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Design ethics

As i was doing research for my essay topic i ran across an interesting and relavent article. As i was thinking about what a graphic designer should be and how they should see themselves i was gathering a list of traits and characteristics. I figured that there would be such lists in other forums to match some of the ideas that i had. I found this list on a website called Design Stamp. The post i found was called 10 indicators of an ethical designer. After reviewing my list created for my paper and this list i found a lot of similarities and found that although it wouldn’t help my paper i would help me as a graphic designer. This list puts the important parts of what it is to be a good graphic designer to the front of my mind and helps me see what I’m to expect in the real world and what will be expected of me. Near the end of the list is my favorite because it’s less about money and stealing ideas and focuses more on the fact that if you like being a good graphic designer than you will more likely to be one. This overoptimism is freshing and encourages my strive to become a better designer.

Indicators that the designer you have hired is ethical.

  1. They are able to prove value. A designer should not only make things that look good but also be able to help explain the value of what they design in a larger context. They can help you answers questions such as: Why is a website important to your business? How can you distinguish yourself from your competition? How can you prove benefit to your target audience?
  2. They do not work for free. Hard to believe it but some designers will actually create mockups for free. These designers tend to be self-taught armchair designers who are unclear of the value of their own work and will give away generic work in the hopes of generating a portfolio or getting clients who can’t afford professional designers. A designer should not pitch work for free. You, as a client, may expect a proposal of features and benefits for free but you should not expect proposed designs for free. More at
  3. They cannot design in a vacuum. Beware of designers who are able to promise that they can make you a good looking website without even talking to you first. Chances are they are providing you with a template design that may look good but does not speak to your specific needs (both from a business or audience perspective)
  4. They are unable to steal. Simply put they will be inspired by the work of others but will never blatantly steal code or images to create identical work for you. Its one thing to copy functionality if you believe that something work’s well. Competition is healthy but stealing is not.
  5. They will not undercut. Good designers know the value of their own skills and input into a project and will not wait to find out what a competitors charges to undercut prices and steal business.
  6. They offer tangible and intangible products. Good designers are able to prove value for both their intangible and tangible products and processes. An ethical designer follows a tried and true design process and can bring value at any stage of that process, not just at the end when they deliver a physical interface or design. You should look for designers who offer consultancy services for intangible processes such as uncovering needs, market research, competitive analysis, design research, usability reviews etc.
  7. They give back. Every business has a responsibility to give back to the community in which they live. Ethical designers believe in creating strong design communities and will share resources, tips and techniques with other designers.
  8. They listen. Designers who realize that they have an enormous responsibility of representing the end-user and aligning business goals to user objectives cannot help but be good listeners. They will pay special heed to understanding the context in which they are designing and ask lots of good questions to help educate themselves.
  9. They love what they do. This is a bit subjective but in my experience there is a direct correlation in a designer who truly loves what he/she does for a living and how they conduct themselves in a professional manner. Designers who appreciate their role and revel in the power and responsibility of design will function as consummate professionals.
  10. They will work for projects they can stand behind. This is a toughie. Everyone has differing views on what is right and what is wrong. Some designers will never work for Nike because they have heard of Nike’s dealings with alleged slave labor. Others will have no qualms of working with Nike even though they know of this issue but do not condone Nike’s behavior. To me, as long as I can justify my work, my involvement and am able to include a piece of work in my portfolio and have pride in claiming it as my own, I will work for that client. Everyone should have an informed point of view and be able to stand behind their work, whatever their stand on the issue.

One Comment

  1. Anne Kerns wrote:

    Another indicator of an ethical designer is one who has promised to uphold the AIGA Standards of Professional Practice. Check it out here:

    Thursday, March 6, 2008 at 3:29 pm | Permalink