The Designers Accord

I joined the Designers Accord this past week.

What is the Designers Accord? According to founder Valerie Casey, it “is a call to arms for the creative community to reduce the negative environmental and social effect caused by design.”

I think of it as a more modern version of the hippocratic oath for designers. It’s not just a call to arms, it’s a code of ethics, a responsibility to think through every decision you make as a designer with as much perspective as you can muster.

In fact, the first tenet of the code of conduct expressed on the site is “do no harm”. This term, derived from a core tenet of medical practice (though not, in fact, from the hippocratic oath – the term Primum non nocere has been used for the past 150 years) is essentially conservative in nature. Don’t do anything to make the situation worse. A good start, though not going far enough. The code of conduct continues:

Do no harm
Communicate and collaborate
Keep learning, keep teaching
Instigate meaningful change
Make theory action

The Designers Accord focuses primarily on environmental components, though I believe that there are social justice components implicit in the initiative as well. And it is not just designers who should consider these issues – though designers have been responsible for making more than their fair share of trash in the past. But this is a consideration for all of us in our daily lives.

In her (newly reinitiated) column on design in the New York Times yesterday, Allison Arieff says that the Designers Accord is going to be endorsed by both the American Institution of Graphic Arts (AIGA) and Industrial Design Society of America (IDSA). She also says:

Recognizing the near impossibility of changing consumer behavior and business behavior alike, the Designers Accord asserts that these firms, which design everything from graphics and packaging to user interface to final product, are ideally suited to get the design-for-impact conversation rolling.

In some ways these are heady times for designers. Rock star architects and product designers for Target and the latest electronic gizmo. But there has to be a way to creatively engage each client, each individual, in a conversation that pushes all of us to provide more value with less impact.

Kudos to Valerie Casey for starting this initiative. Now, let’s get to work.

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