Copyright © David Goh


Professions such as lawyers and doctors have gone a long way in defining their own code of ethics. With the meteoric rise of commercial visual communication, coupled with evidence of how these visual messages can intrinsically affect the youth of our society, it is of utmost importance that a code of ethics be defined for the profession of graphic designers. Defining a code of ethics for graphic designers can no longer be argued to be a superfluous thing or a pursuit of the moralistic. It has become a must - a necessity - if design is to be seen as a responsible profession.


“Ethics for the Starving Designer” is a student’s attempt at improving the situation in a local context. Its intentions are as follows: to cover the common ethical considerations faced by Singaporean visual communicators in upholding their social, environmental, professional and personal

responsibilities, to approach the responsibilities of a visual communicator with utmost respect to their needs and limitations regardless of their professional situations, and to be universally applicable across major philosophical, religious and personal systems  of beliefs seen locally.


This does not claim to be the absolute solution to the mentioned problems - far from it, it wishes to simply be a starting point. In many ways, this manifesto is a highly personal project: but if you would like to take the same path that I am embarking on, I invite you to put your signature beside mine at the end of this document.


As acknowledged at the bottom, this manifesto has seen contributions and input from a total of 46 people locally and internationally, consisting professional designers, educators, students and writers.

the undersigned, are visual communicators who have pledged to adhere to the following tenets. Above all, we urge all professionals, students and educators to read this manifesto as well - not simply so that they may sign it, but so that they will also think upon its arguments and be encouraged to define their own code of ethics. We also call for educators to take it upon themselves to discuss these issues with their students, for too often do students graduate without having given these topics their due attention. Truly, ignorance is the real enemy here.























Treat others as you would like to be treated with your work.


Being ethical means respecting the views of others.


It’s unrealistic to expect yourself to be 100% ethical all the time - but nevertheless, it’s the goal to strive for.


And likewise, do not assume moral superiority and expect those you work with to be ethically perfect. People make mistakes.


You are responsible for your own professional choices and for the effects of your work.


You are however, not responsible for unforeseeable consequences — so don’t beat yourself up about those.


Be mindful of the environment in your design process — don’t use more resources than you really need to.


Unless you absolutely, absolutely cannot, you will say no to any projects that may be harmful to society.

You will however, find a way to make amends in future.


Recognize graphic design for the immensely powerful tool that it is.


Define your code of ethics, but remember that with greater experience comes a greater understanding, so revision might be required.

Total number
of signatures

Shara Thepsenavong
From United States

College Student
April 24, 2012
Signature #100

Daniel Smith
From United Kingdom

Music Producer
April 24, 2012
Signature #101

Garamond Hixson-Rozear
From United States

student artist
April 24, 2012
Signature #102

Mehmet Kürşat Aydın
From Turkey

Computer Scientist
April 24, 2012
Signature #103

Jason Early
From United States

April 24, 2012
Signature #104

Miss Futch
From Guatemala

Graphic Designer Jr.
April 24, 2012
Signature #105

Lacey Kast
From United States

Digital Artist
April 24, 2012
Signature #106

Johannes Wesley Ladage
From Canada

University Student
April 24, 2012
Signature #107

Andiry Tan
From Malaysia

April 24, 2012
Signature #108

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Neville Hew

Jeremy Wong

Faiza Binte Misran

Lim Wency

Judith Lee

Reza Bin Nooresani

Shazwani Latiff

Germaine Chen

Michael Santosa

Kelyn Lau

Neo Hui Lynn

Joshua Wang

Ezra Tadeo Adhitya

Siti Khadijah

Tan Yi Boon

Barbara Ng

Anthony Lee

Melanie Yong

Jacqueline Chen

Aerin Riangkruar

Lax Chee

Callison Neo

Aung Shwe Oo

Anson Cheng

Cole Lyman

Matthew Rosenbach

K.K Ong

Lim Cai Ling

Terry Lee

Rod Mackenzie

Tomy Wong

Yasser Suratman

Mark De Winne

Adib Jalal

Kelley Cheng

Edwin Tan

Douwe Van der werf

Jason Early

Tan Khee Soon

Shannon Sim

Noor Azhar

Tan Ngeup Khun

Chow Chee Yong

Joselyn Sim

Stanley Lim

Chris Jensen

A big thanks to Zack Chiang for coding the backend portions of this Manifesto!

Learn about how this project came about.

Read about the research behind this Manifesto.

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