I read an excerpt from AIGA's publication on design's responsibility to the public:

The designer’s responsibility to the public

A professional designer shall avoid projects that will result in harm to the public.

A professional designer shall communicate the truth in all situations and at all times; his or her work shall not make false claims nor knowingly misinform. A professional designer shall represent messages in a clear manner in all forms of communication design and avoid false, misleading and deceptive promotion. A professional designer shall respect the dignity of all audiences and shall value individual differences even as they avoid depicting or stereotyping people or groups of people in a negative or dehumanizing way. A professional designer shall strive to be sensitive to cultural values and beliefs and engages in fair and balanced communication design that fosters and encourages mutual understanding.

and also

The designer’s responsibility to society and the environment

A professional designer, while engaged in the practice or instruction of design, shall not knowingly do or fail to do anything that constitutes a deliberate or reckless disregard for the health and safety of the communities in which he or she lives and practices or the privacy of the individuals and businesses therein. A professional designer shall take a responsible role in the visual portrayal of people, the consumption of natural resources, and the protection of animals and the environment.

A professional designer shall not knowingly accept instructions from a client or employer that involve infringement of another person’s or group’s human rights or property rights without permission of such other person or group, or consciously act in any manner involving any such infringement.

A professional designer shall not knowingly make use of goods or services offered by manufacturers, suppliers or contractors that are accompanied by an obligation that is substantively detrimental to the best interests of his or her client, society or the environment.

A professional designer shall refuse to engage in or countenance discrimination on the basis of race, sex, age, religion, national origin, sexual orientation or disability.

A professional designer shall strive to understand and support the principles of free speech, freedom of assembly and access to an open marketplace of ideas, and shall act accordingly.

To me it seems to be very applicable to everything that a user designer would do as part of their job, yet I have often seen the pressures of time, budget and manager expectations cause UX designers to stray from this type of behaviour.

My question is, what is the reason for companies that work with and hire UX designers not making these types of expectations more public and supporting them when engaging with UX professionals?


I believe when I see "UX" in practice that I am reading "A quantified user of my product" not "any random human being." Data based context is so important. The question posed makes me think more of HR, and less of UX.

A professional designer should absolutely take into consideration the things you proposed. There are social ethics that many would deem absolute, but not all. Since this can't be summed up so concisely, I think most professionals will find themselves making judgement calls frequently. I also think this is fine. Presumably, you trust your designer's decisions.

UX Designers are so often called on to make judgement calls, which is a tasking responsibility. The key part of the job is being able to make these calls with solid reasoning, and then following through with a great deliverable.

  • I am interested in your answer, because in my experience UX designers don't normally get to make these types of decisions, or defer them to their direct reports (e.g. product owner, UX lead, etc.). You mentioned HR and I am assuming that in your experience they set the guidelines and standards, but I don't believe I have seen examples of these standards set out in many of the places I have worked at. – Michael Lai May 25 '16 at 7:00
  • In my experience UX is very important to product, but not top of the food chain. A highly researched and developed UX may get overridden by an old routine that a high paying client likes. This results in non-data driven analytics producing feedback that skews how your UX process works. Thus most production interfaces are a combination of "this is what works" and "this is what we want, but we dont know why." – Connor Wilson May 25 '16 at 7:22

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