Exploring ways to incorporate ethics into the design process
Time frame: 6 months | fulltime | 2016 - 2017
I believe design shapes the way we live and that with this power comes great responsibility. Currently Industrial Design Engineering is the only faculty of the TU Delft where students are not taught about ethics. That is why I initiated a graduation project on design ethics. I researched what holds designers back and explored ways to incorporate ethics into the design process.
I employed a practice-based research methodology, with research methods including interviews, case studies and observations. A range of case studies has been executed at the faculty of Industrial Design Engineering at the Delft University of Technology.
Various techniques based on current ethical decision making tools and design methods have been experimented with. The argument put forth in this research is that the development of skills allows for incorporation of ethics because skills are not limited to specific content. The proposed ethical skills for designers are moral sensitivity, moral creativity and moral advocacy.
Building on the theoretical framework, a toolkit for designers to acquire and develop these ethical skills has been developed. The tools are grouped in relation to the three ethical skills. You can find these tools on www.ethicsfordesigners.com.
Each tool is focused on a different aspect of the design process, ranging from the deconstruction of previous work to ideation to communication with stakeholders. Thus allowing the tools to find their natural place within an existing design process. Finally, these tools have been evaluated with designers in practice.
Here a group of bachelor students are discussing their definition of ethics in relation to their design of a robot.
In this case study several groups of master students were instructed to set up an 'ethical disclaimer'. The goal of this exercise was to 1) think through possible unethical situations a design might cause and 2) discuss for which of these situations to take responsibility. The insights from the case study provided the foundation for the ethical disclaimer tool.
I evaluated some of the tools of the Ethics for Designers toolkit with designers in practice. This helped to both improve the practical aspects of the templates as well as discuss at which moments designers might use the tools within a project.