Design and ethics.


Topic 6 homework for the Professional Practice and Engagement class called for students to read and digest the AGDA Code of Ethics, Ethics For the Starving Designer and also, Protect Your Creative — A guide to Intellectual Property for Australia’ Graphic Designers. It was then asked that we answer a series of questions to gain a personal insight into the way we see and understand the information the guidelines and rules explained.

Before I delve into the questions it was quickly realized by reading Protect Your Creative — A guide to Intellectual Property for Australia’ Graphic Designers, that many Australians are living a lie. This lie consists of the belief that one can use another design if they change it by at least 10%. This is completely untrue and if it this theory is put into practice, the party will find themselves in court and as a result of this, find themselves with light pockets and a ruined reputation. This is stated in Protect Your Creative — A guide to Intellectual Property for Australia’ Graphic Designers, where it clearly outlines and crushes this myth by saying “Don’t copy other people’s work. It doesn’t matter how much you change it, copying is unlawful. The myth that if you change it by more than 10 percent, you’ll be okay, is just that—a myth. If you copy, the rightful owner can sue you and possibly your client too. Your client would likely demand that you pay their legal costs as well”.

This is a very important piece of knowledge to know as I have recently had a personal experience where a design idea I had developed and implemented was shown and explained to another designer before an in class pitch. It was then discovered that the individual had developed an idea that resembled my own, almost exactly. By understanding the above reading I have come to understand that this is something that should not be done or tolerated in the design community and has taught me to keep my ideas confidential. This is another lesson learnt from Protect Your Creative — A guide to Intellectual Property for Australia’ Graphic Designers, where it reinforces this theory by mentioning, “One way to stop this is to get an acknowledgement from the client that the ideas are confidential, neatly slotting you under the protective umbrella of the law of confidentiality”. Although this relates to a client/designer contract, I believe this could be put into practice to protect ideas in this current environment.

What is free pitching

Free pitching is defined by AGDA (2016) as, “unpaid design submissions”. This is the practice of pitching for no commission. The AGDA frown upon this practice and believe that it is destructive to the design profession as a whole. The AGDA (2016) reinforce the fact that the “AGDA is unequivocally opposed to the unfair manipulation of designers with the aim of garnering unpaid work (commonly known as ‘free pitching’)”. I personally believe this is a practice that should be abandoned by all designers if possible. A designer should be compensated for all design work done, including the pitch. A design pitch consists of much research and idea development, which in my personal opinion is one of the most difficult steps in the design process. If a client has taken on a design firm it should immediately be disclosed to the client that the designers of the firm do not work for free and all work must be paid for. If a pitch has taken multiple weeks to be developed and then is not successful, and this pitch has been free, it means the design firm is now paying wages with no income. If this is a common theme among all design firms, then it won’t take long before there are no design firms as they have all gone bankrupt and in the process demeaned the profession. This is also stated by Graphic Designer Tony Cormack on the website Design Online. He states, “we are being asked to do it for free. Think about that for a minute. For the chance to be selected, you are asked to come up with great creative ideas – your primary product – for no pay, so a client can effectively taste a few samples and see what they like best. In doing so, we massively undersell what it is we do, devaluing the real cost of good design”.

By understanding there is no benefit to free pitching, besides the client saving money, I will personally try to avoid it where ever possible throughout my career as graphic designer. Not only is it not beneficial for me personally, by participating in this frowned upon practice I am also undermining the industry as a whole.

A Code of Ethics

As mentioned above, by involving one’s self in practices such as free pitching, the industry financially suffers and as designers, we undersell what we do as a profession (Cormack). A code of ethics for designs to follow is highly needed to keep the industry at a professional standard and prevent issues concerning conflict. Reading the code of ethics brought to light many things I had previously been unaware of and I personally believe any individual practicing graphic design, whether self-taught or University educated should have an understanding of the code of ethics and follow the guidelines rigorously.

It is said by Carrie Cousins (2014) that “Codes often outline the designers responsibility with clients, how designers should interact with each other, the designers responsibility to the public and environment, fees and compensation and basic conduct”. These are all topics that graphic designers deal with at some point in their careers and I personally believe by having the code of conduct, it allows designers a base from which to work. It allows us to understand that this is a serious profession with rules and guidelines that should be followed to keep an industry of high standards.

Copy Right vs Trade Mark

Copyright and Trademark differ from each other in certain ways which will now be discussed. It is said in Protect Your Creative — A guide to Intellectual Property for Australia’ Graphic Designers that “Copyright is free and automatically safeguards your original work from the moment you create your graphic design” It is also said that “t is not the concept or the idea in the work, but its expression that is protected by copyright law. Copyright does not protect your ideas, or the information, styles or techniques, used in creating the work”. By this, I personally believe that copyright covers such things as the layout of a document, a logo, a website literary works and photographs. It puts a stop to people replicating work without the permission of the rightful owner.

Trademarking work is somewhat different to Copyrighting work. It is said in Protect Your Creative — A guide to Intellectual Property for Australia’ Graphic Designers that trademarks are used to distinguish the goods and services of one trader from those of another. This can include shapes, sounds, smells, aspect of packaging or logo. This protects the elements in its fullest, including the ideas all the way down to things such as smells. It is not required to register a trademark in order to apply it though this does make for easier proceedings if an infringement occurs.

What Do I Need To Consider

Working as a creative there are certain things I must take into consideration in order to protect my IP. The main thing is to become IP savvy (AGDA). I personally think this exercise has been the first step in becoming IP saving with knowledge being gained into copyright and trademarks, Protecting my ideas when delivering them to clients or the market and understanding the enforcement that needs to be implemented when an infringement occurs. By reading the following documents I have come to understand that the world like to “find inspiration” where ever it can and as mentioned the beginning of this writing I have personally experienced this. These rules and guidelines have been put in place to stop the unlawful use of others IP. By following this newly gained knowledge I will now be able to protect my design work and know my rights as to what and what not is an infringement .

Works Cited

AGDA. (2016). ABOUT / CODE OF ETHICS. Retrieved April 5, 2016, from AGDA:

AGDA. Protect Your Creative — A guide to Intellectual Property for Australia’s Graphic Designers. AGDA.

Cormack, T. (n.d.). Why Free Pitching is Bad For You, The Client and the Entire Industry. Retrieved April 5, 2016, from Design Online:



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