Responsible Design

“Creation without responsibility creates destruction” – Mike Monteiro

In his inspiring talk, ‘How Designers Destroyed the World’, at Webstock, New Zealand,  Mike Monteiro discusses the responsibility of designers and the possible consequences of forgetting the same, a near existential question that we at CKS find ourselves asking often enough. His talk is a wake up call to the designers around the globe. ‘Design is creating things’, he states. Designers have a responsibility not only towards their clients but also towards the larger world within which they practice. Mike narrates the experience of a young gay American girl,Ms. Duncan’s,with Facebook. Ms. Duncan, although an active user of Facebook, had chosen the privacy settings that hid certain parts of her profile from her family.Unfortunately, when she was signed up to the Facebook page of a local queer community she was a part of the group’s privacy settings overruled her own privacy settings, and Facebook notified to everyone on Ms. Duncan’s friend list about her carefully preserved identity, including her father, who responded negatively, disowning his daughter.

Through this example, Mike illustrated how the bad design of Facebook’s privacy laws  destroyed family ties.Designers he said might approve a bad design as ‘good enough’, due lack of time or workloads, but bad designs can have severe real repercussions. All it takes is carelessness to bring bad design into the world. Mike believes that designers need to prioritize the consequences of their work over the cleverness of their ideas.

This leads us to the question of the ethical responsibility of designers. Victor Papanek, designer, educator and author of Design for the Real World, who became a strong advocate of the socially and ecologically responsible design of products, tools, and community infrastructures. He calls designers ‘Gatekeepers’. Thus designers have the responsibility of not only solving existing problems but also minimizing chances of new ones cropping up. The four fundamental responsibilities of designers in Mike’s opinion include – responsibility towards the world, responsibility to uphold or uplift the craft, responsibility to the clients and responsibility to oneself.

According to him designers should recognize the power they have; power to contribute something important to the world. This should be used to improve or make easier the lives of people. We have the responsibility to write, speak and teach what is ethical and therefore design ethically right design for the clients. Mike believes designers always have the choice of choosing the right client because after all, they are hired to do a good design not to make people happy. At the end of the day the product designed will be attributed to the designer; this makes him or her responsible to themselves and the world around them.Instead of the world, Mike ends his talk by enumerating the things that should be destroyed. Firstly, the ego; designers should inculcate self respect and humility. Secondly, fear; fear of speaking against wrong or bad design, and lastly, apathy; a designer must be intentional in his actions.

Enjoy watching.

Webstock ’13: Mike Monteiro – How Designers Destroyed the World from Webstock on Vimeo.

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