Prabhu Kandachar, associate professor at TUDelft, told a story that illustrates this ethical dilemma perfectly. A company developed an affordable ultra-sound scanner for the Indian market. It was meant to improve pregnancy healthcare and pregnant women's quality of life. But the company soon discovered that the scanners were being used for gender selection.
How should the company deal with this? Stop designing? Seek answers from the ethical experts? Keep designing, learning and trying to solve something that seems unsolvable? Or proactively attempt to design new behaviour patterns and value sets in the country so the product is used as intended? That's according to a western value set, at least.
As a designer, I think the way forward is focusing on context. Address and understand the underlying contradictions - whether they be cultural, economic or social - and make the solution fit. And most importantly, remember that policies and visions alone won't bring tangible differences to users' everyday lives - to achieve this, we need well-designed products and services.
What do you think is the responsibility of the designer? What is the role of ethics in product design?
Niti Bhan focuses on offering strategic insight for growth opportunities and revenue generation in the rapidly evolving interstitial space between design and business. Her 15 years of experience include employers such McCann Erickson Worldwide, Hewlett Packard India, The Second City and most recently, the Institute of Design. She is an engineer and an MBA whose most significant achievement in the field of design has been dropping out of two graduate design programs on two continents in two centuries - the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad and the Institute of Design, Chicago. Her areas of interest are business intelligence and trends, business strategy as well as creating a compelling user case for design as force for increasing value.