Ethics & Design

I love the show ‘The Good Place’. Besides being hilarious, I love that it packages lessons of morality and ethics with an amazing cast and great writing.

If there’s any bright side to the screaming hell-scape that is our darkest timeline, is that our society has been forced to reckon with ethics and technology. The results of this reckoning are slowly filtering down from thought leaders & the decision makers to designers. Apple’s addition to Screen Time to settings is a great evolution for Time Well Spent. I stumbled upon this seminar and think it’s a good reminder for any designer, especially one who works in the technology space.

I went to school for advertising, and one of the classes that was a part of our curriculum was Law and Ethics for Advertising and PR. We covered not just the law pertaining to advertising, but also had a background in basic ethics philosophy. I rarely see values and ethics discussed as a part of the design process or even education, and there are few options to blow the whistle when designers have ethical issues with what they’re working on. I see a rise of awareness about design ethics like how disability advocates have pushed for designing for accessibility. While ethics is harder to pin down than text size and contrast, designers can start by incorporating questions of intent and morality into our brainstorming and creative process. How do we encourage conscientious design, even when they misalign with a corporation’s profit incentives?

I don’t have the answers, but I feel like as long as we continue to ask questions, we will be moving in the right direction.