Do we accept design responsibility to make significant changes in the world?

design responsibility

Design is, by definition a Service Relationship. All design activities are animated through a dynamic relationship between those being served – clients, customers, end-users etc, and those in service including the designers. Design is a service on behalf of others. A designer’s focus is not self-serving but other-serving. Being in service does not mean being a servant or subservient. It also does not mean helping. Helping is based on inequality. Service is a relationship between equals. A service relationship is a complex and systematic relationship with a particular focus on serving with responsibility and accountability. This is true even if each individual designer is only involved in a very small design act, playing merely a minor part of the totality of the design environment. To be a designer is therefore to be the co-creator of new worlds. It is a calling of enormous design responsibility with associated accountability.

In our day-to-day lives as designers, we hardly spend time pondering questions of human destiny. Instead, we tend to deal with particular design situations that occur at a particular place, time, people and resources. Regardless of whether we choose to be aware of them or not, questions of responsibility for outcomes in design decisions and actions must be a challenge for designers. It seems common for designers in a particular project or program, to be unwilling to accept full responsibility for the consequences of their designs. 

Designers have the power to make significant changes in the world through their designs, and with this power comes a sense of responsibility and accountability. We must be mindful of this responsibility and consider the potential consequences of our designs, both intended and unintended, and strive to create solutions that are sustainable, adaptable, and in harmony with the needs of the people who will use them. This involves taking a systems-thinking approach that considers the complexity and interdependence of the world, and that aligns our designs with the needs and values of the people we serve.

Systems thinking is a way of understanding and making sense of the world by considering the relationships and interactions between different components within a system. It is an approach that has been used for centuries, and has been applied in a variety of contexts, including religion, philosophy, and science. According to West Churchman, systems thinking can be seen as a tradition that gives form and meaning to the human condition. By considering the relationships and connections within a system, we can gain a more comprehensive and holistic understanding of how things work and fit together.

Design judgment is an essential part of the design process, as it involves making decisions about what is appropriate and meaningful in a given context. Design judgment is based on the idea that designers should focus on creating a world that has more meaning, rather than just making the world more fundamentally real. Design judgment involves the synthesis of creativity and innovation, as designers must use their creativity to come up with new ideas and solutions, and their judgment to decide which ideas are appropriate and meaningful. It is important for designers to understand the comprehensiveness of systems and to apply proper judgment in order to make the design more meaningful.

Accepting responsibility for our role in world-making means being accountable for the judgments and actions we take as designers. This requires us to be mindful of the potential impacts of our designs and to take a proactive approach to prepare for and assume liability for those impacts. By being fully accountable for our design judgments and actions, we can work towards creating a world that is more just and equitable for all people.

So, with these state affairs in mind, what is our responsibility, as designers, in co-creating this new world? Do we have the right to cause a significant change in the world? What is the right approach to make changes? What kind of changes are good or just and for whom? Do we accept responsibility for our part in world-making and what does that mean for our accountability and liability? Can we be relieved of responsibility in some way? How can we prepare for this responsibility and assume the liability of being fully accountable for our design judgments and actions?

Shallow Insan

We strive to break the barrier of the superficial form of thinking to understand and explain complex and interrelated designed events and systems.

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