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The Professional Designer's Work Ethic: 10 Commandments

I’ve done a lot of reading about ethics and standards recently, and it got me thinking about how they apply to designers. We all reach from different places, and along the way we form opinions on all sorts of things. We also construct mistakes, sometimes taking jobs that may compromise our ethics a touch, just for the cash. I believe instead we should form a system of beliefs and stick to them. Which is exactly what I did here.

I keep together 10 of the things that I believe should be a share of a designer’s work ethic. Ten. That’s a beneficial number. Maybe we should call them the 10 Commandments of Ethical Designers? I don’t know, we can work on the title. But in the meantime, just read the list.

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I shall not steal.

I know, beneficial artists copy; distinguished artists steal. I’ve heard it all before. But there is a incompatibility between stealing elements of a work as inspiration, and stealing it from whole cloth.

We fetch our inspiration from everywhere, and sometimes it’s easy to see someone else’s design and believe, “Man, if only I could carry out it like that person did.” If you sell that understanding as your own, you’re stealing. And that’s the line you don’t cross.

Now behold: mistakes happen. I’ve designed something I thought was my own only to find out that I was inspired by a pin on Pinterest or something. And when I came to that realization, I apologized profusely and stopped working with the design entirely. But if you don’t construct that call, you’re the one in the mistaken.

I will deliver items on time.

I dislike being late. I sing this knowing full well that I’ve turned in work at midnight the night it is due — and even been late a time or twelve. But I will freely admit that this is unprofessional. I should maintain my deliverables done with more than enough time, which would then give my clients enough time to carry out their job.

But this comes down to respect, something I’ll touch upon later. You want to treat your clients with respect, and, in turn, you should fetch the same back. By taking deadlines seriously, you’re doing just that. And if you carry out finish up in a situation where you are going to be late, give them as much notice as possible.

I will not cause anyone harm because of my designs.

Ever had a crappy chair? A poorly designed chair can wreck your back, as has been the case for me many times before. Someone designed that thing, and because their design doesn’t work for me, it puts me in physical pain. Who wants that?

I don’t believe people intentionally carry out poor designs, but I carry out believe that sometimes designing by committee or pushing things past your comfort level can produce crappy results. When there are too many cooks in the kitchen, you fetch crappy food, and the same applies to design. Don’t let yourself descend into that trap, and if you see something start to proceed south, speak up. It could be the incompatibility between a quality product and a pain in the back.

I will design for everyone and anyone, not just someone.

The other day I was in a call center, and as I walked through the aisles, I noticed the screen of one of the employees was not only huge — 32-inches, I believe — but incredibly zoomed in. I paused, took a closer behold and realized that the gentleman in question was visually impaired. I didn’t demand how or why, but what I did notice was that he was able to perform just as well as anyone else, he just did it differently. And because of the way his workstation was laid out, he was able to carry out so efficiently.

Companies like Apple are constantly thinking about accessibility. They want everyone to expend their devices, not just those of us that aren’t differently abled. Just engage a behold at this video of a blind man using his iPhone:

Crazy, moral? Now you, as a designer, need to believe the same way. Whether you’re designing for the web or for the physical world, construct sure you believe of accessibility for everyone, not just yourself. It’s worth the extra effort.

I will not undersell my value.

I’ve done some work with a client, and almost every time he pitches me a job, he follows it up with, “Too expensive.” Whatever, I brush it off and rush on my way. But one day he says, “maintain you ever heard of (insert cheap design service site)? I fetch a ton of revisions over there. Super cold.” OK then. Guess I won’t be working with that guy anytime soon.

beneficial work is not cheap, and cheap work is not beneficial. I’m sure many of the designers selling their work for such low prices are nice people, and I’m sure some carry out distinguished work. But by selling themselves for low dollar amounts, they’re bringing down the perceived value for the rest of us. It’s why I don’t work for free, and neither should you. Never undersell your value.

I will play well with others.

There’s this guy that I’ve worked with a bunch recently that grates my nerves. He uses phrases like “information transfer” instead of “talk,” and humblebrags about the price of his home. But as much as he makes me want to engage a bat to the computer when we carry out a Skype call, I treat him with respect, just like I want to be treated. It’s the professional thing to carry out.

Playing well with others may seem like a preschooler’s rule, but it applies to adults, too. We’re all going to maintain people that are tough to work with, but we maintain to manage. And heck, maybe they believe that you’re the difficult one. So construct sure to pass around the respect, because it’s necessary.

I will contribute to the greater beneficial, not promote the worst.

We’re not all destined to create the next iPhone, and our designs may never win any awards. But you can work for companies and people that you feel contribute to the greater beneficial, not promote the worst that humans maintain to offer.

I once interviewed with a company that had a history of doing some very sexist things. It was enough of an issue that I considered turning down any offer that came my way, but none ever did. Then, a few years later, they came back and things had changed. Not only was there fresh management involved (as it turns out, they had just begun when I interviewed the first time), but they were making sweeping changes to remedy the company’s past. This time when the offer came, I took it. Were things at the company to maintain gone along the extinct ways, I would’ve passed.

We all maintain standards, and it’s necessary to stick with them.

I will treat my clients with respect.

Just like you expect a certain level of respect from your clients, you should give out the same. Why? For the same reasons you should treat people in general with respect: you don’t know their situation.

This is a lesson that took me a long time to learn, but when I did, it hit me hard. We, as people, are the product of our life’s experiences. I construct the decisions that I construct because of the life I’ve led, as carry out you. So it’s not unprejudiced to judge them because you maintain no understanding of where they reach from.

This is one of those general rules that you should live by regardless of your profession, but considering the antagonistic relationships we can maintain with our clients, I believe it’s worth mentioning.

I will not belittle my colleagues’ work.

Ever talk smack about fellow designers? I know I’ve been guilty of this before, and in hindsight, I believe it’s a inferior position to maintain. Going back to our previous thought, it’s necessary to extend our respect to other people in our profession. After all, they’ve seen their unprejudiced share of ups and downs, just like us. We should treat them as comrades in arms, not the competition.

I know, it’s fun to talk smack about people sometimes. Heck, I’ve made a career out of it. But it’s not unprejudiced to them to judge them unfairly, and who’s to sing that you’re as awesome as you believe, anyway? Are you so much better than them that you maintain room to talk smack? Probably not. So don’t.

I will establish my own personal guidelines, and then hold real to them daily.

I played around with the understanding of a personal manifesto a few years back, because I was looking for meaning in my own life. I created a short version of one, and it’s something I refer back to quite frequently. It’s a way to construct sure that the decisions I construct are in line with my personal beliefs, and that I don’t stray too far from that path.

You don’t maintain to call it a manifesto, but I carry out believe we, as designers, should maintain our own guidelines and stick to them. You can expend some of the ones listed here, or, should you feel strongly about another position, expend that. But then continue to check in time-to-time with those statements. Adjust them as necessary, and proceed from there. It’s necessary to maintain a stance on things, and then hold real to those beliefs.

Execution is everything.

Now it’s up to you. engage these guidelines as your own and proceed forth, or construct up some of your own. Either way, carry out something to set some standards for yourself because, in the finish, our beliefs are all we maintain. Stick to them.


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