Service Design Melbourne

Design & Ethics # 1 2017: “This Human”

Event Details

DateThursday, 11 May 2017 from 6:00 PM to 7:30 PM
LocationHuddle – Level 6 90 William St Melbourne, VIC 3000
RegistrationRegister for tickets

Submission Details

DateSubmissions close:

SDM, academics and key practitioners have partnered to host a series of small and intimate discussions dedicated to design and ethics.

Together, we hope to foster productive and provocative discussions along the following questions:
If service design aims to have bigger impact in scale and value for companies and public services, what responsibility are designers taking when changing and intervening in people’s lives and futures? What decisions are we implicated in? What are the values that underpin the outcomes we design for, and how are we accounting other people’s values that differ from our own? What does ‘human-centred design’ really mean in this context? How might we create space for diversity, so that we can make conscious decisions about our collective futures?

We welcome participation by anyone who is willing and passionate in contributing to discussions on design and ethics.

The May event was curated by Melis Senova (co-founder of Huddle) and drawing upon her recently launched book, This human, she guided the group discussion on ‘having clarity about why you do what you do, acting with intention and connecting to purpose.’

11 May 2017: On “This Human” hosted by Melis Senova


Many participants, in their introductions, talked about concerns for ‘impact’ of their work or design, leading to questions of how this could be observed beyond traditional metrics, visibility and causal relationships. Recognising hidden and invisible dimensions of design that can be difficult to capture or account for, several participants suggested the importance of mindfulness (and meditation) to bring sensitivity and attentiveness to reflexively notice one’s own presence (and also beliefs) in relation to others.

Triggered by the book’s advice that ‘It is their truth that is important, not yours’ made some confused or confronted. Does it mean our opinions doesn’t matter? What role do we play as designers? A flurry of discussion followed to make sense of this, moving through points like  this may not mean the ‘erasure’ of one’s perspective or bias, rather it’s becoming more aware of our beliefs and worldview, because we can often be so unaware. In this discussion the group found it helpful to frame perspectives as ‘both/and’, rather than ‘either/or’.

The book highlights strategies to embark and enhance an awareness of our beliefs, though some remarked how this was not as easy as it seemed. Suggestions for framing a human-centred designer’s role as ‘interpreter’, ‘translator’, ‘provocateur’ and ‘facilitator’ of other people’s perspectives was largely acknowledged as something we all do, and to avoid dualisms of ‘self versus other’.

Several conversations circled on the problems of design being based upon an industrialised model of growth, consumption and development, largely framed by an Euro-centric worldview. This is highly problematic when designing with or among people from diverse worldviews, and such issues were shared from stories of designing with Indigenous communities or working with people from ‘non-western’ cultures. Here, ideas were shared that design/ers could learn from, such as sitting with and listening, reciprocity and notions of sustainment beyond a lifetime (seven-generations approach).


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