We need to take responsibility for the impact our work has on planet and society: We need a more ethical, social and sustainable approach to create new products and services. And while that may seem as a daunting task (and let’s be honest, it’s not going to be easy) it will also be an exciting undertaking. A new path we need to explore, one that will lead to new discoveries and ways to think about design and innovation.
The time for change is now. How exciting is that?
The last decade has undeniably been great for design, and UX design in particular. Ideas like “human-centric design’ and methods such as design sprints and design thinking found their way into the boardrooms of corporations and became part of ‘business lingo’.
Putting ‘the user first’ has brought us a lot. By placing the desires and needs of humans at the centre of our design and innovation processes we’ve created engaging, efficient and highly profitable products and business models.
We have been optimising our products for how businesses want users to consume, but we failed to realise the effects this had on them as individuals, on society and the environment.
When we talk about ‘user-centric’ design are we then really talking about designing with the user in mind? Or are we talking about optimising our systems to take advantage of human nature in order to sell more products, make our services more ‘sticky’, and our apps more addictive?
Looking at the state of things today: I hope we can agree that a new attitude towards design and product innovation is needed. Luckily, we really don’t need to toss all our learnings and processes over board, there’s a lot that’s valuable. But we need to redefine our models and way of thinking.
Luckily, we really don’t need to toss all our learnings and processes over board, there’s a lot that’s valuable.
To start looking into new directions and explore the possibilities we’ve tried to define the right mindset or, so you will, a set of principles we adhere to while designing:
- Do no harm
Treat design as the superpower it is. And with great power comes great responsibility. Be aware of whom you are working for and what the goal is of the project you’re working on. Whether or not you do that project is ultimately your decision. But you have the responsibility to at least inform yourself.
- Create awareness
Change starts with creating awareness. We need to give ourselves, our users and our clients, options and transparent information to make the right decisions. We need to help them to make informed choices and to make the right decisions.
- Look beyond the product
Your product exists within a larger context. It’s part of a bigger ecosystem. Everything you do has an effect on other parts of that system. Be aware of unintended consequences. You might disrupt something you weren’t aware of.
- Aim to reduce
Don’t solve a problem by adding complexity, aim to solve it by reducing. Complex systems increase the chance of unintended consequences. But also remember: ‘Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.’ Sometimes complexity is there for a reason. (remember our friend friction?)
- Design for humans
Designing for a better planet is designing for human beings. To come up with new ideas we need diverse and inclusive teams. Foster the differences, be open for other points of view and always be aware of your own biases.
- Be a radical optimist
To say that this is going to be easy, would be a lie. To think it’s going to be comfortable and that we can keep on living the life we’ve been living would be an illusion. And, yes, there are a million reasons why this wouldn’t work. But look at it in a different way, and you see as many possibilities. Exciting new ways to think about innovation, our planet and society.