Design is Always Political
From who you work for, what you work on, who you involve in the process, who is affected by the product. Design = Labour = Political
Design is the intentional solution to a problem within a set of constraints
(Increasing shareholder value isn’t a problem)
North Carolina’s 12th district is gerrymandered in such a way that three black (ie. democratic) cities only get to have one congress person.
This is all designed. The maps are designed in such a way to keep the status quo.
After key provisions of the Voting Rights Act were repealed in 2013 (Shelby County v. Holder), all these states were allowed to make voter ID laws that are essentially designed to keep black people from voting.
As a result of this you get this:
But you also get the resistance movement.
A system designed to fuck someone is designed that way on purpose, and people need to be held accountable.
A lack of ethics is a precursor to fascism
AIGA Eye on Design (@AIGAeyeondesign) February 19, 2017
(The tweet links to this article)
Can you imagine doctors or lawyers debating wether ethics should be important?
Uber CEO Travis something joined Trumps business council. He doesn’t get credit for stepping down, we get credit for forcing him out.
We’ll partner with anyone in the world as long as they’re about making transportation in cities better Source
It’s like Mussolini saying he’ll make the trains run on time
Susan Fowler: Reflecting on one very, very strange year at Uber
Talks about how the HR didn’t help her - this is also a result of design. We’ve spent decades rolling back worker protections, unions etc.
Design must have an ethical core
Volkswagen engineer who “was just following orders” is sentenced to 40 months in prison. (This is about them building software specifically to cheat on emission tests)
Above: A rendering made by a designer Politico
This talks about a design firm which wanted to make Trump’s border wall more attractive. They sound like terrible people:
Llado and Robert Moehring, the firm’s other principal, did not want to talk about politics, and emphasized that their mission is purely architectural. “This is a different way of addressing the border that is sustainable, functional and hopefully beneficial to society in any way possible,” Llado says, “as well as any fauna, flora, landscaping, etc.”
Fuck form. Measure impact.
You cannot design a good border wall, a good muslim database, a good gun because those things are all inherently evil. To design them well is to make them more evil.
Apple refused to write software that would let the government get into iPhones.
Earning your rent at the cost of someone else’s livelihood isn’t a good way to live.
1. Don’t follow orders
When your design team is all white men you’ve already started marginalising people before you’ve made anything.
Palantir is the data mining firm of Peter Thiel (Who’s a terrible person). This is the software that ICE and people like that use to round up immigrants:
Above: A flowchart made by a designer. The Intercept
When you put your labour into creating thins you’re responsible for what that thing does in the world. The question of “Should I design it” is more important than “Can I design it”.
Victor Papanek: Design for the Real World (PDF)
There are professions more harmful than industrial design, but only a very few of them.
Twitter didn’t listen when people started being abused, nazis showed up etc. They didn’t predict people were going to use the platform for evil.
Silicon Valley doesn’t care about poor people, black people, women, immigrants. This is what the service economy is built on. The rise of fascism in america came at a time of massive inequality.
Teams need to reflect the world we live in. Rich white dudes will only ever solve th problems of rich white dudes.
3. Prepare for the Future
Some examples of people doing good work:
“Law of the Journey” (2018) by Ai Weiwei Artnet
- Center for Civic Design which works to “ensure voter intent through design”. Their field guides on running good elections are fantastic.
- Ai Weiwei talking about the refugee crisis (Human Flow). Also it’s not a refugee crisis but an empathy crisis.
- 5Calls.org which makes it easier for people to call their representatives.
- mytranshealth.com helps trans people to get good medical care.
- Colin Kapearnick
- Cards Against Humanity buys land on the US-Mexico border to stop Trump’s wall. See also here
Let’s talk about the internet, is it the right tool for change etc.
In the 90s there was all this talk about the internet democratising the world in some radical way. We fucked that up. If you compare what we have today to what we wanted ni the 90s we;ve achieved close to 0%. Part of the problem is we built things we had no idea how to do. The problem with Twitter started 12 years ago when it was built by a group of white boys. It never occurred to these people that you might be harassed online because that never happened to them. Same thing with Facebook. We didn’t think things through because of what we meant by we.
The second part is the idea that young people don’t know what they’re doing. Young people in America are working on a problem that their parents’ generation fucked up and they look like they do know what they’re doing.
Twitter and Teargas by Zeynep Tufekci.
The book makes the point that Twitter, Facebook etc. allowed movements to grow so quickly that they didn’t have time to develop roots. Part of the reason the civil rights movement succeeded is because it was slow, basically built on writing letters. This led to more solid local organisation.
Tech is having its “Upton Sinclair Jungle Moment”. The book talks about how meat packing in the early 20th century was entirely unregulated and as a result companies did all kinds of terrible things. Eventually this was uncovered by good journalism, which led to regulation. The same thing needs to happen in design.
“But Mike, it sounds like you’re trying to make it harder for people to be a designer!” That’s right.