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Ethics and the Designer-Client Relationship

The designer-client relationship can and should be a partnership. It’s time to stop blaming the client when it’s not. Our work can and should serve society. It should serve an audience beyond ourselves, beyond our clients, and beyond the next design annual.Michael Bierut, “Waiting for Permission”, 79 Short Essays on Design

Mutual respect is the foundation of every successful relationship. But when either party participates in unethical behavior they sabotage the process and damage the relationship. Once this happens it becomes difficult to rebuild trust. In the case of unethical designers, it’s bad enough that they’ve burned their own bridge…but now the burned client has realized a set of improper expectations, and will naturally have a bias toward the next design team they work with. The unwillingness of a client to place faith in their design agency is the root of many failed projects.

I believe that by following a code of ethics and always demonstrating respect for our clients and ourselves, we can elevate the reputation of the profession. When a client has confidence, trust and respect for the team they partner with, great things can happen. Better client relationships can mean more successful projects. It can also foster a better quality of work. This in turn leads to an overall increase in the value of design services.

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