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Ethics in Design: What 2020 Taught Us (Denver UX Meetup hosted by General Assembly)



This was a great meetup! I learned, became inspired, was engaged in, and thoroughly enjoyed the content.

The speakers and organizers were: Seth Bender, Hannah Annalora, Michael During, Kristina Rudolph, Regina Gilbert, Crystal Preston-Watson, Nick Anderson, Miriam Suzanne.




Books and resources recommended and/or cited:

  • The End of Average, Todd Rose

  • Technically Wrong, Sarah Wachter Boettcher

  • The Philosophy of Ben Grosser, Lori Emerson

  • Design Justice

  • The Dao of Web Design

  • Simple Sabotage Field Manuel

  • Ruined By Design

  • Designer's Code of Ethics, Mike Monteiro

  • The End of Average, Todd Rose

Here were some highlights:


Kristina Rudolph stunned us all with a black screen for her first slide, teasing us to an ah-ha moment by asking us what we noticed. Nothing! Then she threw out the definition for affordance:


the quality or property of an object that defines its possible uses or makes clear how it can or should be used.

We need to design interfaces with inclusive affordances in mind. Considerations she included:

  1. Brail doesn't necessarily have B /I / or font sizing and colors to differentiate or emphasize concepts. How to emote typography choices and placement through a text-reader?

  2. Consider the visual analogies used in the interface and how they can be conveyed

  3. alt (text) is incorrect. Use "alt attributes" to describe affordance for accessibility and assistive technologies. It's not just images we need to explain to users who have visual impairments but an analogous hierarchy that relies on visual recognition.

We must perceive in order to act and we must act in order to perceive." -Kristina Rudolph

Regina Gilbert talked about Effective Strategies for Accessible Meetings.

  • Give out slides ahead of time

  • State agenda upfront, describe features of meeting tools

  • State name each time you speak

  • Create pauses for note-taking, bandwidth, blind/low vision, folks using captions

  • Don't say "click here" --> specify what the audience needs to navigate to

These strategies seem easy and common sense to adopt. I loved her presentation.


Crystal Preston Watson gave an off-the-cuff presentation about designing for entertainment that had us laughing at her jokes and along with her own infectious giggles as she challenged us to consider how to create inclusive experiences in the gaming industry and even in the porn industry.


Nick Anderson came in fired up about Walking Away From Ethically Ambiguous Work in 5 Steps.


Step 0 - Fuck it money (save money so you can walk away)

Step 1 - Define what you're doing - ask questions

Step 2 - Take ownership of your part

Step 3 - Make a ruckus (leave reviews, warn others)

Hanlon's Razor: "never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity."

Step 4 - Inspire Others (let people know why you walked away, make it hard for the next guy to do your job without immense guilt)


I worked on a volunteer project that my UX writing team and I walked away from because we felt like the product was being pushed to ship without making sure the users' privacy and safety weren't compromised. It was hard to do because the project idea was well-intentioned, and the project owners were nice. I am vindicated. Thanks, Nick.


Mariam Suzanne wowed me with her presentation "User Unfriendly." She said we need to abandon Steve Krug's "don't make me think" theory of design and instead

Give users "not ease but access and control."

She challenges us, "who is it easy for? and to do what?" Are we designing to make it easy for all? "Who designs the default?" She continues that we need to design "for edge cases, for stress cases." And most importantly, she asks for us to "please make (her/us/you/them/us all/ humans) think."



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