Design on Trial: Designer’s Responsibility for their work

This story is about the responsibility of designers. It isn’t common to hearĀ of a designer going on trial because his or her design caused harm, but through this course and the associated readings about design and it’s responsibility to society, it seems that it is critical to reflect on designer’s responsibility. Perhaps one day designers will go on trial as depicted in this story.

This project was truly a challenging one that helped me develop multiple skills. The challenge was to present six authors’ viewpoints that we had read in class in a comic-strip type story. From learning to use Adobe Illustrator to publishing in WordPress, the technical skills we needed to learn were useful and also full of unexpected troubleshooting.

One of the most difficult things to do in this assignment however was to make almost one-hundred pages of mostly dense and abstract theory into a story that is grounded in a concrete narrative.

Given responsibility was one of the key themes in class so far, however, a trial scenario seemed to be a good way to set the theory in narrative. Over the course of the trial, the authors present as expert witnesses and debate the fictitious designers’ project and it’s dire fall-out for Zambia. This format was enjoyable to let the designer’s snafus and narrative unfold through the court case.

The designers make many mistakes, but whether or not they are responsible is a very complex and difficult decision to make. For just that reason, the reader of the comic is left to make up his or her own mind. I hope it helps readers think deeply about designers’ responsibility in society and make up their own mind about whether they should be held accountable or not.