Ethical guidelines from RGD to help ensure spec-free design curriculum among educators


As part of a continued effort to spread awareness of the detrimental effects of speculative work in the design industry, RGD is reaching out to program coordinators across Canada to ask for input on the development of guidelines for more ethical incorporation of real-world projects into design curriculums.  


"I'm very interested in seeing a structured set of guidelines from the RGD for educators to use as a frame of reference," says Daniel Watts, Professor of Graphic Design at St. Clair College Centre for the Arts. "This will allow a more fair and effective procurement process while still engaging graphic design students who seek validation of their skills in a real-world context." 


Spec work is universally condemned by responsible design organizations around the world as being an unethical business practice that is harmful to designers and clients alike. The RGD Rules of Professional Conduct specifically prohibit all members from taking part in, undertaking or conducting open competitions for commercial purposes on speculation.


This increased effort to inform design educators of the issues associated with speculative work is in response to contests such as one recently launched by the Association of Canadian Community Colleges (ACCC). RGD has advised program coordinators to speak out against this type of contest, and has contacted the ACCC to explain best practices in the graphic design industry, offering our assistance for running a fair and more effective process.


"While I believe in the intent of initiatives like the ACCC's contest, this approach places too much emphasis on the finished product - the logo," explains Michael Maynard RGD, Dean of the Faculty of Communication, Art and Design at Seneca College. "Students in particular need the opportunity to engage in dialogue with the client on any design project, especially during the initial problem-solving stages and the development of creative concepts. Only then will the final result be informed and appropriate to the project." 


The Association has also written to educators with an overview of the ethical issues associated with speculative contests to send to school administrators. Click here to download this letter in PDF format.  


RGD plans to work with educators to create comprehensive, ethical guidelines for faculty wishing to incorporate real-world projects into their design programs, without compromising the value of the design industry. For an example of this type of project, please refer to the following case study from Professor at Cambrian College Sean Grant RGD: Cambrian Design students apply skills to real client projects with website designs for local businesses 


Design educators are invited to provide other examples of projects that fall under this category as part of RGD's upcoming Design Educators Conference which will take place in Toronto this November. Abstracts can be submitted online until May 30



RGD's advocacy efforts enforce best practices for graphic designers and the clients they work with, focusing specifically on issues of spec work and crowdsourcing; accessibility; sustainability; and salaries and billing practices. Other advocacy areas include pro bono work, internship guidelines and more. 

For more information on RGD's Advocacy efforts, click here