Digital design ethics



Design Education Strategy


  • 4IR, design education, digital design, ethics, South Africa


As a socio-technical field, design has always been intertwined with the industrial revolutions. During the continuous growth of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) in South Africa, it is prevalent for design education to reevaluate what is taught to young designers.

Through the spread of COVID-19, South Africa has experienced an increased use of digital technology within education, work, and leisure time. The access to platforms such as Facebook, Google, YouTube, and Netflix has grown. While the spread of access to information technologies should be encouraged, this paper reveals the problematic designs of digital platforms such as these. The ways in which these digital designs exploit human biases and behaviours are exposed. These designs have caused an increase in the ‘time spent on device’, social anxiety and addiction to technology that benefits these conglomerates.

Design ethics frames designers as responsible for the products they create. Designers are viewed as agents for social change, as advocates of product users and as mediators between customer, manufacturer, user, and environment. Design can be viewed as a field of agency for improving digital spaces within the rapidly changing environment of 4IR.

This paper explores how digital platforms have exploited human behaviour and advocates for the inclusion of digital design ethics within the South African design curriculum as a method of encouraging the design of digital platforms that serve human needs.

DEFSA conferences

DEFSA promotes relevant research with the focus on design + education through its biennial conferences, to promote professionalism, accountability and ethics in the education of young designers. Our next conference is a hybrid event. See above for details.

Critical skills endorsement

Professional Members in good standing can receive a certificate of membership, but DEFSA cannot provide confirmation or endorsement of skills whatsoever. DEFSA only confirm membership of DEFSA which is a NPO for Design Education in South Africa (