Designing Futures:
How can ethics shape design theory and practice

This book is based on the research I conducted for my Master’s dissertation in Communication Design. Its focus is on exploring and documenting the relationship between ethics and design. Namely, how ethics is exercised within design and what are its intrinsic implications for the designer, for design, and for the environments in which our designs are embedded. It begins by asking whether the former can shape the latter as a discipline, in both theory and practice, and also hopes to offer some suggestions as to how. Ethics is not just inherent to the design process. It is inextricable from it. As such, an explicit concern for ethics and ethical deliberation matters because design is not neutral. It embodies values and epistemologies with profound political implications and communicates meaning through what we choose to reproduce. Hence, if we are not aware of what meaning we are imparting, we become complicit in a design which communicates, and consequently perpetuates, hegemonic systems of oppression. Systems which exclude rather than include. This matters especially to those concerned with shaping futures — a particularly appropriate preoccupation within a discussion which centers on both design and ethics, given the former’s intrinsic nature as some material projection of a desired outcome and the latter’s concern with deliberating over possible courses of action. This leads, therefore, to the conclusion that not only can ethics help mold the discipline of design into becoming more ethically responsible and accountable, but also that it must. Indeed, ethical implications, even when not made explicit, nevertheless remain implicated in the design process, especially given the latter’s role as the shaper of the interface through which we perceive and interact with the world, with others, and with ourselves.


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