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, are there companies that work with and hire UX designers that make these types of expectations more public and supporting them when engaging with UX professionals?

  • That's important for each of us to ponder, but I'm unsure about your question: You're probably not looking for company names (which will be hotly contested :-). Commented Apr 11 at 7:31
  • 1
    I'd also like to point out that there is a split in the design world in the sense that there are products to be designed which lend themselves to advertising or selling (shops, news, etc.) and there are products which do not (business software, for lack of a better name). This is bought by companies to support their processes (of procurement, production, etc.) and there is less chance to put advertising or discrimination into them. Here the question is more which companies you want as customers (e.g. oil or defence industries). Commented Apr 11 at 7:32

2 Answers 2


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
    Commented May 25, 2016 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." Commented May 25, 2016 at 7:22

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 think I want to split this into sub-questions.

Why are companies working with UX designers and why do they go against best UX practices?

For a while, the incentives of companies and professional UX designers do align quite nicely: As the designer, you know, or are able to figure out, what the users' needs are, and how to serve their needs most effectively. The company needs this sort of knowledge to make their app be the most effective and comfortable to use. They might even take this as their guiding principle when writing their IPO letter:

Don’t be evil. We believe strongly that in the long term, we will be better served-as shareholders and in all other ways-by a company that does good things for the world even if we forgo some short term gains. This is an important aspect of our culture and is broadly shared within the company.

But at a later stage in the enshittification cycle, the company's incentives shift: They already have all users thanks to your awesome UX work, but still no money. So now it's time to abuse the users to favor business customers (usually advertisers and publishers), and finally, once everyone is on board, it's time to abuse everyone else to maximize revenue.

As a UX designer, you still are very valuable for all of these stages: After having made awesome UX for the users, you know how much you can optimize towards other goals without compromising the UX too much. Or further still, if you have been able to perfectly anticipate your users clicking behavior to the point where for any popup, they know they just need to click the blue button to get what they want, you now know how to get to click on the blue button that this time does what is good for the business.

And at the worst end, as a UX designer, you know how to design for good - and therefore you know how to design for evil. You know how to get people addicted, and to exploit them until the point where they'll happily justify to themselves that as long as they spend less than rent on your site, it's okay. You are a cunning manipulator and rewarded handsomely.

How to convince a company to move in favor of good UX?

A company may think in terms of KPIs and OKRs to optimize for the wrong things: If everything points to "maximize revenue the second a user lands on the site", a confusing, misleading, pressuring and perhaps even illegal practice is likely to win out. It may be enough to point out that a returning user who doesn't immediately get shafted on first visit may spend their money on the second or third try - and then return for more. But eventually with enough massaging and convincing of leaders and coworkers over a period of probably years, it may be possible to shift the tides towards good UX.

Additionally, laws are increasingly UX friendly as the exploitative nature of some tech companies has necessitated it. The recently enforced EU Digital Services Act (DSA), states:

Article 25
Online interface design and organisation

  1. Providers of online platforms shall not design, organise or operate their online interfaces in a way that deceives or manipulates the recipients of their service or in a way that otherwise materially distorts or impairs the ability of the recipients of their service to make free and informed decisions.
  2. The prohibition in paragraph 1 shall not apply to practices covered by Directive 2005/29/EC or Regulation (EU) 2016/679.
  3. The Commission may issue guidelines on how paragraph 1 applies to specific practices, notably:
    (a) giving more prominence to certain choices when asking the recipient of the service for a decision;
    (b) repeatedly requesting that the recipient of the service make a choice where that choice has already been made, especially by presenting pop-ups that interfere with the user experience;
    (c) making the procedure for terminating a service more difficult than subscribing to it.

Further helpful can be Article 6a of Directive 98/6/EC (in case promotions turn too misleading) or the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive (in case the conduct of the company in general is awful). And of course the GDPR in case of user data.

Laws are one of the few mechanisms which can bypass corporate power structures as they are above it and suddenly make the boss very nervous.

When should a professional UX designer pull out of a gig to maintain professionalism?

I do not have an answer for that, as ultimately any stance can be rationalized:

  • From: "As a professional UX designer, I will never compromise on my values, even if it drives me or the company into ruin"
  • via: "As a professional UX designer, I will gently nudge users towards supporting the company, because the alternative is us going bust and they losing an important part of their lives - which overall will be worse"
  • to finally: "As a professional UX designer, I will give the best experience possible to the users, despite the exploitative nature of the product and company".

A friend of mine recently observed that no matter where he'd go, he ultimately would make some "oligarch" (billionaire, CEO, investor, etc) even richer. He therefore is now looking for work in the public sector, which potentially is the primary candidate for a place which will not push against UX, but rather put steep emphasis on commonly-overlooked areas like accessibility.

  • Apologies, but I thought I would change my question to something that is less opinionated and instead ask: "My question is, are there companies that work with and hire UX designers that make these types of expectations more public and supporting them when engaging with UX professionals?" And I think that governments are just as questionable in their ethical standards as private corporation or non-profits. The fact that we now have what is called 'social enterprises' shows that there is no real boundary between entities these days.
    – Michael Lai
    Commented Apr 11 at 21:46
  • +1 I do still want to acknowledge that your answer to my original question is excellent!
    – Michael Lai
    Commented Apr 11 at 21:46

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.