14 July 2015

The ethics of digital design

Be the first to share

Designers, writes Cennydd Bowles in a Design Council opinion piece, have a central role in safeguarding digital products so they not only empower but also protect users.

This responsibility starts with designers’ own output. Design teams should demand high ethical standards from themselves and their colleagues. Internal product development conversations are where key ethical questions are answered, whether intentionally or not. Designers should be active in these conversations, advocating for user needs, identifying areas for deeper research and highlighting ethical concerns even at the risk of short-term unpopularity.

Designers should also strive to give digital products a healthy balance of seamlessness and interrogability. While it’s appealing to create technology that needs little human intervention, this sort of black box can be a breeding ground for dishonest behaviour. High-risk systems should be interrogable, so that a sufficiently motivated user can learn about what a system is doing, what data it’s gathering and where that data goes. The success of connected technologies is largely predicated on trust – allowing users to lift the bonnet will hopefully make this trust easier to earn.

Digital designers are, furthermore, well placed to push for increased team diversity. As ambassadors for global userbases, designers know well the range of mentalities and approaches people bring to technology. Homogenous teams are too easily swept up in camaraderie, seeing only exciting gains for people like them, yet blind to potential harm for people not like them. The broad perspective of diverse teams offers better insight on tough choices: early warning of ethical issues that may disadvantage particular groups.

Underpinning everything is a need to communicate. Digital designers should help users understand what’s happening inside the products they rely on. Only then can customers make truly informed choices. Designers should also educate lawmakers on the consequences of bad ethical practice and advocate for regulation where appropriate. To this end, our industry has a duty to highlight damaging practice wherever it is found, and to continue to educate the public about misleading or harmful aspects of digital products. Our global audience deserves technology that works in its very best interests.

Cennydd Bowles is a digital product designer, recently design manager at Twitter. He is the author of the book Undercover User Experience Design.

Be the first to share
8 November 2017
From human-centered design to humanity-centered design
The design industry’s reigning paradigm is in crisis. It’s time to evolve from human-centered design to humanity-centered design, write Artefact’s Rob Girling and Emilia Palaveeva. If followed blindly and left unchecked, this cult of designing …
1 October 2017
Financial Times special report on citizen empowerment through technology
The Financial Times has published People's Technology, an excellent special report on how grassroots communities across Europe are using technologies in new ways to solve problems and empower citizens. People and communities are putting new …
1 October 2017
Thinking about the social cost of technology
The frustration and stress caused by complex technologies that can seem unknowable — not to mention the time and mindshare that gets wasted trying to make systems work as people want them to work — …
31 May 2017
 Intervista a Todd Harple di Intel sul tech-fashion
Ripostato da Medium - English version Il mondo del fashion sta diventando sempre di più digitale — e non si tratta solo di dispositivi da indossare, ma anche e soprattutto di abbigliamento, realizzato con tessuti in cui sono …
8 May 2017
Why service design is the new black — Intel’s Todd Harple on fashion tech
Reposted from Medium - Versione italiana The world of fashion is becoming increasingly digital — and not just wearable devices, but with clothing made from fabrics that actually integrate sensors and technology that can monitor and measure the …
21 April 2017
[Book] The Stuff of Bits – An Essay on the Materialities of Information
The Stuff of Bits: An Essay on the Materialities of Information by Paul Dourish MIT Press, May 2017 264 pages Virtual entities that populate our digital experience, like e-books, virtual worlds, and online stores, are backed by the large-scale …
5 April 2017
Designing for the circular economy
As reported by [email protected], the London-based Agency of Design (AoD) came up with three different approaches, "each of which embodies a different strategy to designing circularity from the outset": They are (1) designing for longevity …
19 January 2017
[Report] Consuming Differently, Consuming Sustainably: Behavioural Insights for Policymaking
The objective of this report, published by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is to shed light on opportunities to strengthen the effectiveness of policies for sustainable consumption in both developed and developing countries. The …

We are an international experience design consultancy helping companies and organisations to innovate their products, services and processes by putting people and their experiences first.

20 November 2017
Experientia and Italian bank Intesa Sanpaolo announce innovative partnership

Wide ranging partnership also covers collaboration with design schools and public events on service design “Finding the way forward for independent design means building new business models for service design consultancies in the age of the company buy-out.” Michele Visciola, President, Experientia PRESS RELEASE It seems the business world is finally realising that service and […]

26 October 2017
Epic storytelling with video

Another EPIC conference come and gone, and no, we’re not using “epic” in the way under-10s use it about cool things on the internet. EPIC is the Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference, one of the most important annual events for practitioners of anthropology, ethnography and related disciplines. Ethnography is one of Experientia’s key methodologies, underpinning […]

23 October 2017
Experientia is hiring! Service design intern

Service Design Intern: Lausanne, Switzerland and Turin, Italy Experientia, an international experience design consultancy, is looking for service design interns for our Turin, Italy office, to support research, concept development and design. The ideal candidate will be a holistic thinker and designer, with a systems approach to enable complex service offerings, driven by an understanding […]

23 October 2017
Experientia is hiring! Senior Service Designer

Senior Service Designer: Lausanne, Switzerland and Turin, Italy (*) We are looking for service designers with outstanding design skills, methodical thinking, and experience in designing complex service ecosystems using a human-centered design methodology.   Required 2-5 years’ experience in service design and/or user experience design University and/or advanced degree(s) in Service Design, Interaction Design, User […]

23 October 2017
Experientia is hiring! Lead Service Designer

Lead Service Designer: Lausanne, Switzerland and Turin, Italy (*) Experientia is seeking a Senior Service Designer to lead service design projects from the Turin, Italy office (*) or the Lausanne, Switzerland office. The Senior Service Designer will have experience leading a team of behavioral analysts and service modelers in research and service design projects lasting […]

18 October 2017
Innovate through service design – The Innovation Center of Intesa Sanpaolo and Experientia for “Torino Design of the City”

by Erin O’Loughlin – Photos: Naz Kazazoglu In Turin, you only need to tell your taxi driver “Take me to the skyscraper” to end up at the impressive Innovation Center of the Intesa Sanpaolo bank, rising in the heart of Turin, with a fine view of the Turin hills and the Italian alps. Here on […]

See all articles