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Code of Ethics for Professional Designers

Latest update March 10th 2021

The Profession of a Designer and their Obligations

Are as follows:

Article 1
Contribute with his/her skills in order to improve people’s lives, work, living conditions, their health and their surrounding environment, as especially stipulated by the commitments of the AFD Charter of the responsible design below:

  • A continuous improvement – A continuous improvement approach, questioning and permanent innovation. This approach passes by the training and information of the various actors of the process.
  • A systemic approach – Work in a systematic approach which takes into account multiple criteria and their interactions.
  • ACT together – Integrate the customers and the suppliers into this initiative to imply them on the long term.
  • Social responsability – Take into account the respect for the social and sanitary conditions in the choice of the suppliers and the companies, including to the choice of customers.
  • Ressources – Make sure that the choice of materials and equipments relaying on environmental and social criteria throughout them.
  • Water, Air, Soil – Consider water, air and soil as common good of humanity which it is necessary to protect and not to pollute during the life cycle of products or services.
  • Energy – Minimize needs in energy during the life cycle of products or services. Favor the renewable and not polluting sources.
  • Waste – Minimize the pollutions on the environment and favor the recyclability of products or services, as well as the residues and the linked packagings.
  • Health – Take into account the sanitary impact on the alive by making sure of the harmlessness with creation of new products or services, in the current state of the knowledge.
  • Biodiversity – Take into account the biodiversity in order to protect her and aim at its preservation during all the life cycle of products or services.

Article 2
Take into account and register all the participating entities or persons in the course of time and usage of the generated products and services, beyond the mere functional aspect of the latter.

Article 3
Favor quality and virtue in the designer profession.

Article 4
Always keep in mind the objectivity of your aim and prove to be righteous in order to create the proper appreciation of the client for the service provider’s quality of work and his/her skills.

Article 5
Reinforce and develop one’s skills, keeping in mind their constant improvement by contributing to and participating in seminars, information sessions and educative courses.

Article 6
Ensure that the designer who directly carries out any work is given credit for it, and that they sign and accept payment for their work. Impose the rule that any fellow designers participating in the project get credit for all of the elements of their work mentioned in detail, after getting the consent of the latter. Refuse to sign and claim the work produced by any other designer despite convenience or practical reasons.

Article 7
Before signing a contract, verify that no clause forces one to take choices or decisions against the designer’s professional duty.

Article 8
In case several activities in the designer’s practice occur within the same timeframe, he/she should declare them as distinctive and independent from each other and publicly accepted. Exclude any functions, activities or responsibilities that would cause confusion and ambiguity, lead to miss-interpretation, false judgment or earn financial advantages out of the client or employer. Exclude any sort of collusion between the designer and other individuals.

Article 9
Avoid conflict of interest arising from being both a judge and party.

Article 10
Mention distinctively all diplomas and certificates, be it French or foreign titles, as well as the fact of being registered or enrolled in any professional syndicate.

The Practice of the Designer Profession

In his/her practice the designer should respect the following rules:

Article 11
Work objectively in the interest of the client/customer, as to a sole beneficiary, always proposing original creations, being a personification and a source of constant added value.

Article 12
Dare to get involved with the customer in general matters but respect limits, abiding by and implementing the profession’s best practices. [See AFD Public Procurement Charter for Design, in French only)

Article 13
Ensure that before any professional engagement is made, that the preliminary contract1 is established in order to predefine the spectrum of the work and specify the fees including all necessary conditions. The contract should also be based on the requirements of this code and respect the fundamental set of laws establishing the designer/client or employer relationship.

Article 14
Fulfill tasks with integrity and transparency. Avoid any situations or attitudes incompatible with professional obligations or prone to inducing any doubt on integrity of an action or discredit the designer’s profession. The designer should bring forth his/her knowledge and experience throughout the entire duration of the contract.

Article 15
The designer should keep away from any situation where their private interests influence or supersede the clients, possibly harming the client or employer. Avoid situations where the judgment and loyalty towards the customer could become altered.

Article 16
Respect the confidentiality as defined with the customer or employer, strictly staying within the frame of the assignment: any disregard of this obligation constitutes a fault, unless the information has become part of the public domain.

Article 17
If a designer finds that his/her client’s availabilities are obviously insufficient for the given project, the latter has to be informed about it with no delay.

Article 18
A designer should provide his/her opinion, advice and explanation willingly to ensure full comprehension and appreciation of the accomplished tasks and assignments. If requested, provide a written summary and description of the work that has been carried out.

Article 19
A designer should not mention any false information or appreciation concerning his level of qualification and efficiency of means provided for his/her performance.

Article 20
In the case of subcontracting within design projects, the designer who wishes to use one or several subcontractors should have all of them approved by the customer from the moment the initial contract is signed and during its entire duration, payment conditions mentioned in each case; the designer should keep his client informed about all the subcontractor contracts, at any moment, whenever the latter demands. A contract should be established between the designer and the subcontractor.

1. Article 1101 of the French Civil Code: “the contract is a convention through which one or several people become obliged to one or several others to do or not to do something”.

Professional Environment of a Designer

Article 21
Stay well connected with fellow designers on a fraternal basis, provide and expect reciprocal assistance and moral support in the atmosphere of respect and mutual advice.

Article 22
Be of assistance to all actions that are of general interest and are done to favor the design profession.

Article 23
Keep as a first principle that the competition between colleagues is based exclusively on the competence and services proposed to the clients. A designer must consider the following doings as non-loyal and thus prohibited:
— Any initiative of taking over or diverting clients using the method of false under-estimation of proposed services
— Any attempts or endeavors of denigration, aiming at supplanting a confrere already engaged in an assignment

Article 24
Refuse to participate in any competition, consultation or public market offer which would contradict the principles established by the Union of the French Designers (AFD), especially when the transfer of the royalties are demanded without consideration.
Allow the exception for the royalty transfer destined for charity associations and NGO’s, respecting the author’s rights.

Article 25
In case of non pre-established collaboration of several designers in a project, a contract should be signed in order to precise tasks, divide the costs and benefit distribution. Include in the contract the following paragraph: “Before directing a plea to the competent court, the case ought to be submitted to the professional designer union in the attempt to reconcile the parties.”

Article 26
In case of a litigation of one or several designers concerning the professional practice, prior to directing a plea to the competent court, the case ought to be submitted to the professional designer union in the attempt to reconcile the parties. Make sure to pass over all the necessary documents needed for the examining of the juridical dossier. Keep in mind that the above article doesn’t concern the designers working on the public service assignment or on the account of the public person.

Article 27
The designer who receives the assignment offer ought to verify if one or several fellows have been in charge of the same assignment. Thus if he/she decides to accept the project succeeding another fellow designer, he/she should, prior to taking any formal action, should find out about any remaining financial dues and notify the concerned person in writing. The designer should ensure all due payments have been made. If there is still money due to his predecessor and the present designer in charge receives his payment already, he/she should inform the client about it.

Article 28
In case of a demand to endorse a fellow designer or give a work appreciation, only an impartial opinion based on full knowledge of the case should be given.
Exclude any arbitrary statements concerning control, counseling or judgment missions. Formulate clearly and motivate the decisions, opinions and judgments overcoming any personal beliefs.

Article 29
Do not to imitate or allow plagiarizing.

The Way of Exercising the Design Profession

As Part of a Company or as an Independent Entity

Article 30
Being either part of a company or working independently, fulfill the missions given by the client single-handedly or ensure their proper management.
Choose the quantity and spectrum of the accepted assignments following one’s skills, knowledge, capacity of personal intervention and the complexity of means to be applied, as well as special demands, which imply the importance and the location of the above mentioned assignments.

Article 31
As an employer of other Designers evaluate the competency of collaborators accurately. Divide the duties, be it designer’s or not, in coherence with their level of qualification, respecting the hierarchy of competence, coordinating their full participation in missions they have been assigned.
Compensate them on the basis of the functions and responsibilities they have held.

Article 32
Employing a subcontractor in design implies that their name must be signed under all parts of the creation process and parts of product in which they participated, in respect of intellectual property; one should not fail to mention the subcontractor’s name in all related future publications.

Article 33
If the association of designers takes place, verify that accurate design practice rules are applied, inform each other mutually about professional activities performed in the name and/or for the account of a company.

Article 34
Include internships in the primary and secondary education but at no price consider them as employments.
Establish a third-party convention between the intern, the receiving company and the educational entity, mentioning among others, the intern’s working hours, adapted to the constraints of the interns’ study and courses.
Master the professional competencies to be transferred in the framework of intern education. If the internship period during the same university or school year, exceeds one month, be it consecutive or not, the interns should get a minimal compensation for the amount of which is regulated by law.
In a case where the internship duration is longer than two months; the compensation is similar to that of equivalent employment.

Article 35
The work of an intern that extends outside the internship convention prerogatives will be qualified as standard salary employment.
Foresee a written authorship right’s /royalties transfer, mentioning the limits of usage and the equivalent compensation for the creations manufactured by an intern that are likely to be used in the future.

Wage Rules Implementation

Article 36
Verify that the employer binding contract mentions:
— The designation and the role of parties
— The assigned missions with the corresponding actions relevant to available means
— Compensation conditions for provided services
— Insurance conditions that cover the responsibilities emerging from the accomplished projects
— Accountability of the practice in respect with the professional rules
— Accountability of the work contract and the intellectual property

Article 37
The designer who perceives a salary can prepare the list of acquired references with his employer, in specifying his contribution to accomplished assignments he/she was consigned, mentioning the name of the latter and in full respect of confidentiality rules.


Professional ethics : “Professional people and those working in acknowledged professions exercise specialist knowledge and skill. How the use of this knowledge should be governed when providing a service to the public can be considered a moral issue and is termed professional ethics.” Ruth Chadwick (1998). Professional Ethics. In E. Craig (Ed.), Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

This Code of Ethics has been designed at the AFD following a call for contribution on our website from April 2009 to December 2011. It is consistent with the ethics of the International Design Alliance (IDA), a program from the international organizations Icograda (communication designers), Icsid (industrial designers) and IFI (interior designers and interior architects) and the one of BEDA.

Design and copywriting
Béatrice Gisclard, environnemental designer, eco-design consultant, 2005-2007 AFD president, Nîmes.
François Caspar, messages designer, AFD co-founder, 2003-2005 and 2011-2013 president, Saint-Mandé.
Françoise Benassis, copywriter, Paris.

Reviewers members of AFD board
Aurélie Barrier, textile designer, Versailles.
Marie-Noëlle Bayard, textile designer, member of SAIF board, Paris.
Éric Bédiez, messages designer, AFD correspondent, Marseille.
Stéphanie Dick, product designer, Tarascon.
Benoît Drouillat, interactive designer, president of the association Designer Interactif, Paris.
Arnault Garcia, multi-media designer, 2009-2011 AFD president, AFD correspondent, Bordeaux.
Brigitte Guillet, textile designer, 2009-2011 AFD vice-presidente, Paris.
Bruno Lefebvre, product designer, 2007-2009 AFD president, AFD correspondent, Grenoble.
Benoît Millet, product and communication designer, AFD correspondent, Villers-sur-Mer.
Olaf Mühlmann, graphic designer, Asnières-sur-Seine.
Hugo Roussel, graphic designer, AFD correspondent, Nancy.

Reviewer legal adviser
François Lesaffre, lawyer, specialist of intellectual property, Paris, www.lesaffre-avocat.com

Translation to English
Svetlana Furman, Stockholm, assisted by Jennifer de Rose, Toronto-Changping
In cooperation with François Caspar, Paris.

Les Ateliers de l’éthique

Other professional codes of ethics
Code de déontologie des architectes Français
Code des devoirs professionnels CFAI
Code of Ethics DIA
Code of Ethics ICSID
Code of Ethics AGDA
Code de déontologie ADIQ
Deontologie du designer graphiste UDB
Code of Conduct for Designers BEDA
Read this Code of Ethics in French: Code de déontologie du designer professionnel