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Are You Stealing or Just Doing Your Job?

Are You Stealing or Just Doing Your Job?

Mike Lenhart

We see everyday how ethics come into play in big business and politics. Usually there seems to be none, but ethics do exist just the same. Of course, there are personal ethics that most of us have as well, and those are a personal choice. But, what about those grey areas of design ethics? How do we make sure we’re practicing ethical standards in our design and deliverables in this non-defined area? Well, here are some of my thoughts.

I’ll Just Borrow That

How many of us have used typefaces from a fellow-student or colleague? How many of us have screen-grabbed an image off the Web that we want to use, with some Photoshop tweaks, of course, that will fit just perfectly in a design project? Hmmm. We need to remember that there are licenses for typeface usage and royalty-free and rights-managed images. Public domain images are fine to use, in my view. But I think it’s always good to come up with original ideas just the same.

By the way, royalty-free are those images for purchase that are to be used by you for that one campaign for according to what the license is for usage while rights-managed ones are those that are to be used for massive, usually large institutional production. The fees are charge based on how many times the same image is used. We usually get royalty-free images at my firm.

Software has usage licenses too for the number of computer stations in which that new CS4 upgrade is being installed. I know softare is expensive, but try to adhere to the licensing agreements. Remember, while you’re still in school, you have the right to ge the Educational Version of software, which is way cheaper. You’re just not supposed to use it after you graduate and are out making income.

Then There Are Those Clients To Deal With

What are our ethics when it comes to clients? In particular, how do we, or do we, charge what we agree to charge clients and based on the real time spent on things? How many of us have padded the hours a bit, just to compensate for that ambiguous time, spent on “researching” or minor changes to a final piece? Don’t get me wrong, our time is worth being paid, just like attorneys, but we need to try to be as close to actual time spent as we can. Also, remember that contracts are contracts and if you have in place an effective one that the client just doesn’t want to follow, you have the right to mention it and let them know that the terms of a particular contract are there for a reason. Of course, it’s an “it depends” situation, but try to stick to your guns. This also keeps the client ethical and reinforces our legitimate place in the world.

I Did That!

And, lastly, what about taking credit where credit is due, and not when it’s not? What I’m referring to is when you borrow a fellow designers design or idea and call it your own? I’m not saying we all do this, but sometimes we feel that it’s ours when it’s really been done before. This could be from a concept to an illustration that you didn’t even do, but still take the credit, or payment, for it. It just can cause bad blood, not to mention bad karma.

Ethics are good for us. If not only for whom we’re working but also for ourselves. We all know when we just don’t feel right inside if we’ve fudged on some aspect of our work. Working on our personal and professional ethics can keep our consciences relatively clear and help us move on to the next task in a fresh way. Your conscience may be a little foggy from the night before when having one too many drinks with your colleagues after work, but that’s a different sort of thing.


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