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Design Ethics with George Aye — DT101 E136

This is the inaugural DT101 Live!, with guest George Aye. George co-founded Greater Good Studio with the belief that design can help advance equity. Previously, he spent seven years at global innovation firm IDEO before being hired as the first human-centered designer at the Chicago Transit Authority. He speaks frequently across the US and internationally. George holds the position of Adjunct Full Professor at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Today, we are talking live about ethics in design in the design industry.  

Listen or Watch to Learn About

  • What is ethical design?
  • The current state of ethics in the design industry
  • Project “gut checks” and saying no to projects
  • How power can warp ethics

Show Highlights

[01:33] Audience welcome + breakfast fun + mochi doughnuts!
[05:20] Dawan shares the event agenda.
[07:42] Dawan introduces George.
[09:06] George starts off by talking about human-centered design.
[09:41] The story of the invention of e-cigarettes on the Stanford campus and how it relates to human-centered design.
[11:13] What George found most shocking about the story.
[11:24] It’s not just about can we do something, it’s about should we do it?
[12:38] Looking at the roots of the design industry.
[13:13] The weakness of Dieter Rams’ ten principles of good design.
[14:20] What we need is an ethical framework for good design.
[15:12] How Greater Good Studio approaches ethics in design.
[15:58] Lived experience is expertise.
[16:21] Design is transformative.
[17:04] The design industry and education has trained designers to always say yes to projects, but not to know when to say no.
[18:01] George’s Ten Provocative Questions.
[19:10] Losing one’s inner conscience and voice.
[20:47] A succinct definition of power.
[21:24] Power asymmetry.
[23:59] The risk of working on projects that potentially cause harm.
[26:00] Greater Good Studio’s weekly gut checks and breakup emails.
[27:38] Some patterns and a framework when writing your own breakup emails.
[29:12] Design is an accelerant.
[31:08] We must call out the ways in which design can be harmful.
[31:24] George’s ideas around a possible standard design code of ethics and standards for practice.
[32:05] Accountability, not gatekeeping.
[37:21] Leadership needs to constantly practice being receptive to hard feedback from the team.
[38:19] The gut check is a deliberate tripping hazard.
[40:28] Ethics for people who don’t normally handle ethics.
[42:48] Approaching the potential for harm in a trained-to-be-optimistic design industry.
[47:58] How do we approach C-suite and other leaders to have conversations around ethics?
[51:49] What the next ten years looks like for ethics in design.


George on LinkedIn
George at SAIC
Greater Good Studio
Greater Good Studio on Medium
The Gut Check, by Sara Cantor Aye

Articles by George
Why designers write on the walls (and why you should, too)
Design Education’s Big Gap: Understanding the Role of Power
It’s Time to Define What “Good” Means in Our Industry

Design Thinking 101 Episodes You Might Like

Design for Good + Gut Checks + Seeing Power with George Aye — DT101 E50
Design for Good + Ethics + Social Impact with Sara Cantor — DT101 E100
Trauma-informed Design + Social Work + Design Teams with Rachael Dietkus — DT101 E81

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