There are many terms interrelated to dark patterns. I feel confused with the following terms:

  1. Dark design patterns
  2. Dark UX
  3. Asshole design

Do all of the above mean dark patterns? If not, then what is the difference between them and dark patterns? Also are there any specific research papers that state the difference(if any exist)?

  • wow, never heard of asshole design
    – Devin
    Commented Jun 7, 2021 at 17:41

3 Answers 3


A design pattern is defined as "a general, reusable solution to a commonly occurring problem within a given context".

Dark design patterns are considered "dark UX", but since patterns have an element of reusability, it's possible to create a dark user experience without a dark pattern.

"Asshole design" is an informal, pejorative way of calling out any design that seems intentionally harmful. For those whose second language is English, it's important to note that "asshole" is one of the most offensive words in the English language, and is not appropriate in a formal business context.


After some digging, I found that Dark Design can mean 2 different things -

  • One is an ethical phenomenon where user value is supplanted in favor of shareholder value. [definition credits]
  • The other is dark mode for user interfaces.

Since the question seems to be more targeted towards the former, here is an academic reference for the same. According to a CHI 2018 Paper - The Dark (Patterns) Side of UX Design, UX Practitioner Harry Brignull defined dark pattern as "a user interface that has been carefully crafted to trick users into doing things...they are not mistakes, they are carefully crafted with a solid understanding of human psychology, and they do not have the user’s interests in mind"

Also refer to Table 1 in the paper - it describes the different types of Dark Patterns.

  • Is it not possible that 'dark patterns' can also be unintentionally bad design (i.e. developers not really thinking about what users want and just implementing requirements as they see fit)?
    – Michael Lai
    Commented Aug 9, 2022 at 2:04
  • True, dark design patterns should only be implemented when there is a very strong need for it Commented Aug 12, 2022 at 0:35

Yes, all those are the same you may have heard one more i.e 'deceptive design patterns'.

  • 1
    The original dark patterns website did update the name to Deceptive Design (deceptive.design)
    – Michael Lai
    Commented Aug 9, 2022 at 2:03

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