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Socially Responsible Design or ‘Bear Favours’

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Anders HAUG and Jacob BUSCH


Since Victor Papanek in 1991 addressed the social responsibility of (industrial)

designers, a plethora of books and papers on aspects of socially responsible

design has emerged. However, this literature is far from having solved the

environmental and social problems faced by the world today. In this vein, this

paper focuses on a major problem for many socially responsible design

initiatives, namely that, although they may be the result of the best of

intentions, many of these involve a danger of doing unintentional harm. On

this basis, the paper raises the question ‘how to avoid that socially

responsible designs end up doing more harm than good?’ The question is

addressed by defining the different levels of uncertainties associated with

such projects, and by arguing for a consequentialist ethics to govern socially

responsible design in the future.


PUBLISHED: Proceedings from the The 19th DMI: Academic Design Management Conference, 2014


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