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Last updated on 11/20/23

Make Ethical Decisions

Why should designers care about ethics? Why does it matter who we work for, or how our products are used? What are some common ethical traps that designers have to navigate? Ethics refers to a set of moral principles or a guiding philosophy. 

Ethics in design

Ethical Design Manifesto [4:07 min]

For Ind.ie, diversity is seen as a competitive advantage. The Ethical Design Manifesto involves having diverse groups design for themselves. 

UX and UI designers need to be aware of how users are manipulated.
It's never a bad idea to look closely at the terms of service fine print to see how your data is being used.

 “We need to fear the consequences of our work more than we love the cleverness of our ideas.” - Mike Monteiro

Design director Mike Monteiro wrote A Designer's Code of Ethics to address key issues for designers based on the idea that designers are first and foremost human beings:

  • A designer is responsible for the work they put into the world.

  • A designer values impact over form.

  • A designer owes the people who hire them not just their labor, but their counsel.

  • A designer welcomes criticism.

  • A designer strives to know their audience.

  • A designer does not believe in edge cases.

  • A designer is part of a professional community.

  • A designer welcomes a diverse and competitive field.

  • A designer takes time for self-reflection.

To help showcase the importance of ethics in design, his firm also invited various designers to create posters to help bring the issue of ethics to the forefront.

Another approach to addressing ethics is The Copenhagen Letter which was to written in the context of a world where "technology is consuming society, ethics, and our core existence." The goal is to encourage everyone who shapes technology to take responsibility for the world we are creating. The key points state:

  • Tech is not above us.

  • Progress is more than innovation.

  • Let us build from trust.

  • Design is open to scrutiny.

  • Let us move from human-centered design to humanity-centered design.

Inspiration vs plagiarism

In courses, I encourage you to learn from existing examples. This does NOT mean you can claim it as your own design and put it in your portfolio. In fact, these should not be in your portfolio at all. Looking at existing work is aimed at helping you to better understand how graphic elements fit together. Additionally, design libraries exist so you don't have to reinvent the wheel each time, including common functionalities makes the experience easier for users to understand. The risk of plagiarism happens in terms of how the different look and feel of elements are put together.

Be aware of plagiarism, copyright, and trademark infringements if you want to avoid legal ramifications. Lawyers are expensive! Besides, if you invest time into developing your own style, you'll get a lot more work. ✨  Great work takes practice and patience.

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