Wicked ethics in Design



Media & Communications Design


  • curriculum, ethics, human-centred design, accountability


Wicked problems are wicked because, amongst other things, understanding problems as existing in society, at the intersection of many possible points of views held by a variety of potential stakeholders introduces indeterminacy. Ethical frameworks in this context may also be multiple and may exist in harmony or dis-harmony alongside each other.

In this paper, we argue for an acknowledgement of this complexity. This acknowledgement includes recognizing a distinction between successful and good design; that design, when considering the best course of action in an ethical and pragmatic sense needs to look beyond the business and consumer dichotomy; that ethical pluralism can exist across multiple stakeholders in an ecosystem; and that our ethical judgements need to be considered within the context of socio-cultural change.

This paper concludes by suggesting a range of interventions and tools that could be incorporated into design curriculum to assist design students with understanding and navigating ethical complexity

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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.

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