I. LET’S DESIGN SLOWLY
New guiding principle inspired by Tracy Johnson
Instead of jumping right in with the solution in mind, designers who invest in long-term community relationships often end up with more sustainable outcomes. Rather than disrupting for the sake of disrupting, slow design values designers who build up their local knowledge currency first. Slow design inspires us to unlock deeper insights into the ‘why’ behind each issue in a way that quick, rapid design thinking workshops may overlook.
Fast design sprints often only scratch the surface of an issue. Designing meaningful outcomes require more than one-off workshops or short-term contracts. Just as slow travel promotes deeper connection and immersion with the local culture, so too can slow design guide designers to develop more sustainable solutions with lasting impact.
II. WE HAVE ONE PLANET EARTH
New design philosophy inspired by Erin McLean
Human-centered exceptionalism has its limits. We’ve abstracted ourselves so far away from how our technology works that we forget we aren’t othered from nature – even the digital products we use can be traced back from code, to bits, to energy. How might we rethink our priorities and recenter the human-centered design process to focus on the ecological needs of our shared planet and lifeline? We have the power to destroy, but also to repair and rebuild.
As we continue to consume more content on the web, we forget that each click, stream, and upload pollutes our planet. The cloud consumes more power than entire nations. During covid lockdowns, we saw our carbon footprints shrink to new lows, but as we enter out of them, will we overcompensate and push our consumption to new limits, or will we embrace the opportunity to rethink how we can live in harmony with our planet?
III. DESIGN CAN HARM US ALL
New ethical framework inspired by Oscar Murillo
A design harms framework helps us consider potential harms our designs can directly or indirectly have on our fundamental human rights. Design harms conversations can help us make more informed decisions on whether to move forward with a design or technology. From the start, the design harms framework challenges us to think about the entire product lifestyle and potential harms before we launch.
‘Techlash’ is here and real. Products that promise to make our world a better place have become the same platforms for bad actors to spread misinformation. Web3 promises to democratize and decentralize every aspect of our lives, but will those innovations also leave those who lack digital literacy or connectivity further behind? As we continue to develop more complex technologies that govern our lives, we need to ensure that we understand and debate how our designs may harm us all.
IV. WE OWN THE BURDEN OF COMPLEXITY
New design approach inspired by Timothy Prestero
There’s no such thing as a dumb user and there are no excuses for a product’s failure. Designers must consider effectiveness not just efficacy. Instead of placing the burden of complexity of figuring out how to use a product on the user, designers must take full responsibility for all potential outcomes and the actual behavior of users in the real world.
The products we use are becoming more obscure and complex such that we hinder their usability and legibility. Our phones and devices are less repairable than ever and we toss rather than fix them. Complex algorithms and obfuscated AI systems become a greater threat to our privacy when we don’t know how they work or what data they collect.
V. WE’RE FACILITATORS, NOT EXPERTS
New paradigm shift inspired by Jaleesa Trap & Behzod Sirjani
Based on constructionism, designers should facilitate learning through coaching and exploration rather than using prescriptive approaches to problem solving. When leveraging research tools like co-design, we benefit from creating spaces for play and allowing users to learn and develop their own agency. As designers, we’re not the main characters – but the users we serve are.
We often get caught up in our own bubbles and gatekeep our domain knowledge to practitioners in our field. We forget that although we have expertise in certain design thinking tools and methods, the users often hold the answers to a design solutions. If we give them space to develop their own agency, we can coach them into the decision-making and production process so that they too can explore potential solutions of their own making.
VI. THICK DATA IS MEANT TO BE SHARED
New research tool inspired by Tracy Johnson, Lauren Thomas & Carolyn Wei
Data points represent real lives and complex outcomes. With thick data, we can supplement our understanding of our research artifacts by augmenting them with the right context and narratives while acknowledging cultural history and representation (or lack thereof). To share the richness of our research, we can immerse our stakeholders in a mini-museum format that brings the data to life and helps them build empathy with the users.
Instead of another slide deck or research report, we’re always finding new ways to generate buy-in from our stakeholders and advocate for user research. Inviting them to a compelling and dynamic event can get them excited about our work and understand the complexity of the data points. If stakeholders aren’t able to join in on the user research sessions, mini-museums may be the next best thing to catch their attention.
VII. TRY SUBTRACTING BEFORE ADDING
New design methodology inspired by Connie Missimer
Our economies optimize for profits and growth. We’re driven to create and consume new artifacts and resources, but not pair down what we already have. We forget that we share finite resources on a finite planet. During the design process, how might we prioritize removing barriers, reducing complexity, and striving towards a legacy of less not more? Before we start creating additive solutions, let’s try subtracting first.
A new wave of literature promotes that less is more, from Marie Kondo and her decluttering empire to Cal Newport and his following of digital minimalists. More recently, we’ve seen countries, corporations, and communities turn to boycotts, divestment, and sanctions as subtractive tools to help dismantle injustices. We can continue to enact change through subtractive forces in all areas of our lives.