Principles guide situational decision-making in practice.

Act at the appropriate scale

Designers need to distinguish root causes from symptoms and recommend or take action at levels most likely to produce positive outcomes. Some design problems are small while others are apt to require efforts outside designers’ usual roles with community decision-makers, local businesses, and politicians. For example, the design of a new home appliance is small, even though it involves several disciplines, whereas developing a sanitation system for a village is a complex socio-technical systems-level problem that requires collaboration with professionals such as civil engineers, public health experts, economists, community leaders, and politicians.

Anticipate the future

Designers need to identify forces of change and the emergence of effects over time. An intention to change human, organizational, or societal behavior must consider both the positive impact of proposed work and the potential negatives. Long-range planning should evaluate benefits in terms of consumer wellbeing, worker prosperity, and environmental responsibility.

Restore and sustain ecological balance

Designers need to consider interdependent relationships between human activity and environmental systems, redressing negative impacts, and contributing to a healthy biosphere. Overarching design goals include ecological balance and redemption that reverses the 20th century’s human planetary impact.

Focus on people

The capabilities, needs, and behaviors of people and societal groups are always primary considerations for human-centered design. The impact should be optimized for the benefit of those affected: users, employees, owners, and even bystanders.

Reconcile competing priorities

Different stakeholders often have different points of view and different perspectives upon the many different dimensions of the issue being addressed. Acknowledging these differences and negotiating agreement on equitable solutions is one of the new skills required of designers.

Strive for inclusivity

Designers need to pursue a diverse and equitable community of practice that includes the voices of all affected by its consequences.

Respect the importance of place and culture

Historically, design has been practiced as a kind of monoculture, with design communities all over the world trained in and following the procedures and philosophies established within Europe and North America. There is an increasing demand for design to change its practices in order to build upon existing social structures and beliefs, including those of indigenous people, citizens in the economically developing regions of the world, and groups that experience discrimination.

Accept accountability

Designers need to measure success in terms of technological feasibility, economic viability, organizational scalability, environmental sustainability, cultural sensitivity, physical accessibility, social equity, and ethical responsibility.

A code of ethics

The design profession needs a code of ethics that extends beyond the obvious characteristics of honesty, openness, effectiveness, and safety. Today, ethical design must take into account an understanding of and responsibility for its context, consequences, power, and privilege. The work must acknowledge the interdependency of social, cultural, physical, technological, and economic systems, respect the beliefs and privacy of individuals, and avoid damage to the biosphere.