Service Design Melbourne

Design & Ethics # 2 2017: Discussion on ‘Dark Matter’

Event Details

DateThursday, 27 July 2017 from 6:00 PM to 7:30 PM
LocationHenry and the Fox – 525 Little Collins Street, Melbourne VIC 3000
RegistrationRegister for tickets

Submission Details

DateSubmissions close:

The July Design & Ethics event was hosted by Dr Zaana Howard who chose Dan Hill’s Dark Matter and Trojan Horses: A Strategic Design Vocabulary to frame our discussion. The metaphor, ‘Dark Matter’, resonated with many who acknowledged this operating in their work and recognised how design needs to work within it, instead of fulfilling stereotypical expectation to ‘put lipstick on the pig’. As strategic and service designers, there was a sense that we needed to be ethical custodians to question why, and not just how and what is designed.

This catalysed a complex discussion. Several notable points of contestation emerged regarding the value of the strategic designer. Are strategic designers capable and mature enough to have a ‘seat at the table’, not just to solve problems but to explore the ‘dark matter’ and context? This ‘table’ was quickly recognised as ‘executives’ with ‘authority’ but also often constructed by ‘white, heteronormative anglo males’, which is common in most Western businesses. This trend is increasing, globally. So what does facilitating ‘shared understanding’ and ‘collective decision-making’ mean in this context? This question seemed more acute for consultants who are hired to perform expected roles and deliver on outcomes. What can enable their agency? Is the consultancy model truly ‘broken?’

We acknowledged that all organisations have ‘value systems’ that then manifest through their products and services, but how are such values aligned and enacted? How do one’s values or perspective ‘fit theirs’ or other people’s? Do we truly know our own values and assumptions, anyway? Here, some noted how, like a fish swimming in water, one’s values are invisible or taken for granted until difference or friction is encountered. Also, designers can lack reflexivity, which was also lamented as a major obstacle in understanding that nothing is ‘objective’ but that our own perspectives are always at best partial, and are a subjective interpretation of a story. There are at times judgements made that our own values are ‘better’ or more ‘right’ than others which impacts how we behave and design. Greater awareness of our boundaries and positioning seemed to be called upon, beyond remaining ‘open’ in order to objectively design.


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