2 Mar
Event time in Zürich, Switzerland (CET)
Wed, 1 Mar 2023
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Do No Harm framework for design

Designers craft services, products and systems which permeate society and are used by everyone. Design processes also impact the lives of the people they touch, directly and indirectly. From an interview which can elicit trauma to designing a product which shapes the way a person behaves. The design sector is consistently impacted by Silicon Valley’s mantra ‘move fast and break things’. This has led to wicked problems for global communities including echo-chambers, polarization, addiction to social media and dark patterns. With the privilege and power of practicing design, as designers we need to be aware of our responsibilities towards the systems and people we design for and with, and begin assessing more nuanced and complex ethical discussions.


‘Do no harm’ is the Hippocratic oath guiding healthcare physicians to “be able to tell the antecedents, know the present, and foretell the future” and to have two approaches towards their field, “to do good or to do no harm”. Design, unlike healthcare, does not have a shared set of ethical guidelines which can hold the practice accountable toward designing responsibly. When contextualized within design practice, Do No Harm does not mean to ‘do nothing’. It means to avoid exposing people to additional risks through the designers’ actions. The intention is to take a step back from an intervention, understand the broader context and mitigate potential negative effects that might impact the social fabric of our societies, economies and environments.


In this talk, we will introduce the ‘Do No Harm framework for design’, a practical approach to support design practitioners to start considering and applying ethics in projects and across the design process. After an introduction of the building blocks that constitute Do No Harm, followed by a combination of case studies and examples, we will unveil a few keys steps of the framework and its application.

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