Cognitive Bias + Ethics + Dreaming the Future of Design with David Dylan Thomas — DT101 E112

David Dylan Thomas is the author of Design for Cognitive Bias and the creator and host of the Cognitive Bias podcast. Dave has consulted with major clients in entertainment, healthcare, publishing, finance, and retail. As the founder and CEO of David Dylan Thomas, LLC, he offers workshops and presentations on inclusive design and the role of bias in making decisions. We talk about cognitive bias, ethics, and dreaming the future of design.

Portrait of David Dylan Thomas

Listen to Learn About

  • How cognitive biases affect the way we think and design
  • Inclusive design
  • David’s Assumption Audit
  • How participatory design shifts power
  • Why businesses can struggle with ethics
  • Where should we go in the future of design?

Our Guest

David Dylan Thomas, author of Design for Cognitive Bias, creator and host of The Cognitive Bias Podcast, and a twenty-year practitioner of content strategy and UX, has consulted major clients in entertainment, healthcare, publishing, finance, and retail. As the founder and CEO of David Dylan Thomas, LLC he offers workshops and presentations on inclusive design and the role of bias in making decisions. He has presented at TEDNYC, SXSW Interactive, Confab, Button, An Event Apart, UX Copenhagen, UX Days Tokyo, and more on topics at the intersection of bias, design, and social justice

Show Highlights

[01:51] How Iris Bohnet’s talk, What Works: Gender Equality By Design helped David connect his work in UX/content strategy with cognitive bias.
[02:28] The role of pattern recognition in racial and gender discrimination.
[03:20] How David started learning about cognitive biases and starting the Cognitive Bias podcast.
[03:59] Writing a book, and shifting his consulting into inclusive design and designing for cognitive bias.
[05:37] Why it’s important for designers to slow down and take time to think about how cognitive biases may be affecting the design decisions they are making.
[07:29] David’s advice for those wanting to start to learn about cognitive bias and inclusive design.
[07:47] Using what you value most as a north star when designing.
[08:40] David’s “assumption audit” five-question exercise to do before starting a project.
[10:56] Two places where a lot of people struggle when it comes to inclusive design.
[13:18] Giving a voice and power to the people you are designing for.
[15:17] Dawan mentions the fear of starting, and the need for discomfort training.
[15:42] David mentions Mike Monteiro, who talks about needing to be able to wrestle with your discomfort.
[18:33] A look at the problems with, and ethics of, collecting personal data.
[19:33] It’s always best to think about inclusivity and cognitive biases as early as possible in a project, but at least before you take an expensive step.
[21:21] David offers a great question for an applicant to ask in a job interview.
[23:26] Facebook’s natural engagement graph, and why businesses can struggle with ethics.
[28:29] How people approach design research and ethics is changing.
[28:44] Participatory design’s power map.
[29:43] Looking at the city of Philadelphia’s work with the Office of Homeless Services.
[31:46] Connecting the locus of power to the locus of insight.
[32:35] David talks about how to get leadership buy-in to what you’re designing.
[36:14] How much of what we’re using today should we take into the future of design?
[38:26] Envisioning a world outside of ownership.
[39:34] Designing for sharing.
[41:22] Resources David recommends for people wanting to learn more.
[41:57] We can design something better for the future.


David on Twitter
David on LinkedIn
David’s website
David’s fantastic list of resource links for inclusive design
Design for cognitive bias: Using mental shortcuts for good instead of evil, presentation for UX New Zealand 2020
The Cognitive Bias podcast
Design x David Dylan Thomas interview on DxU
The Content Strategy Podcast Ep 48: David Dylan Thomas – Understanding design, content and bias
Iris Bohnet | What Works: Gender Equality by Design | SXSW Interactive 2016
Project Inkblot
Weekly Fluctuations in Risk Tolerance and Voting Behaviour, by J.G. Sanders and Rob Jenkins
Báyò Akómoláfé

Book Recommendations

Design for Cognitive Bias, by David Dylan Thomas
Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants, by Robin Wall Kimmerer
The Half Has Never Been Told, by Edward E. Baptist

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