Ethics, design
& social change

Ethics, design
& social change

Below you can find the slides of my guest lecture in which I discuss the need for ethics in thinking about technological progress and how to embed ethical thought in designing technologies.

Do you have any questions? Do get in touch at d.ozkaramanli[a]tudelft.nl.

Thought exercises: 

Below are three scenarios that are based on situations from actual design practices. Each scenario talks about a situation in which one or more moral dilemmas are experienced, demanding difficult choices. As a thought exercise:

  1. Imagine yourself in these situations and take a moment to consider what you would do.
  2. Pair up with one or more of your colleagues to discuss your thoughts and choices. How do your thoughts and choices differ from each other? And why might that be? Also, discuss what you learned from each other and whether you have changed your mind.
  3. Ideally, this is the moment each pair / group would share their insights with the rest of the class, and we would collaboratively reflect on how your thoughts are informed and inspired by the lecture. It is still worthwhile to do this discussion in your groups.



Designing at
the fitness company 

You landed your first design job at a company that creates interfaces for sports equipment (rowing machines, treadmills …etc.). They want to be more creative, innovative, and human centered. You will be the only designer in their large software development team. This is an exciting challenge!

Several weeks into the job, you receive a report from your boss with the results of a market study outsourced to a marketing agency by your boss. The report indicates that middle-aged, high-income men are the main target group to aim for. Something tells you that this positioning is rather narrow and perhaps morally questionable. You are used to doing your own contextual user research and exploring different target groups before settling on one. However, this is a well-known (and expensive!) marketing agency.

Your boss asks what you thought about the report over lunch. What do you say?

The experienced

You are an experienced freelancer in user experience design and branding. It has been
quiet lately due to Corona, and you need a job to pay for bills.

A new client gets in touch with you asking whether you would create a brand identity (logo, packaging, look and feel) and a matching web-shop for a maternity pillow targeted at European young mothers. In the kick-off meeting, they explain that their product is a luxury item and will have a premium price tag. Later, you figure out that the pillows are imported from China and the quality seems poor.

You are already half-way through the assignment, what do you do?

The designer
as the facilitator

You are hired by a construction company to facilitate a co-design workshop for redesigning elderly homes. The workshop is well attended by multiple stakeholders, such as a social housing association, architects, civil engineers, and
elderly groups.

Towards the end of the workshop, you notice that the social housing association and the construction company have conflicting opinions about the size of housing. The construction company wants to build big houses as it’s more profitable. Social housing association needs small units to accommodate an ageing population. The discussion gets heated, the time is running out and you want to walk out of this workshop with results.

The construction company turns to you and asks: what do you think, designer?
How do you respond?

Do you want to learn more about moral dilemmas? 

This ongoing project is about better understanding how designers deal with ethical questions and moral dilemmas, which corresponds to the first principle of responsible design in our lecture: 'Designers acting responsibly'. Read more about this project here and watch the video below for examples of moral design dilemmas.

Other cases

Responsible DesignProject type

Not in my backyard!dilemmas for human-centered design

Teatime dilemmasProject type

Nuclear SitdownProject type

Design with Dilemmas
Değer Özkaramanlı
Delft University of Technology
The Netherlands


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