Design is an ethical act.

Our outcomes could impact entire cultures and communities. And we’re responsible. Have we considered whether those impacts constitute a desirable future?

We’re responsible for each step we take. Photo from Unsplash

Designers are creators. We make typewriters and books, digital and analog interactions, concepts and systems, services and experiences. We can create feelings of awe or disgust, and build attention or ignorance. Through our creations we imagine, generate, experiment, devise, discover and connect.
Our work is to reflect upon life and our environment and construct it to our liking. Like alchemy, we take the raw materials of the world and transform them into meaning. We give order to molecules, to ones and zeros, and to abstractions. And in this, we give things meaning by embedding them into the context of life — or individual human lives.

Of this, Otl Aicher wrote,

“we discover that we are less bound into a pre-existing reality than facing the openness of free spaces. we do not just design ourselves into the temporal future, but also transcend the bounds of the given world to reach new possibilities. piece by piece we build the structure that translates the possible into new reality, made reality.” (Aicher, 2015, p.32)

We give form to bits and pieces of the world, and in doing so, we transform it.

The decisions designers make between the drawing board and the production line move out into the world to become parts of the new reality within which others build their lives. Out there, our creations gain volition of their own. We pass the omnipotent power we had in their development along to the design itself and the user’s decisions about how and whether to use it.

In the real world, our products are tested and manipulated. Our outcomes become parts of individual lives and are capable of transforming them. Through individuals, we also impact culture: our shared values, morals, and priorities. And have impacts on the planet: the use, protection, or degradation of non-human life. Each of our design decisions can have wide-reaching effects on humankind’s contemporary reality and future.

As designs leave our desks, our power becomes consequential, but our responsibility grows to omnipotence. The impact our creations have and the volition that they grow comes as a direct result of our choice to create, like Frankenstein’s monster. We are responsible for the uses and possible perversions that emerge from our creations.

To influence, we have to create and decide. Choosing not to create because our work could have adverse impacts, we hinder the possibility of positive impacts. We must create, but we must also be wary of our choices.

As designers, we can engender and reject positive and negative societal movements with our hands and thoughts.

To influence, we have to create and decide. Choosing not to create because our work could have adverse impacts, we hinder the possibility of positive impacts. We must create, but we must also be wary of our choices. 
Here we come to the designerly question: How should things be?

This question feeds the fire that drives our work as designers forward. Every consideration, every decision, every outcome and implication reflects our answer to this question. Are we dedicating enough energy to properly answering it?

Our outcomes could impact entire cultures and communities. Have we considered whether those impacts constitute a desirable future?


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