(This talk is part of the Hope to Nope Show). Video of the same talk in Stockholm

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 The Washington Post

North Carolina’s 12th dis­trict is ger­ry­man­dered in such a way that three black (ie. de­mo­c­ra­tic) cities only get to have one con­gress per­son.

Steven Nass Gerry Mandering graphics Steve Nass via Commons

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

(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)

Politico: The great wall of amer­ica

Proposed Border Wall mockup 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

Don't follow order slide

Good trou­ble.

When your de­sign team is all white men you’ve al­ready started mar­gin­al­is­ing peo­ple be­fore you’ve made any­thing.

The Intercept: Palantir pro­vides the Engine for Donald Trump’s Deportation Machine.

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:

Palantir Flow Chart 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.

2. Listen

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 by Ai Wei Wei “Law of the Journey” (2018) by Ai Weiwei Artnet


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.