Essays

A Hippocratic Oath for Designers

I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:I will respect the hard-won gains of those designers in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.

I will apply, for the benefit of culture, all measures which are required, avoiding those twin traps of awards and self-congratulation.

I will remember that there is art to design as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh focus groups or the designer’s ego.

I will not be ashamed to say “I know not,” nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a design challenge.

I will respect the privacy of my clients, for their desires are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of trust and friendship. Above all, I must not pretend to be above reproach.

I will remember that I do not simply solve a problem, or sell more widgets, but collaborate with a human being, whose design need may affect the person’s business and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to consult adequately for the client.

I will prevent messages of no value whenever I can, for messages of value are preferable to messages about value.[1]

I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those with design as well as those in need.

If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of helping those who seek my help.


  1. Valicenti, Rick. Emotion as Promotion: A Book of Thirst. New York: Monacelli Press, 2005.

Inspiration for a hippocratic oath for designers goes to the Bad Medicine episode of the Freakonomics Podcast. Have a listen.

Apparently the designer’s oath is also a thing.

And of course, there’s the First Things First manifesto for designers.

Bud Rodecker