Code of Professional Conduct

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  • Professionalism.
  • Preamble

    Design professionals have certain fundamental obligations to society, to clients, to the profession, and to peers and colleagues. The Code of Professional Conduct states guidelines and rules for the conduct of design professionals in fulfilling those obligations. The Code is arranged in three tiers of statements: Canons, Ethical Standards, and Rules of Conduct.

  • Canons are broad principles of conduct.
  • Ethical Standards are more specific goals to which design professionals should aspire in professional performance and behavior.
  • Rules of Conduct (Rule) are mandatory; violation of a Rule is grounds for dismissal from The Academy. Rules, in some instances, implement more than one canon or ethical standard.

The Code applies to the professional activities of all categories of design professionals, across the many industry disciplines. Membership in The Academy of Design Professionals is voluntary. By accepting membership, a designer assumes an obligation of self discipline above and beyond the requirements of laws and regulations.

Compliance with the Code, as with all law and rules in an open society, depends primarily upon understanding and voluntary compliance, secondarily upon reinforcement by peer and public scrutiny, and finally, when necessary, upon enforcement through disciplinary action against members who fail to comply with the Rules. The Code does not, however, exhaust the moral and ethical considerations that should inform a design professional, for no worthwhile human activity can be completely defined by laws or rules. Even so, the Code is wholly concerned with ethical constraints for professionalism; the Rules are not compromised by elements concerning social agendas or activism, but simply provide a moral and rational framework for the ethical practice of design.

Where it appears, commentary is meant to clarify or elaborate the intent of a rule. The commentary is not part of the Code and is included to assist those seeking to conform their conduct to the Code.

This Code is intended to promote the highest quality of practice in all forms of design and to strengthen public confidence in the profession. Toward that end, The Academy of Design Professionals sets forth the following.

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  • Section 1: General Obligations

    Design professionals should maintain and advance their knowledge of the art, craft, and science of design, respect the body of design accomplishment, and contribute to its growth. Design professionals should exercise learned and uncompromised professional judgment over any other motive in the pursuit of the art, craft, and science of design, even at the expense of personal advantage.
Ethical Standard 1.1: Knowledge and Skill
Design professionals should strive to improve their professional and technical knowledge and skill.
Rule 1.11:
In practicing design, design professionals shall demonstrate a consistent pattern of reasonable care and competence and shall, at minimum, apply the professional and technical knowledge and skill which is ordinarily applied by designers of good standing practicing in the same locality.
Ethical Standard 1.2: Standards of Excellence
Design professionals should continually seek to raise the standards of aesthetic and functional excellence, design education, research, training, practice, and professional excellence.
Ethical Standard 1.3: Human Rights
Design professionals should uphold human rights in all their professional endeavors.
Rule 1.31:
A design professional shall refuse to engage in or support discrimination against individuals on the basis of race, sex, age, religion, national origin, sexual orientation or disability.
Ethical Standard 1.4: Promotion of the Design Professions
Design professionals should promote the profession and contribute to the knowledge and capability of the design professions as a whole.
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  • Section 2: Obligations to the Public

    Design professionals should embrace the spirit and letter of the law governing their professional affairs and should promote and serve the public interest in their professional activities.
Ethical Standard 2.1: Conduct
Design professionals should uphold the law in the conduct of their professional activities.
Rule 2.11:
Design professionals shall not, in the conduct of their professional practice, knowingly or unknowingly violate the law.
Commentary: As ignorance of the law offers no mitigation of offense or punishment under the law. Therefore, ignorance offers no mitigation of this rule.
Rule 2.12:
A design professional shall neither offer nor make any payment or gift to a public official with the intent of influencing the official's judgment in connection with an existing or prospective project in which the designer is interested.
Commentary: This rule does not prohibit campaign contributions made in conformity with applicable campaign financing laws
Rule 2.13:
A design professional serving in a public capacity shall not accept payments or gifts which are intended to influence their judgment.
Rule 2.14:
A design professional shall not knowingly engage in work where the aim or result is misleading, deceptive, or false by intent or substance.
Rule 2.15:
A design professional shall not engage in conduct involving fraud or wanton disregard of the rights of others.
Commentary: This rule addresses serious misconduct whether or not related to a designer's professional practice.
Rule 2.16:
If, in the course of their work on a project, a design professional becomes aware of a decision exercised or prescribed by their employer or client which is fraudulent or violates any law or regulation, the designer shall: (1) advise their employer or client against the decision, (2) refuse to consent to the decision, and (3) report the decision to the appropriate authority, unless the design professional is able to cause the matter to be satisfactorily resolved by other means.
Rule 2.17:
A design professional shall not counsel or assist a client in conduct that the designer knows, or reasonably should know, is fraudulent or illegal.
Ethical Standard 2.2: Civic Responsibility
Design professionals should be involved in civic activities as citizens and professionals, and should strive to improve public appreciation and understanding of design and the functions and responsibilities of designers.
Rule 2.21:
Design professionals making public statements on design issues shall disclose when they are being compensated for making such statements or when they have an economic interest in the issue.
Rule 2.22:
A design professional, while engaged in the practice or instruction of design, shall not knowingly do anything that constitutes a deliberate or reckless disregard for the health and safety of the communities in which he or she lives and practices or the privacy of the individuals and businesses therein.
Rule 2.23:
A design professional shall consider environmental, economic, and cultural implications of his or her work and endeavor to minimize the adverse impacts.
Rule 2.24:
A design professional shall not knowingly make use of goods or services offered by manufacturers, suppliers or contractors that are accompanied by an obligation that is substantively detrimental to the best interests of his or her client, other individuals, or the environment.
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  • Section 3: Obligations to Clients

    Design professionals should serve their clients in a competent and professional manner and shall otherwise act in the client's best interest within the limits of professional responsibility.
Ethical Standard 3.1: Competence
Design professionals should serve their clients in a timely, lawful, and competent manner.
Rule 3.11:
In performing professional services, a design professional shall take into account applicable laws and regulations. A design professional may rely on the advice of other qualified persons as to the intent and meaning of such regulations.
Rule 3.12:
A design professional shall undertake to perform professional services only when they, together with those whom they may engage as consultants, are qualified by education, training, or experience in the specific technical areas involved.
Ethical Standard 3.2: Contracts, Fees & Billing
Project contracts should embody clarity and be functionally comprehensive, and project estimates should be reasonably specific and accurate.
Rule 3.21:
A design professional shall in the conduct of professional practice produce work only as clearly described in a mutually executed contract(s) that accounts for the project's scope, deliverables, costs, terms, and the relevant obligations of all involved parties.
Commentary: This rule is intended to require that all professionally contracted work be performed according to a binding scope of responsibilities, rather than with mere verbal agreements or undefined elements. In short, all professional design work must be accomplished under clearly defined, legal, and mutual constraints.
Rule 3.22:
A design professional shall not materially alter the contractually defined scope, objectives, or catalog of deliverable components of a project without the client's consent.
Ethical Standard 3.3: Conflict of Interest
Design professionals should avoid conflicts of interest in their professional practices and fully disclose all unavoidable conflicts as they arise.
Rule 3.31:
A design professional shall not render professional services if the designer's professional judgment or quality of performance could be affected by responsibilities to another project or person, or by the designer's own interests, unless all those who rely on the designer's judgment consent after full disclosure.
Commentary: This rule is intended to embrace the full range of situations that may present a design professional with a conflict between his interests or responsibilities and the interest of others. Those who are entitled to disclosure may include a client, owner, employer, contractor, supplier, or others who rely on or are affected by the designer's professional decisions. A designer who cannot appropriately communicate about a conflict directly with an affected person must take steps to ensure that disclosure is made by other means.
Ethical Standard 3.4: Candor and Truthfulness
Design professionals should be candid and truthful in their professional communications and keep their clients reasonably informed about the clients' projects.
Rule 3.41:
A design professional shall not intentionally or recklessly mislead existing or prospective clients about the results that can be achieved through the use of the designer's services, nor shall the design professional state that they can achieve results by means that violate applicable law or this Code.
Ethical Standard 3.5: Security
Design professionals should employ reasonable safeguards in systems and practices to protect the confidentiality of project materials—both analog and digital.
Ethical Standard 3.6: Confidentiality
Design professionals should safeguard the trust placed in them by their clients.
Rule 3.61:
A design professional shall not knowingly disclose information that would adversely affect their client or that they have been asked to maintain in confidence, including all knowledge of a client's intentions, production methods, and business organization, except as otherwise allowed or required by this Code or applicable law. Details of all work in progress prior to the completion of a project shall likewise be kept in confidence except as allowed by the consent of the client.
Commentary: To encourage the full and open exchange of information necessary for a successful professional project relationship, design professionals must recognize and respect the sensitive nature of confidential client communications. Because the law does not recognize a designer-client privilege, however, the rule permits a designer to reveal a confidence when a failure to do so would be unlawful or contrary to another ethical duty imposed by this Code.
Ethical Standard 3.7: Integrity
Design professionals should uncompromisingly maintain their integrity.
Rule 3.71:
A client or employer issuing instructions that involve violation of this Code should be corrected by the designer, or the designer should refuse the assignment.
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  • Section 4: Obligations to the Profession

    Design professionals should uphold the integrity and dignity of the profession.
Ethical Standard 4.1: Compensation
Design professionals should uphold the fundamental morality of profit, free from destructive interests or conflicts of interest.
Rule 4.11:
A design professional shall work only for a fee, a royalty, salary, or other agreed-upon ethical form of compensation.
Commentary: This rule is meant to preclude the design professional from retaining any kickbacks, hidden discounts, commission, allowances or payment in kind from contractors or suppliers.
Rule 4.12:
A design professional shall not participate in work that, in aim or substance, denies or works to deny the inherent value of design, the value of an individual's genius, effort, or creation, or the value of an individual's property.
Commentary: This rule is intended compel design professionals to carefully evaluate pitch invitations and preclude their engaging in any form of spec work.
Rule 4.13:
Independent design professionals shall not be party to a contract or engage in work that compromises the integrity of their copyright ownership.
Commentary: This rule is meant to prohibit the designer's engagement in work for hire or other schemes that compromise a designer's legal property rights.
Rule 4.14:
A design professional speaking or writing in a professional capacity shall not knowingly make false statements of material fact.
Commentary: This rule applies to statements made in all professional contexts, including communications with clients, employers, employees, in instructive articles and white papers, or while speaking to individuals or groups.
Ethical Standard 4.2: Dignity and Integrity
Design professionals should strive, through their actions, to promote the dignity and integrity of the profession, and to ensure that their representatives and employees conform their conduct to this Code.
Rule 4.21:
A design professional shall not make misleading, deceptive, or false statements or claims about their professional qualifications, experience, or performance.
Rule 4.22:
A design professional shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that those over whom they have supervisory authority conform their conduct to this Code.
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  • Section 5: Obligations to Peers and Colleagues

    Design professionals should respect the rights and acknowledge the professional aspirations and contributions of their colleagues.
Ethical Standard 5.1: Professional Environment
Design professionals should provide their associates and employees with a suitable working environment, compensate them fairly, and facilitate their professional development.
Ethical Standard 5.2: Professional Development
Design professionals should recognize and fulfill their obligation to nurture fellow professionals as they progress through all stages of their career.
Ethical Standard 5.3: Professional Recognition
Design professionals should build their professional reputations on the merits of their own service and performance and should recognize and give credit to others for the professional work they have performed.
Rule 5.31:
Design professionals shall recognize and respect the professional contributions of their employees, employers, professional colleagues, and business associates. When not the sole author of a design, the design professional shall accurately state the scope and nature of their responsibilities in connection with work for which they are claiming credit.
Rule 5.32:
A design professional leaving an agency shall not, without the permission of their employer or partner, take designs, drawings, data, reports, notes, or other materials relating to the agency’s work, whether or not performed by the designer.
Rule 5.33:
A design professional shall not unreasonably withhold permission from a departing employee or partner to take copies of designs, drawings, data, reports, notes, or other materials relating to work performed by the employee or partner that are not confidential.
Ethical Standard 5.4: Honesty & Courtesy
Design professionals should pursue their professional activities with honesty and courtesy.
Rule 5.41:
In the course of pursuing business opportunities, a design professional shall not seek advantage by criticizing another designer or agency or attempt, directly or indirectly, to supplant or compete with another designer or agency by means of unethical inducements.
Rule 5.42:
A design professional shall be objective in publicly criticizing another designer's work and shall not baselessly denigrate the work or reputation of a fellow designer.
Rule 5.43:
A design professional shall not accept instructions from a client or employer that involve infringement of another person's property rights without permission, or consciously act in any manner involving any such infringement.