Designers & the Resistance in 2017

Attn: American designers, rethink your role in the United States of Donald Trump.

Much can be said about the responsibility of citizens and residents of the US to work for bettering our society and resisting the normalization of Trump’s America. Protest, call representatives, participate in local movements, keep up our energy and try to not give up hope or run out of steam.

All this is good, but all of it can (and should) be done by everybody.

What’s stuck in my head is what else we, as designers and technologists, are uniquely positioned (read:obligated) to do. The Citizen Designer Pledge is amazing and everyone should sign and share it now. Or, as this article says, plan national protests of designers or publicly shame the corporations that support and enable his plans to become reality.

Building on these, here are a few early thoughts on what else we can do. This is the beginning of what I hope is an ongoing conversation we have both publicly and privately.

1. Double Down on Ethical Design Principles

Principles are essential for grounding our design process, or the direction of a design led organization. Rightly so, principles that focus on users first are both good for users and good for business. But what are the principles we need today when rights of nearly every non-white-Christian-male group are under threat; when the universal values that we thought our society subscribed to are being trampled? 

What principles inform projects we take on and the clients we work for? How we spend our time on and off the clock? How we approach design challenges, or client demands, when their objectives conflict with what we know to be ethical design? What is ethical design in this context?

More questions than answers I guess, but the more we talk about ethics in design, and design leaders weigh in, the more this will become clear.

2. Share Your Skill

You've been designing for all kinds of clients, or maybe working crazy hours on your own product. You have immense skill and a valuable perspective, whether you've been in this for 20+ years or you're just trying to break in. Bring this skill to someone who needs it.

Pick a group, organization, or an issue that's important to you. How can you, as a professional designer, help them to achieve their mission, make positive change? We talk about the possibility for design to change the world. If this is true, even a little bit, how can we help grow grassroots and global organizations to reach new people, call users to action effectively, and organize movements that are sustainable and impactful?

Instead of putting hundreds of hours designing the world's next thousands of failed apps, use your skills to actually manifest a future you want to see. Create the next 5 Calls, and show everyone what designers are capable of when they see a problem and try to fix it.

3. Influence from Within

Wherever you find yourself right nowa freelancer, in an agency, working in a startup or an in-house design teambe an advocate for good, ethical work using whatever influence you have. We all try to be a UX evangelists. Let's also evangelize ethics in our field where we get those around us to be as excited about doing work that has a positive impact on society as the work that is paying us the most, or most frequently. (Shout out to Time Well Spent for some needed perspective)

4. This is not the End

It's easy to fall into a pit of despair these days, but these challenges are really what should excite and mobilize us to make our profession more even more relevant. Design has seen unprecedented growth. Designers are founders, executives, and strategists, not only wacky creatives that make stuff look cool. Take whatever misery you may be feeling and turn it into fuel for changing our social and political environment for the better.

As I said above, this is a small contribution to the discussion we need to be having. Can't wait to hear what you think.

See you out there.