Originally published on “Matters” by Designit
In our Fall series we examine the responsibility of designers to help build trust into a system in which technology works behind the scenes to quantify everything around us.
At a faster pace than ever, technology is inserting itself into our lives. It’s easy to fall prey to dystopian fantasies, but as designers, we are a hopeful bunch. We feel that there will continue to be unimagined opportunities for new experiences and for innovation in every industry, from telemedicine to entertainment. We’re building a new world, a fast-evolving process, and Designit is on it! We’re ready to turn what we think we know upside down and inside out. And we’re eager to share what we learn and start a conversation to explore it.
But first we should have a conversation about trust. After all, every purchase, every interaction, every picture, every vacation, and every word we write get crunched by algorithms behind the scenes, in ways that are invisible to us and shape our interactions. As decisions are made on our behalf, are they the right ones? Should our friendship patterns determine who we might connect with on social media? Is Netflix helping us pick the movies we really want to watch? Who chooses whether we qualify for health insurance, and who determines the cost? Each of us is complex and unique, and motivated by different needs that are specific to our environments and lifestyles. We all want technology to improve our lives rather than to control it.
We believe that designers have a huge role to play in promoting ethical design in data collection, human-computer interfaces, and the ways in which algorithm-driven artificial intelligence shapes our experiences. Also critical for establishing trust is ensuring that our society trades in information in ways that prioritize people’s needs and feelings. In our own work, we’ve found that both clients and consumers benefit enormously from sticking to these principles. For example, for Oslo University Hospital, we reduced wait times for breast cancer screenings and made the process more transparent to ease patients’ nerves. For Scandinavian Airlines, we designed and rebuilt their supply chain with 95 percent locally sourced ingredients so travelers could trust and better appreciate the quality of the food they were eating. For Bancóldex, we helped people regain trust in a financial system that had not historically served them.
That’s why this Fall, we’re launching a series called Trusting Invisibility, to examine how designers can create more tangible and ethical experiences to help us enhance our humanity. In dozens of articles, think pieces, and interviews with people across industries and disciplines, we’ll look at the role of design in our future. We hope you’ll follow and contribute to our conversation. First up in the series is an interview with Praveen Vajpayi, Creative Director of the Mastery Transcript Consortium, on teaching millennials to visualize and pursue a more inclusive and high-skills society.