Ethics

What is “free pitching” and how does it effect the industry as a whole?
Free pitching is when designers provide a proposed – or even completed – design, for no payment. This sounds uncommon, but comes in numerous forms, which include competitions or contests where numerous designers propose a solution, and only one gets chosen – and paid. For this reason, it can sometimes be a grey area, so I found this chart on the methods of obtaining design services, which includes Free Pitching on it.
The majority of leaders and professionals in the industry see Spec work and free pitching as highly unfair in that it takes advantage of designers.
Free pitching, or ‘Spec Work’ is common as some ‘non-clients’ may believe that all they need paying for is the final design. This makes it detrimental to not only the Graphic Design Industry overall, but also the client. This is for a range of reasons:
Firstly, it is immoral and unethical to expect a professional to do their work for free, and the continuing use of free pitches encourages others into thinking it is ok.
Secondly, the client is likely to get inferior design solutions. This is mainly because any designer who will undertake a free pitch or spec work must be inexperienced or under-skilled (and maybe desperate,) as all other successful companies are not likely to even take on a free pitch. Also, less time and effort is obviously put into the design if a designer is not being paid for that time, so there is less research and care undertaken. This also means there are also usually no meetings or consultations between the client and the designer, so they are not able to fully understand each other, or have any revisions.
Lastly, there is never any protection over intellectual property when free pitching, as there is usually no contract.
Some even argue that spec work actually costs – as nothing is ever free – but that the designers’ other clients are the ones to pay, as ‘staff working don’t work for free, and no one gets free utilities, space or supplies.’

And lastly, I leave with a couple of interesting quotes I found online – first, from The Design Institute of Australia;
‘A pitch is commonly defined as: ‘to try to sell or promote something such as a product, personal viewpoint or potential business venture, often in an aggressive way.’ Interestingly, (for those who disapprove of pitching), pitch is also defined as: ‘to fall or stumble, especially headfirst.’
And a quite funny scenario from David Airey, which somehow fully explains just how preposterous free pitching is:
“I went for a dental check-up yesterday. After the dentist inspected my teeth, she suggested some work to prevent further tooth decay. I told her to go ahead, and if the dental work was satisfactory, I’d be more than happy to pay. She responded that she wouldn’t be able to do that, because she normally provides a service when a fee is agreed upon up-front. I said I’d let her know after I checked in with other local dentists.”

Why is it important to have a code of ethics in the Graphic Design industry?
The Graphic Design industry can often be misunderstood or misinterpreted by those in other professional industries – namely, those who are often clients of Graphic Designers. AGDA’s Code of Ethics ensures that both designers and clients treat each other fairly and can therefore work together effectively.
It does this through ensuring designers are always paid fairly for their work, and consequently, that they are responsible for ensuring the client gains the most effective and fitting design. This is communicated in the Code in that it states a designer ‘shall encourage high standards of design and professional conduct,’ and shall always act in the best interests of the client.’
It also ensures that the designer is never forced to design for a company they may be uncomfortable with, or may have a conflicting interest in; ‘A Member shall not knowingly accept a position or commission in which a personal interest conflicts with professional obligation and duty.’
Lastly, it ensures designers are fair to one-another. It notes the laws of copyright, but also mentions the sharing of fair criticism amongst designers, and notes that a designer ‘shall not knowingly accept a commission to work on a project for which there is an existing designer without first informing the other designer.’ This is so that designers can be sure who can be credited for the work without confusion or need for legal actions.
Ultimately, the Code of Ethics enables the creative and flexible nature of the Graphic Design industry to run professionally, and aims to promote fairness to both designers and clients.

Why is it important to have a code of ethics in the Graphic Design industry?
The Graphic Design industry can often be misunderstood or misinterpreted by those in other professional industries – namely, those who are often clients of Graphic Designers. The Code of Ethics ensures that both designers and clients treat each other fairly and can therefore work together effectively.
It does this through ensuring designers are always paid fairly for their work, and consequently, that they are responsible for ensuring the client gains the most effective and fitting design. This is communicated in the Code in that it states a designer ‘shall encourage high standards of design and professional conduct,’ and shall always act in the best interests of the client.’
It also ensures that the designer is never forced to design for a company they may be uncomfortable with, or may have a conflicting interest in; ‘A Member shall not knowingly accept a position or commission in which a personal interest conflicts with professional obligation and duty.’
Lastly, it ensures designers are fair to one-another. It notes the laws of copyright, but also mentions the sharing of fair criticism amongst designers, and notes that a designer ‘shall not knowingly accept a commission to work on a project for which there is an existing designer without first informing the other designer.’ This is so that designers can be sure who can be credited for the work without confusion or need for legal actions.
Ultimately, the Code of Ethics enables the creative and flexible nature of the Graphic Design industry to run professionally, and aims to promote fairness to both designers and clients.

What is the difference between a copyright and a trademark or patent?
Whereas copyright protects the way a designer expresses an idea – that is, their arrangement of information – a Trademark protects the idea itself – such as a brand name or logo. A Patent also protects ideas, but extends to inventions, meaning the way something works or is constructed can be protected.
Copyright exists as soon as a design (or any form of creative expression,) exists, and doesn’t need to be registered or even acknowledged with the Copyright symbol in order to be effective. Copyright also lasts the entirely of the creators life, as well as another 70 years.
Contrastingly, Trademarks and Patents are more effective when registered, and cannot be similar to any other Trademark or Patent in order to be approved. They also cost to register, and must be renewed every 10 years. You don’t have to register your Trademark, but then it is more difficult to protect.

What measures do you need to take as a freelance designer to protect your creative output?
I should firstly always make sure I am never infringing on any copyright laws when designing, even if the work is not going to be published. I can do this by not using others work without permission, unless it is free, and not blatantly copying ideas from any inspiration or research I may have used. If I need to demonstrate where my ideas have come from, I will always credit the source of materials.
As a freelance designer, if I am proposing a brand name or logo, I should search the relevant databases before proceeding to ensure I haven’t accidentally copied or created something too similar to another brand, as Trademarking or any form of intellectual protection will then be less likely. And, of course, I could run into legal trouble for copying!
I should also let clients know that – unless transfer of copyright is discussed and and paid for – my ideas and designs remain my property. This should be confirmed in writing at all times, even if it is just a casual email. And if I ever happen to work with companies which have a Trademark, or any other intellectual protection that is more complex and costly, I should probably gain expert insight from a professional before I go ahead with anything.

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