It’s a funny thing to sign a contract. By putting our names on a piece of paper, we agree to the statements described in the document, and legally, I suppose that ink on paper represents an intent to abide by the terms of the agreement forever and ever (unless otherwise specified in the fine print). But it’s ultimately not my signature, but my behavior that demonstrates my commitment to the contract.

For example, I signed a marriage certificate with my wife after we walked down the aisle that represents a certain set of expectations. But that piece of paper isn’t what keeps us together. Rather, the choices we make are what demonstrate our commitment to one another.

Likewise, when I went to college, I signed a citizenship agreement as a pledge to maintain the standards of the institution I was joining. Signing the paper didn’t make me uphold the standards, but it was a statement of my commitment to maintaining them.

So when I got an invitation to sign a pledge to join a professional design association, my first thought was, is it necessary? Will it really make me a better designer? Well, no. And yes.

No, because like many of the other contracts we sign, the code describes activities and procedures that should be part of my professional practice anyway.

Yes, because it represents a commitment — to myself, to my clients, and to the design community — that I will make every effort to practice nothing but the highest professional standards as a designer.

So although it may be a formality, I think it’s an important one. If you’re a designer, I’d encourage you to visit and consider making your own pledge to design professionalism.