Books  |    |  February 2, 2020

Ethics in Design and Communication: Critical Perspectives

Book edited by Laura Scherling and Andrew DeRosa.
Published by Bloomsbury Academic.
272 pages.

This timely collection brings together critical, analytic, historical, and practical studies to address what ethics means in the practice of design.

Designers face the same challenges as everyone else in the complex conditions of contemporary cultural life-choices about consumption, waste, exploitation, ecological damage, and political problems built into the supply chains on which the global systems of inequity currently balance precariously. But designers face the additional dilemma that their paid work is often entangled with promoting the same systems such critical approaches seek to redress: how to reconcile this contradiction, among others, in seeking to chart an ethical course of action while still functioning effectively in the world.

Ethics in Design and Communication acknowledges the complexity of this subject matter, while also demonstrating that in the ongoing struggle towards an equitable and sustainable world, the talents of design and critical thought are essential. Featured case studies include graphic design internships today, the dark web, and media coverage of the 2016 US presidential election. The fact that within this book such a wide array of practitioners, scholars, critics, and professionals commit to addressing current injustices is already a positive sign. Nonetheless, it is essential that we guard against confusing the coercive force of moral imperatives with ethical deliberation when conceiving a foundation for action.

Table of Contents

Introduction to the Selection of Texts

  • Foreword: Assumptions of Ethics and Agency in Design — Johanna Drucker
  • In Search of a Philosophy for Design Ethics — Laura Scherling

Design in Society

  • Designing Ethics in Large Scale Sociotechnical Systems — Jeffrey Chan
  • All Models Are Wrong: Information Design in a Post-truth World — Rachel Berger
  • Swiping Left on Empathy: Gamification and Commodification of the (Inter)face — Sarah Edmands Martin
  • Dark User Experience: From Manipulation to Deception — Marc Miquel-Ribé
  • Designing Safe Spaces for Virtual Reality: Methods for Merging Body Sovereignty Theory into VR Design Practice — Michelle Cortese, Andrea Zeller
  • Who Owns the Smart City? Towards an Ethical Framework for Civic AI — Michael A. Madaio, Sarah Edmands Martin
  • Design Possibilities and Responsibilities in Framing Well-being — Heekyoung Jung

Theory and Communication

  • Design and Emergent Ethical Crises — Peter Buwert
  • Designing Ourselves to Death: The Politics of Progress Versus an Ethics of Survival in a Diminishing World — David Stairs
  • Freedom and Communication Design: An Ethical Approach — Sara Velez Estêvão
  • About an Ethics of Design Activism — Maziar Rezai
  • Ethics in Contemporary Civic Engagements: Towards an Ethics of a Minor Design Activism — Tau Ulv Lenskjold, Sissel Olander
  • Graphic Design and Activism: Reflecting on Interactions — Andréa Poshar


  • Designing Tools for Low-Income Community Organizing — Luke Jordan
  • Design and Sustainable Development: Beyond Aesthetic and Functional Qualities — Iván Asin
  • Designing Ethics Tools for Self-Reflection, Collaboration, and Facilitation — Ciara Taylor, Samantha Dempsey
  • Noto Project: Between Harmony and Homogeneity — Suna Jeong
  • The Role of Ethics Online and Among Social Media Designers — Meredith James


  • Caring for What We Leave Behind: Ethical Considerations in Social Innovation Pedagogy — Mariana Amatullo
  • Perpetuating Class Divide: The Reality of Graphic Design Internships — Kathryn Weinstein
  • Highlighting Race Issues Through Mentoring and Design — Sabrina Hall, Anjali Menon
  • The Design Process is a Research Process: Students and the Ethics of Inquiry — David Gelb, Angela Norwood
  • Home: The Ethics of Addressing In-Equal Design — Peter Claver Fine
  • Threading Ethics in a Design Curriculum — Paul J. Nini

About the Editors

  • Laura Scherling is Adjunct Associate Faculty at the School of Professional Studies, Columbia University, USA and Instructor at the Teachers College, Columbia University, USA.
  • Andrew DeRosa is Assistant Professor of Design at Queens College, CUNY, USA, and Visiting Assistant Professor of Communications Design at the Pratt Institute, USA.