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Ethics; where to start?

In my research on ethics in/and design I talk to many: users of services (also known as people), experts on ethics and professionals in the design field. (Students, designers, agencies, clients.)

In these meetings different things happen.

  • The users are happy, it’s nice to talk about Good and being a good person. It is fun to talk about awful companies and inspiring to imagine kind and clever services.
  • The experts are also happy. They love talking about their field. (For hours, bless them).
  • But the professionals struggle. Bringing the topic into a conversation is almost perceived as an accusation. Ethics is difficult, doing good is complicated.

Most professionals I interviewed experience a tension between what they’d like to do and what they can do. Most want to do better, some feel they are failing.

Self love

Somewhere in the interview I show this ladder:

Shoulders drop, a sigh may be heard. Laughter even. They all point at a bullet. ‘I am definitely here, but getting to the next one!’ And they talk about the next one, and the one after, and how to get there. The feeling of failure leaves the room, and a sense of direction enters.

The realisation that doing good can start with something very small, is a big relief. And is the key: if you start with something you can never accomplish you will hurt yourself. Be kind to yourself and ask yourself what is within your reach. Do that. And grow into doing more.

Trying makes you worthy.

Do you have a story to share? Please let me know at

I will share more insights later through this blog, and make them part of my book on ethics in design: Making Good.