality of life, environmental sustainability, inclusivity, accessibility, cultural diversity and the advancement of the human condition. It is also important to address the potential negative impacts of poorly conceived design in terms of possible social, cultural and environmental impacts and implications of possible technological and data manipulation impacting privacy. In so doing, the stature of designers is enhanced, along with their influence and appreciation of the value of their services.
Designers should uphold all legal obligations in the country they practice. This may relate to copyright and regulation, font and image licensing, piracy, plagiarism and appropriation, as well as health and safety standards, environmental standards and reporting, adequate product testing, Intellectual Property (IP) legislation and any other relevant laws and regulations.
It is the role of the designer to inform clients about intellectual property rights, issues relating to data protection regulation, privacy rights, crediting work, health and safety standards, environmental standards, accessibility standards, etc.
As a matter of professional reputation, designers should always honour their written, verbal and contractual commitments to clients, suppliers, collaborators and employees. A designer should not enter into a commitment that is or could cause a breach of codes of professional conduct.
CLEAR CONTRACTUAL UNDERSTANDINGS
Contracts should clearly describe the scope and nature of the project, the services to be rendered and the manner of compensation for those services, including all potential fees or charges, through clear and inclusive terms and conditions. All costs associated with the design services offered should be clearly stated in advance. The design process should be explained clearly as to convey the sources of costs that could be potentially incurred. The designer should not receive any form of undisclosed compensation.
If subcontracting portions of a design project, the hiring designer should inform their client and obtain their approval. A formal agreement should be established between the designer and any subcontractors and the designer should keep their client informed of these.
INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS
Whether applicable in the country in which a designer practices or not, the professional designer is beholden to understand and respect their own copyrights and other intellectual property rights and the intellectual property rights of other creatives, and to transmit this information to clients.
The designer’s intellectual property rights
A designer must not give up the intellectual property rights of their designs without appropriate compensation and with appropriate legal documentation so as not to undermine the rights of all designers. Designers must not allow that their work be copied or used without permission and are encouraged to contact copyright infringers to request that they cease using the work or compensate the designer for the use. Designers must not allow their work to be used uncredited, where technically and practically possible.
Using the intellectual property of others
Design professionals often use works from other creative disciplines, including photography, patented components, illustration, typography, textile design, written materials, etc. When using the work of others, permissions must be obtained, licenses procured, and credit given. Designers must not use the work of others without their express consent and attributing proper credit. They must not take credit for the work of others. They must not copy the work of others. Designers must uphold these values strictly.
Data use and privacy
Current technologies based on data collection and mining raise important privacy questions. Designers are well positioned to ensure that proper standards are introduced and maintained by their designs. A designer should not cause or create any design that misleads or deceives the end user into volunteering information, undermining their own privacy, or otherwise unknowingly acting against their own interests.
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
Designers can find themselves in conflicts of interest in certain facets of their professional life. Situations in which the designer is in a position to derive personal benefit from actions or decisions made in their professional capacity must be adequately disclosed to insure transparency.
When asked for a professional referral, a designer should not recommend the services of their own studio or a studio they are related to without disclosing the relationship. They must not recommend any third-party company from which they expect to receive compensation of any kind, unless explicitly disclosed.
Working with competing clients
If the designer has a current working relationship with a direct competitor of a potential client, both the clients should be duly informed so as to avoid conflict of interest.
Sitting on a jury
A designer should not sit on a jury where they or their studio will stand to benefit from their participation in the jury. A sitting design juror must disclose and recuse themselves from any judgement on any work that is their own or that they or their studio have or will derive benefit from.
A designer should respect the confidentiality of their clients, ensuring that any private information, competitive advantage (patents, intellectual property) or other information obtained within this confidential relationship is protected. Privileged information obtained through the client relationship (including future plans, production capabilities and business strategy), should be treated as confidential. The designer should not, at any time, divulge privileged information without the consent of the client.
All designers should work for fair compensation. Offering rates below fair market value to clients to win contracts is unethical, as it undermines the value of the work of all designers.
Cost versus value
Designers are discouraged from competing purely on the basis of price. Design is not a commodity with a market price equal to its cost of production or utility value. Design is an activity that creates value for clients and end users. Designers should be fairly compensated for a share of the value they create and not simply for the cost of providing the service. Pure fee competition undermines the value of the profession, the ability of designers to produce good design, and ultimately reduces the potential for value creation. Designers, through their professional organisation, should advocate for design procurement methodologies that fairly share the value created by design, and incentivise the maximisation of value creation in the interests of clients, end users and all of humanity
Designers should under no conditions participate in what is called speculative practice or ‘spec’ work (also known as ‘free pitching’). Spec work is providing unpaid work in the hopes to obtain a paid contract. Though this practice is common in some industries it is considered unethical in design. Spec work diminishes the value of design services and it encourages poor practice.
It is widely misunderstood that the Latin ‘pro bono’ means ‘for free’. In fact, the term means ‘for good.’ To work to advance a deserving cause is encouraged. However, the precise working relationship between the designer and the recipient should be carefully determined, defined and described in an agreement. The conditions of unremunerated work, including ownership of rights, should be adhered to strictly. The value of the design services rendered should be communicated clearly to the pro bono recipient.
Competition among designers for contracts should be transparent and honest. No designer should: misrepresent themselves or their competitors, take credit for work that they did not create or make untrue claims or misleading statements about experience or level of qualifications, standing or affiliation.
Unfair damage to reputation
Under no circumstances should any designer damage the reputation of another. Designers should speak with candour and fairness of their colleagues and not participate in slander as a basis to compete for work, recognition or for any other reason. Basic professional respect should be accorded to colleagues.
Designers acting in a representational capacity should consider these an opportunity to educate. They should not take part in events that do not comply with basic standards for respecting designers and intellectual copyright. Examples of ‘acting in a representational capacity’ could be sitting on a jury, speaking at a conference, curating an exhibit. Awards that have high hidden fees, exhibits that do not respect copyrights, conferences that misrepresent design, are all examples of events that diminish designers and design.
ETHICAL TREATMENT OF EMPLOYEES
Employees deserve to work in a safe work environment that respects their basic human rights. Promotions and job assignment should be fair and non-discriminatory. Employers should compensate their employees fairly and adequately, both in salary and the payment of overtime. Employers are responsible for the professional development of their employees, which they can do by assigning mentors for new tasks, on-the job training or
Principle of pay equity proposes that if two different job posts contribute equal value to their employer’s operations, then the employees in those positions should receive equal pay. This is often referred to regarding gender disparities but can be applied in other situations.
SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL ORGANISATION AND DESIGN COMMUNITY INFRASTRUCTURE
In order to enhance recognition of the design as a profession, designers should actively support their local and international professional design organisations. Designers should participate actively in their community through advocacy, mentorship, judging design competitions, etc. Professional designers should be
involved in design education and design education institutions should interact with design professionals and the organisations that represent them. Designers are encouraged to undertake research, both commercial and academic, that advances the knowledge and standing of the design profession. Advocating and educating is best accomplished through coordinated efforts and messaging.