Basically, ethics can be defined as the branch of philosophy that deals with the moral principles of a person with respect to the appropriateness and wrongness of particular measures and to the goodness and badness of the intentions and ends of such measures. These rules of conduct are usually acknowledged in respect to a particular class, group, culture, organization or profession.
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Every profession as well as organization usually has its own fixed ethical principles which are typically in regard to the mode of operation, the effects of the products or services offered and in the association with clients and stakeholders. Ethics in the workplace of any profession helps in ensuring that a strong moral compass is maintained when there is conflict and confusion in times of crisis.
As in other professions, maintenance of professional ethics is required in the design profession. Professional ethics are referred to as the ethical issues that usually come up because of the proficient knowledge that the professional have achieved and the ways in which this knowledge should be administered during the provision of the specific service to consumers.
Since the professional has obtained more superior instruction in a specific field as compared to the average people, he/she is competent in making and operating on informed information and thus is seen to carry extra moral responsibilities.
A person with this kind of added and superior knowledge is more often than not, accorded more authority and power and the clients often place their confidence on the professional with the belief that the services provided to them will either be of assistance to them or bring profits.
It is therefore relatively possible for a professional to misuse the authority he/she has and take advantage of the clients’ lack of understanding. To avert such client exploitation as well as safeguard the integrity of the profession, there are codes of practice, which all specialists must follow, enforced in nearly all professions.
Generally, there are fundamental principles which constitute the basic make up of a principal. The first principle in the ethical practices of design is founded on the client’s needs and states that any and every action should be first and foremost, client centered. Every designer should make sure that their practice places the customer’s interests before their own.
This means that a professional designer should adjust to the client’s standards in terms of business and design but staying within the confines of professional responsibility and the context of the professional duty. In relation to this, a designer is expected to avoid working simultaneously on assignments that are bound to create a conflict of interest without the consent of the clients concerned. The only exemption is in the case where there is a principle in that trade for a designer to work at the same time for several competitors.
Another basic principle is founded on equality and diversity. Every professional, while practicing should ensure that he/she is promoting as well as demonstrating a commitment to equality and diversity. A designer should ensure that he/she is maximizing the life chances of all the service or products consumers.
Therefore a designer should not in any chance, refuse to offer services to a client based on any kind of discrimination of race, tribe, gender, nationality, religion or social and educational status. Conversely, a professional designer should be underpinned by an obligation to encourage diversity and equal opportunity for all people and wherever there is an opportunity, to rectify the impact of educational and social drawbacks.
Impartiality is another elementary principle in ethical practices of most professionals including in design. This principle states that a professional, designer or otherwise, must make sure that the delivery of any information, recommendation or guidance services should be duly unbiased. In order to attain this therefore, a designer is expected to make clear anything that limits or creates a barrier to their professional knowledge or other things that are in the framework in which they function that may lead to bias or favoritism.
A designer should give a client full and sufficient information about the range of options that are available so that the client has a chance to make a definite and knowledgeable decision. Any design organization should also make its stance on impartiality clear while creating its code of ethics so as to avoid any misconceptions, as well as indicate any constrictions that may limit the variety of options they put before service users.
In addition, there is the principle of confidentiality which is paramount in any codes of ethics of any profession. In this case, the client’s confidentiality is put at the forefront and should be treated essentially with respect. A design professional should make a clear commitment of their intent on confidentiality and should inform their clients at the earliest time possible on anything that may cause limitation to confidentiality.
herefore, every designer is expected to treat any work pertaining to a client with confidentiality and should avoid divulging any of the information in any manner. In this case, that would include the work that is presently in progress preceding the completion of a project as well as any knowledge of the intentions of a client, and details in relation to the work. A professional designer should also make sure that other staff members act accordingly and uphold discretion in their work.
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It should also be made apparent to everyone in the personnel staff that the delivery of a service should be done with respect for the privacy of the client and disclosing any information should only be done with informed consent with the exception of situations that create serious risk to the welfare of the individual or other people involved.
However, even with these basic principles put in place, there is a need to instill them in the minds of the professionals and staff members in a working environment. Clearly outlining the principles does not necessary guarantee that the employees will follow them as required and thus the need for an ethics implementation program.
Presence of an implementation program ensures that the involved members are inspired to put the ethical principles into use and generally reflects on the professions integrity, character and beliefs. First and foremost, it is important to make sure that the principal body appointed to create the code of ethics has a genuine commitment to the ethics initiative and is willing to devote enough financial resources in the development and maintenance of the program.
This way, there will be no slacking in its implementation and progression due to lack of resources. It is also important to assign a single senior supervisor to concentrate only on the implementation of this program. He should be able to visit all organizations whose work entails design and revise and record on the implementation of the code of ethics. He should then keep records, do follow ups and most importantly report directly to the chairman of the program board on the day-to-day aspects of the program.
An independent assessment of the current ethical climate in the profession should also be done through interviews, focus groups and anonymous written surveys. This will make it possible to compare the existing codes to those of the up to date and well working programs used in other professions and accordingly make alterations where needed. It would also be encouraging to professionals to create an open ended helpline in which designers can seek for guidance and direction in relation to the ethics principles.
This should also include a reporting system whereby individuals can present ethical concerns or violation reports. Publicizing the ethics program throughout the profession and encouraging organizations to adopt it would go a long way in its implementation. In addition, the ethics program board should make a point of reviewing the agenda and principles at least one or twice a year.
Brenner, Steven N, “Ethics Programs and Their Dimensions”. Journal of Business Ethics, 11, no 4 (1992): 391-399.
Dean, Peter J. “Making Codes of Ethics ‘Real’.” Journal of Business Ethics, 11, no 6 (1992): 285-290.
Ferrell, Fraedrich & Linda Ferrell. Business ethics: ethical decision making and cases, New York: Cengage Learning, 2006.
Fox, Warwick. Ethics and the built environment, Newyork: Routledge, 2000.
Gandz, J. & Bird, F. G. “Designing Ethical Organizations”. Business Quarterly, 54, no 2 (1989, Autumn): 108-112
Gardner, Csikszentmihalyi & William Damon, Good Work: When Excellence and Ethics Meet, New York: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002.
Golany, Gideon. Ethics and urban design: culture, form, and environment, Canada: John Wiley and Sons, 1995
Russ, Tom. Sustainability and Design Ethics, Florida: Taylor & Francis Group, 2010.
Sims, Ronald, R. Teaching business ethics for effective learning. New York: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002.
Toffler, B. “Doing Ethics: An Approach to Business Ethics Consulting”. Moral Education Forum, 16, no 4(1991, Winter): 14-20
Von Weltzien Hoivik, Follesdal & European Business Ethics Network, Conference. Ethics and consultancy: European perspectives, NM: Springer, 1995 .
- Ferrell, Fraedrich & Ferrell Linda. Business ethics: ethical decision making and cases, New York: Cengage Learning, 2006.
- Russ, Tom. Sustainability and Design Ethics, Florida: Taylor & Francis Group, 2010.
- Von Weltzien Hoivik, Follesdal & European Business Ethics Network, Conference. Ethics and consultancy: European perspectives, NM: Springer, 1995 .
- Dean, Peter J. “Making Codes of Ethics ‘Real’.” Journal of Business Ethics, 11, no 6 (1992): 285-290.
- Golany, Gideon. Ethics and urban design: culture, form, and environment, Canada: John Wiley and Sons, 1995
- Sims, Ronald, R. Teaching business ethics for effective learning. New York: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002.
- Brenner, Steven N, “Ethics Programs and Their Dimensions”. Journal of Business Ethics, 11, no 4 (1992): 391-399.
- Fox, Warwick. Ethics and the built environment, New York: Routledge, 2000.
- Toffler, B. “Doing Ethics: An Approach to Business Ethics Consulting“. Moral Education Forum, 16, no 4(1991, Winter): 14-20
- Gandz, J. & Bird, F. G. “Designing Ethical Organizations”. Business Quarterly, 54, no 2 (1989): 108-112
- Gardner, Csikszentmihalyi & William Damon, Good Work: When Excellence and Ethics Meet, New York: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002.