Designers play with your emotions

Designers are responsible for instigating certain emotions with their designs. In this piece, we dive into what is and isn't ethical.

Daniel Bulut

February 15, 2021

It’s true.

Design involves a process of understanding people and creating a plan to achieve a specific outcome. A person’s emotions, behaviour and attitudes are key considerations in designing a particular experience.

People experience emotions when responding to interfaces, processes, services and products. Response=emotion. It’s the designer who instigates these responses and emotions with their design.

“The Social Dilemma” documentary is a cynical depiction of how designers can play with people’s emotions and behaviour. It focuses on how big social media companies manipulate users by designing addictive features into their platforms. It highlights that social media is destructive and disrupts our ability to focus, be present and interact in the real world. The documentary, arguably, is designed to make viewers feel guilty or a victim of their social media usage. A bit hypocritical.

While there are plenty of examples how design can be used to manipulate people to act or behave in a particular way, there is so much good that design has been able to achieve over the last few decades.

Good design is ethical

In a nutshell, good design means designing in ways that promotes good behaviour, provides real value and benefits individuals, society and the world. Most common design processes are ethical in nature (Design Thinking, Co-Design, UX Design, etc.)

Design Thinking, for example, takes into consideration broad perspectives to achieve a particular objective. It involves understanding people’s needs, looking for alternative ways to view challenges and prototype and test ideas new ideas with a diverse range of people.

This process provides a solution-based approach to solving problems – that means not creating new problems.

It’s important for all stages of the design process to be undertaken. If you skip testing, you may not validate your hypothesised solution or perhaps not see the full extent to which your design will affect people. If you skip research, you might not even know if what you’re designing is the right thing to do.

Good design is human-centred

Good design follows a process and has a human-centred core. It encourages designers to focus on the people they’re designing for, which leads to better products, businesses, societies and a world as whole.

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