Design Prostitution

I'm talking about "The act or an instance of offering or devoting one's talent to an unworthy use or cause" here. Recently I got involved in an ethics discussion over at the Designers Talk LinkedIn group. There was a blog post referenced at Freelance Switch regarding Ethical Freelancing.


I really think that there are too many design prostitutes out there. Whether it is accepting a client that preys on people with an addiction, or doing a design for under market value on a spec contest site, the designer is still going about it for the same reason - just to make a buck. If they had any kind of moral compass they would take the high ground. Money is not everything in this world.

One designer had said in this discussion that she never says "no" and if she doesn't want to work on it, she'll outsource. I said:
Personally, I was contacted by someone in the adult entertainment business who wanted to profit off of the addictions of people by running an email campaign with lists from a porn website and I told them no. I didn't care that he was going to pay me a bunch of money. I also wouldn't want others to think it's something worth working on. By allowing others access to the client you are essentially condoning the nature of the project.
Word-of-mouth travels fast and soon it isn't just one person who needs work done on something you are morally opposed to if you allow them a foothold, then it becomes an addiction to you because of the money.

So...that's why my contract has this clause:
The Designer reserves the right to not take on design work based on the content of work being created such as those which are pro-violence, obscene, or of an illegal nature.If Client withholds information of this content until after this contract is signed in the hope of being in a contractual agreement to nullify the Designer's moral reservation, the contract is thus considered void and the Client must pay a $100 inconvenience fee plus any applicable fees leading up to the design.
My reputation is on the line. I also adapted my contract so I don't get caught up in something that I originally had thought was perfectly fine and innocent.

So wondering why I don't do spec-work? Simply put, it's not fair to the client or designer. In a typical designer-client relationship the designer will really get to know a lot about the client's business. That will help with the design process and bring forth more targeted and appropriate design materials leading to the overall success of the client. The designer has no guarantee of payment in a spec situation and typically will also get paid very little (especially in contest situations). I wish people who ran spec contest sites had a moral compass. I feel bad for the people who spent hours working on something and won't see anything come out of it (published or payment).

Really it doesn't matter the industry you are in, ethics is important. Can you imagine the world we'd live in if everyone had a good conscience?

NOTE: About 5 hours after writing this blog post and publishing it, I turned down a client because what they were selling is illegal in my state.

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