Design Ethics - Inspirational. Please Post Your Stories.

Hi there,

Im looking for inspirational people who have stood-up and taken a stand for their moral and ethical values. (Also interested in the opposite view) I would like to hear your stories in the hope to educate other young designers on responsible ethical design.

See my post in the ‘projects’ page for more info.

Thanks for any help.


Ethical design is something which should occur with little or no prompting, thankfully the backlash against designers who perpetuate landfill sites with millions of plastic trinkets and wasteful processes are long gone.

Good luck buddy

Maybe we should be a little clearer about what ethical judgments require and then you might get a bit more of a response.
The only necessary component of an ethical evaluation in my opinion (one formed by studying and reading a lot of philosophy, posthumanist ethics and design) is autonomy.

You are right to stay away from calling acts right or wrong. Nevertheless that is how most people experience decisions at the operative level. On top of this most of what can be called unethical design is only so because of cumulative effects. So ethics in a design scenario involves informing and communicating those extensive complexities not telling someone they are right or wrong but giving them the best possible information to make good decisions. Most people will do the right thing if they are given the knowledge and opportunity in a manner that does not invalidate them.

Maybe you should be asking people if or how they influence decision makers by articulating the complex effects of their design in use and so informing them to the point at which the decisions they make have an ethical quotient?

Moments where designers have breakthroughs heightening the awareness of their clients and organisations have ethical significance whether they are strictly about issues that we might typically assign ethical importance to, such as environmental or social concerns, or just about building better advisory relationships.

Design ethics is very important to me and I wish you all the best in your project.
I also have a friend who wrote her masters thesis on something around environmental activism and graphic design (here in NZ) which may be useful to you so i will find contact details and post them if your interested

I mostly agree what you have said here
I definitely think its the designers job to educate their clients on ethical practices, to research around the area of a particular project and to be responsible for the practices involved. Ultimately if you refuse to take a job based on your ethical values, surely someone else is just going to pick it up?

But at the same time I’m sick of seeing weak ethical guidelines full of shoulds. Ultimately at the end of the day, under stress and and hardship, ethics are the first thing to fly out the window.

This leads me back to the basis of my first post.
I want to try and promote a set of ethical values (Not Guidlines), in which my peers dont think of ethics as limitations or boundaries, but as something that they positively incorporate into every project.

Thiis is where my request for your stories comes in,
I believe narrative is an excellent way of installing values. If people can read about someone else who has sucessfully challenged the conventional practise of design, it becomes a whole lot more feasable.
Perhaps you stood up in the face of ethical uncertainty, successfully influenced a clients unethical practice, or where in hindsight realised that what your were doing was wrong.

I think there is power in these stories for influencing my generation (The next generation) of designers.
Thanks for replying,its good to know someones out there. You too Kingred.

And I would be very interested in checking out that thesis.


Ok Megan was the author of the masters:

My memory of it is a bit faded but hopefully she can help you out somehow

…later in my career I’ve had several clients approach me to design military hi-tech products. I have never felt like I had to reject work because of ethics, but I always told myself that where I would draw the line would be products that could actually directly hurt someone, like a weapon. So something like a rugged PC or soft goods product was not really “un-ethical”, even if it was funded by questionable organizations… I hear even the camel back was originally funded by the military as a new canteen, and that was later productized into a wonderful piece of sports equipment.

Sometimes I did feel like I was defending myself when I shared what I was working on with friends, especially on the west coast… and in some of the times when money was more scarce, I’m not sure if I would have been able to turn away questionable products on ethics alone. Anyway, that’s my 5cents of experience with it

PS - I can think of a few other questionable situations that can happen in small and startup companies too, especially concerning protecting vendors from loosing money and employee benefit & working conditions. That’s not really directly ID related thought…