WHY DESIGN NEEDS ETHICS

Never before in history have such a small number of designers – a handful of young, mostly male engineers, living in the Bay Area of California, working at a handful of tech companies – had such a large influence on two billion people’s thoughts and choices.
We check our phones more than 150 times per day. Knowledge workers spend a third of their day in email. Teenagers (aged 14-17) send 4,000 texts/month, or every six minutes awake. The more we live by our screens and spend time there, the more we live by their design choices.
That’s a lot of power. Just like a city shapes the lives of its inhabitants, software shapes the lives of it users. Therefore software is a domain of great responsibility.
How do we make sure designers use the wisest moral operating system when making choices on our behalf?
How do they distinguish between what’s good for business and what’s good for society – or even navigate these situations clearly?
How do we align their design goals with our goals for how we want to live life?
How do they catch and minimize unintended negative social and behavioral externalities?
How do we hold designers accountable for their influence over people’s choices?
This is Design Ethics. My goal is help create this conversation.