News  |    |  November 28, 2017

Designing Ethics: Shifting Ethical Understanding In Design

News article by Ciara Taylor and Samantha Dempsey. Published on


Conversations about ethics are often difficult and awkward. Nevertheless, designers can play a vital role in finding new ways for people to relate to and communicate with each other. In this article, Ciara and Samantha set out to understand how ethics is used in contemporary design.


The influence of design is expanding beyond the realms of typography and objects and into healthcare, public policy, education, financial services, and more. Designers working in these emerging design fields are responsible for projects that have significant and fundamental impact on the quality of people’s lives with clear ethical implications.

In healthcare, for example, designers are responsible for creating everything from the industrial designer’s medical device that keeps a heart beating to the service designer’s physical layout of an operating room. Clinicians, with similar levels of influence, initiate their professional practice by swearing to follow the Hippocratic Oath. This sets specific boundaries that guide the ethics of their behavior. Designers, on the other hand, are given no guidance for ethical decision-making even as they continue to expand their influence into newer and riskier fields with long-standing moral implications. [ . . . ]