The Relevancy of Human-Focused, Ethical Design

Written by
Estefanía Teixeira

Ethical Design (ED) focuses on creating a relationship between the user and a product. It works kindly to meet human-centered designs. ED includes environmental, social, moral, and responsible choices. Keep in mind designers don't create interfaces! Their core value focuses on making high-value connections between companies and users. So, there's a need for specific and regulatory ways to succeed at ethical challenges. In short, you'll find some key concepts you need to consider to create high-level designs,

What is Ethical Design?

The first step is to review ethics concepts. Merriam-Webster states ethics determines the positive and negative aspects of any action. Ethics has a set of moral principles that define the perception of good and evil. Therefore, ethics in design seeks to reconcile cheerful designs in opposition to unethical designs. Ethical principles encompass a series of characteristics essential for understanding the term.

Usability. A design is honest when it supports intuition and security.
Accessibility. Ethical design must be accessible and address the needs of all users.
Transparency. This aspect of ethical design promotes clear instructions so users can male
Focus. In this sense, design begins with two solid foundations. The first one is that all people involved in design processes should know the extent of the product or service. This knowledge contributes to allocating all resources with the priorly mentioned elements. The latter concept concentrates its effort on all products made with users at the top of their minds.
Sustainability. Finally, the last element weighs product lifecycle management. Here, sustainability lies in embracing more circular-economy-based lifecycles. As a result, most of the resources for the first stage are available for reusability. 

What is Ethical Design?

The 3 Principles of Ethical Design

Often, Ethical Design involves an ethical hierarchy of needs. In this context, the Ethical Design Manifesto, created by became a cornerstone. The enterprise, created by Laura Kalbag and Aral Balkan, promotes justice in digital times. In turn, the duo presents a pyramid hierarchy of Ethical Design principles, which go as follows (from bottom to top):

Human Rights. Ethical Design starts with respecting respect human rights. Practical ways to endorse this approach are end-to-end encryption, open source, and accessibility
Human Work. When applying the prior principles, some focuses include respecting human efforts and work. Products tend to be more functional and reliable when doing so.
Human Experience. The human experience should be engaging, immersive, and magical. Ethical Design fosters the link between the user experience and the emotional part.

The order of the elements within the pyramids only represents focus among different stages. Yet, in the end, a product needs to contemplate all prior mentioned features to receive, according to’s Manifesto, the title of Ethical Design. 

How to Achieve a Unique, Ethical Design?

There are some basic concepts to follow when aiming for ethical or human-centered design. The first one, autonomy, refers to users being able to choose how to use the product. Further, this edge includes possible customizations. In the second lane, security focuses on prioritizing users’ integrity in all senses of the concept. And last but not least, transparency ensures users are always aware of the products' functions, conditions, and processes.

Likewise, unethical design can often represent threats to final users and product teams. Some examples include potential physical and emotional damage, financial losses, and data leaks of exposures. Also called Dark Design, some examples of these practices encompass non-authorized transactions on users’ connected accounts, not disclosing extra fees, and gaining unauthorized access to vulnerable features of different devices. 

For a design to be ethical, it should integrate the abovementioned principles. Furthermore, designers must be able to connect with companies’ values ​​and goals. There are two useful tips to start the Ethical Design path in this context.

The first one is to avoid assumptions. Starting a design process relying on personal or conjectural assumptions can lead to teams making final wrong decisions. Thus, leaving all prior concepts behind when starting a project is safe to ensure the least possible subjectiveness. The other advice is to add difficult questions to all stages to o acknowledge and carry on potential ethical implications. For the latter, there’s an interesting tool called Tarot Cards of Tech, which offers tribulations like:

1. What is the vitality of the product?
2. What if the user base equaled millions?
3. Future effects on the economy, society, and environment?
4. Who takes advantage of the Design? Who doesn't?
5. Is there lousy utility in the Design?

This technique offers a system of questions to test on users, with the goal of promoting the audit of previous designs. It helps to recognize whether they meet the ethical requirements. In short, constant progress review is essential: do not hesitate to pivot if necessary!

What is Ethical Design?


Design can shape people's perceptions and decisions for better or worse. Thus, it's important to apply good practices to reconcile responsible designs. Rather than specific rules, Ethical Design lies more in user research, analysis, and consistency. Ultimately, the goal is to acknowledge users' needs at all stages. Not only does this approach provide the opportunity to expand markets and create higher acquisition and satisfaction. It also lets teams be part of a safer approach in times of screen over-saturation!

Our human-centered approach and hard-earned reputation make us able to deliver successful, top-notch, and stunning products. Whether you're looking to move from an idea into a business or thinking of new iterations for your product, our UX-focused Custom Software Development company is here to help. Feel free to reach out, and let's shape the future together!
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