In the face of crisis, is design the hero that we are looking for?

Photo by luke flynt on Unsplash

The following is adapted from my chapter “Design and Emergent Ethical Crises” which appears in Laura Scherling and Andrew De Rosa’s new edited book “Ethics in Design and Communication: Critical Perspectives” just published by Bloomsbury. I’ve not got my hands on a copy yet, but it looks like a great collection and I recommend you check it out here.


What are codes of professional ethics and what can they do for design?

There’s a lot of chatter online these days about design ethics. It tends to go run along these lines: “We’ve just noticed that designers do bad things. Now that we’ve realised this, how can we make designers stop doing bad things and do good things instead?” The fairly regularly, we get a suggestion that designers should get an ethical code. If you’ve got 24 minutes to spare here’s a long read exploring what an ethical code actually is and what it could actually do for design.

Can ethical codes make designers ‘good’?

Figure 1: Mike Monteiro’s A Designer’s Code of Ethics Poster. source: designtherightthing.com

The seemingly innocuous question of ‘how to be good’ in design is one of…


Detail from Shepard Fairey’s Poster “We the People Defend Dignity”

In 2008, street artist Shepard Fairey created a poster for Barack Obama’s US presidential election campaign. The simple red, beige and blue stencilled image of Obama’s face over the word “HOPE” quickly became the iconic image of the election. The simple message (effectively Obama = Hope) perfectly reflected the mood of citizens disillusioned with the America of George W Bush and looking a fresh alternative. For many, the poster represented the key rallying cry around which the election was fought and won. In 2017, as Obama leaves the White House, it remains the enduring iconic image representing his presidency. However…


On the 28th of June 2018, thirty two delegates at the Design Research Society conference in Limerick came together to have a conversation about the current state of research through design: the challenges, the opportunities, the problems and the possibilities that this concept raises and presents for design research today.

Peter Buwert

Thinking about design

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