Designers Don’t Fight Back


S4DC reviews predictions for 2018

‘Tis the season for new year’s predictions, especially in the field of ‘design.’ We’ve been reading them all week, from the likes of Design.Co and Fast Company. As with any other year, there’s no shortage. What is a bit unusual in this go-’round is the commonality in theme and tone. Writers and respondents are more focused on dark patterns, improving the human condition, and making the world a better place… through design. Politics aside, designers seem to be awakening to the fact that they are complicit unless they actively aren’t.

We couldn’t agree more with the spirit of it all, but as is too often the case, the path forward is filled with leaps in logic, counter-intuitive behavior and, for better or worse, freighted more with desire than with a meaningful understanding of what it’s going to take to get there. If these predictions were presented as ‘intentions’ we would applaud them.

The simple irony in all these articles is the most basic designer’s truth: We don’t predict the future, we design it. It’s our job. And if that’s the case, we should ask ourselves why we’re doing it.

A Reason for Being

If you believe designers and their employers are going to begin standing by a set of ethics and turning down work that promotes dark patterns, you’d have to have some sense of their ethics to begin with. Unfortunately, they’re hard to find, if they exist at all. Then, if found, they seem HR-driven, navel-gazing, and disconnected from any practical application.

Given the energy behind this year’s ‘predictions,’ we believe a broader movement is needed. Designers need to swear to a purpose in the same way doctors swear to the Hippocratic Oath and engineers swear to The Order of the Engineers. The problem is, our field is ill-defined. Who’s a designer? Who isn’t? If design is--at its core--problem solving, isn’t everyone a designer?

For our own part, The American Design and Master-Craft Initiative stewards a set of values we believe designers can follow. These focus points guide our own design decisions, the work we take on, how we interact with one another, and how we make our way in the world around us.

If we were to see the world through this lens, we might re-frame some of the ‘predictions’ for 2018 with a more actionable approach and a stronger bent toward personal obligation.

To be continued...

Look for our next post to learn about our first three truths.

Happy Holidays!

- S4DC