Situational Examples
  • You are an art director working for a large design firm. You have observed your supervisor, who is not a Member of RGD, acting in a manner inconsistent with the Code of Ethics. Should you report the supervisor’s behaviour to RGD?
    No. RGD is only able to discipline Members of RGD who violate the Code of Ethics.
    You are a creative director who has been invited to serve as a juror for a regional design annual. In the annual’s promotional material, your name is presented without the RGD designation even though the organizing committee was informed. Can you still act as a juror without breaking the Code of Ethics?
    Yes. While you should promote your certification wherever possible and include your designation in biographical materials, some organizations do not publish designations.


  • You own a design firm that is one of three firms in the running to be selected for the branding of a national sporting event. While sitting on a panel at a design event, you are asked why your firm was selected. You respond with “Because everyone knows that the other two firms’ work is crap,” and you wink at the audience. Would the two other firms have reason to file a grievance with RGD against you?
    No, if the criticism of the other two firms was clearly in jest. Criticism becomes unethical when it unnecessarily maligns another designer in a way that can be shown to hinder the designer’s employment prospects or their ability to be hired. This can be the case particularly when the criticism is purposely intended to be harmful, clearly unfair, made in a public forum or purely subjective in nature and/or with no basis in fact.
    You are discussing a project with a new client. The client provides working files and explains that the project had already been started by another designer. Can you get the files from the client and complete the work?
    No. You should take reasonable precautions to ensure that the rights to the designs are owned by the client. This should include receiving written confirmation from the client to this effect. You may want to contact the designer to understand why they are no longer working on the project in case you may experience similar difficulties with this client. You should also ensure that any agreement that you and the client sign clearly outlines what and how any of the files that you create can be used by the client.
  • As a pitch to a new client, you mention that you are doing the re-branding for a prestigious clothing company. The potential client asks to see your concepts and for more specifics. May you oblige?
    No, you cannot divulge any work in progress without the client’s consent.
    You’ve just completed a branding exercise for an investment firm while freelancing for a design firm. A small start-up company of people from the investment firm has noticed the work you’ve done and wants to hire you directly to design their brand. Can you do their corporate identity?
    No, you must first obtain permission from the design firm that retained you.
    You are the owner of a boutique design firm that participates in an RGD Studio Tour. During the Tour, many sketches for the rebrand of a prestigious Canadian post-secondary institution that you are working on are up in your office. You tell the Tour participants that the work is in process and ask them not to take pictures. Are you in violation of the Code of Ethics?
    Yes. You should have removed these sketches from the walls of your office prior to the Tour and a Grievance with RGD could be filed against you, particularly if a Tour participant ignores your request and takes a photo.
  • You’ve just completed a packaging design strategy for a candy company. Your design means increased consumption of paper and plastic. What should you do?
    You may not have considered the carbon footprint of your design solution at the outset of the project. With proper planning, and the agreement of your client, it may be possible to develop a packaging strategy that will minimize waste and save resources and energy. 
    Susan is a Certified RGD whose firm has been selected by the Federal Government to put together introductory materials for Syrian refugees. Susan's team wants to use a mix of Canadian and Syrian symbols in their design to reinforce the idea that the refugees haven't lost their home, but simply found it somewhere else. The team wants to be sure that their designs use Syrian symbols accurately and respectfully, so they arrange to meet with the Syrian Association of Ottawa early in the design process. Is this a good idea?
    Yes. The sooner cultural stakeholders are involved in the design process, the less likely there will be any issues with the final design.
    John is working on building a new website for a client when they suggest he use colours in such a way that they are not AODA compliant. Should he oblige their request? 
    John should be an advocate for accessible design and inform the client how they can make their website function for everyone. 
  • Sam (a Provisional RGD) works as a designer in a mid-sized design firm. Her employers are participating in an RFP process that requires creative concepts be submitted with proposals and she has been given the assignment. Is Sam in violation of the Code if she develops creative concepts for her employers?
    No. As Sam is a paid employee, she is not working on spec. Her employer is violating the Code by submitting spec creative as part of their proposal. If Sam’s employers are Certified RGDs, she could file a Grievance against them. Either way, she should, in confidence, contact RGD to inform them of the unethical RFP. 
    Zack is a Student RGD who follows a famous Canadian musician on Twitter. This celebrity is going on tour and has invited followers to submit design concepts for a t-shirt that will be sold at concerts. The winning submission will receive a $200 prize and 20 of the final t-shirts. Is Zack in violation of the Rules by submitting a t-shirt concept?
    Yes. This musician is taking advantage of designers and undermining the value of their work. Often referred to as crowdsourcing, this is just spec work by another name. Not only does it violate RGD’s Code of Ethics and exploit unwitting designers, it is unlikely to result in a t-shirt that effectively conveys and promotes the musician’s work and tour. Zack may wish to make note of this on Twitter and should inform RGD so that the Ethics Committee can advocate against it.
    Meghan is a Provisional RGD who has applied to her first job at a large design agency. As part of her interview, she’s been asked to complete a skills test to determine her level of expertise. Her potential employer states that the concepts she develops will not be used in a commercial way. Should Meghan complete the assessment or does she have just cause for filing a grievance with RGD? 
    If Meghan is comfortable taking the skills test and her work will not be used commercially, this is not in conflict with the Code of Ethics. However if the work completed during the assessment will be used for a paid client project that will benefit the agency, Meghan could file a grievance with RGD and not proceed with the assessment. 
  • River is a freelancer hired by StudioX, which is run by Certified RGDs, to design a menu for their client, a raw food restaurant. As a freelancer and original author, River would normally retain rights to the menu design. However in an agreement, River had transferred intellectual property rights so that StudioX retains copyright. The restaurant wishes to be able to make revisions to the menu on an on-going basis. How should the firm owners of StudioX proceed according to the Code of Ethics?
    The RGD owners of StudioX should negotiate terms for transferring copyright (and working files) to the restaurant, and consider charging a fee to do so. River does not need to be consulted, having already transferred rights.
    Following on the situation above, several years later the same restaurant wishes to engage another studio, JoyDesign, to alter the design of the menu provided by StudioX. What should the RGD owners of JoyDesign do?
    JoyDesign must ask for confirmation that the original creators of the menu have waived the rights to the menu so that JoyDesign does not infringe on the copyright. If no such confirmation exists, the restaurant should negotiate an agreement with StudioX to waive its rights to the artwork before JoyDesign can alter the original menu.
    After completing a project for her full-time employer, Kelly (a Certified RGD) wants to showcase the work by posting it to her social media account and tagging the company. She does so without asking the firm for permission. Could the firm file a grievance against Kelly for posting the project on her social account? 
    Yes. Kelly must seek permission from the firm before using the work for promotional purposes. 
  • All of the designers in Derek’s studio have contributed design concepts for the development of a new logo. The selected concept was conceived by Derek but since being pulled onto another job, the logo has been refined by Paul, with input from art director Chen. Is Derek in violation of the Code of Ethics if he claims credit as the designer of the work?
    Although the original idea was Derek’s, he cannot claim sole credit for the design of the finished logo. Neither can Paul. Design credit should go to both Paul and Derek and Chen should also be credited as art director.
    Sam has found Michael’s original illustration on a blog with a limited “Creative Commons” license attached but no attribution. Sam decides to use it in some postcards he is selling online. The postcards are noticed by a friend of Michael’s, who in turn contacts Sam and asks for attribution and/or compensation. Is Sam in violation of the Code of Ethics?
    Yes. Sam should pay Michael a reasonable fee for use of the original image. In addition Sam must modify the work to make sure Michael is given attribution on the piece. If the piece has been printed, Sam should make a formal retraction by any means possible, usually online, and provide a link to Michael’s original work.
    A new political organization is launched. The US brand incorporates a series of silhouettes of animals with the blue and red colours used by the Democratic Elephant and the Republican Donkey, respectively. A designer claims the work was done by her years earlier, and indeed the new organization’s solution looks very similar. The designer of the infringing work denies infringement. Is this designer in violation of the Code of Ethics?
    It is not RGD’s role to determine whether copyright laws have been broken but if this case did go to court and/or there was clear evidence that copyright laws had been violated, a grievance filed to RGD would have merit.
  • Certified RGD Valerie’s design studio has been asked to produce concepts for a new client. She assigns her RGD-certified designers the task of creating the concepts before submitting that will be submitted with the RFP to the client in hopes of securing new business. Can Valerie’s designers submit a grievance against her? 
    Yes. By asking her designers to complete speculative work, she is in violation of the Code of Ethics. 
    Creative director and Certified RGD, Julien is looking to expand his team by hiring a junior designer at the fast-paced agency he works in. He wants to ensure whoever they choose is right for the position, so he administers a short assessment as part of each job applicant’s interview. He does not disclose that a skills test will take place prior to meeting with job applicants. Can the applicant refuse the skills test?
    Yes. It is Julien’s responsibility to inform job applicants of any skill tests and ensure them that their work will not be used for commercial projects. The applicant must also agree to any test terms.
  • Sharon teaches a corporate branding course to first-year students. As part of her curriculum, she assigns her class to produce logo concepts for a local restaurant, who will choose the winning design for their actual business. Is Sharon violating the Code of Ethics? 
    Yes. Sharon has a responsibility to educate her class about the dangers of spec work and assign projects that have the best interest of her students in mind. 
    As part of a package design course, Ben asks his class to develop packaging for a product of their choice, which they will eventually print and produce for the final project. One student creates a unique concept for packaging apples in a grocery store setting. While inventive, the amount of packaging is excessive and unnecessary so Ben suggests the student use a more sustainable option or look into a different product. Is this a good idea? 
    Yes. As a professor, Ben should educate his students about sustainable design and how to reduce packaging waste. By offering alternatives, the student can learn about greener options they may not have been aware of. 
    As a Student RGD, you receive an assignment to redesign a cigarette brand’s packaging to make it more appealing to children, in a course taught by a Certified RGD. Is the RGD educator in violation of the Rules?
    Yes, this assignment constitutes a clear disregard for the health of children. The Student RGD could file a Grievance with RGD against the RGD educator providing documentation of the specific assignment. If the educator was not an RGD, the Student RGD might still ask RGD for support in refusing to take on the assignment.