Looking at what makes a 'good' designer – integrity and how we interact with clients, suppliers and fellow creatives.

I decided I wanted to be a more ethical designer because I was no longer happy to work with companies whose ethics didn’t align with my own. Now I focus on using my skills to support positive rather than negative impacts on society and the environment – it’s a good start, but I think being an ethical designer is more than just working with ethical clients. It’s about having integrity.

Integrity: 1. ‘the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles that you refuse to change' 2. ‘someone's high artistic standards or standards of doing their job, and that person’s determination not to lower those standards'

Cambridge dictionary

Lets take a closer look at how those definitions relate to being an ethical designer. The ‘strong moral principles that you refuse to change' is about the projects you choose to work on and the companies you choose to support with your skills. For me it was why I decided to shift my focus to working with ethical clients.

'It is important to understand that what we design is not neutral. In fact design is an inherently ethical activity'.

Jet Gispen, Ethics for Designers Toolkit (a good place to start if you want to get a better understanding of the ethics of design)

The ‘high artistic standards or standards of doing their job, and that person’s determination not to lower those standards' is about how a designer chooses to conduct themselves in relation to clients, suppliers and fellow creatives. I think (hope) most good designers probably have an internal code of conduct of some sort. Here’s mine…

Code of conduct:

  • be open, honest and respectful to clients, co-workers and suppliers

  • stick to confidentiality agreements, and be careful not to work with clients that have directly opposing ideas or competing products

  • support other industry professionals by crediting their work

  • charge fair and reasonable fees (based on skills and experience) for the work I do

I'm not actually very keen on the term ‘ethical designer’ but it’s a straightforward way of explaining my way of working. Words like considered, conscious, responsible or aware feel better but they are a bit more ambiguous so I’m going with ethical for now :)

READ MORE For more tips on how you can be a more ethical, responsible designer check out my posts Being a Conscious Consumer and Ethical Electronics.