Ethics isn’t just for philosophers—designers need to take responsibility, too

By Leyla Acaroglu. Published by Quartz, September 28, 2016

A few years ago, I was doing PhD research and interviewing designers around the world to identify the limiting factors in designers integrating sustainability into their work. Nearly everyone I interviewed had, at some point, learned about the systemic implications of rapid innovation and how to make better decisions. Yet most of them stillpassed off the responsibility of making the “right” decision to someone else: It was the boss’s, client’s, manufacturer’s, government’s, or consumer’s choice that would solve the problem that their production would participate in.

When everyone within a system plays this hands-off, “that’s not my problem” game, the system is very quickly riddled with external issues … and a shitload of problems. This appears to be the case with the complex debate around the ethics of design and technology. Who is taking responsibility for the outcomes, externalities, and downright damaging impacts of our hyper-consumer, ever-changing landscape of new gadgets and virtual arenas that are coming on board at a lighting-speed pace?