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Transforming Methods for Ethics and Equity in Professional Design Practice
Columbia College Chicago, USA
Many innovation-oriented design organizations are shifting their business models to be more ethical, inclusive, and equitable, yet there is uncertainty in how to engage with these imperatives within the constraints of professional design practice. This paper proposes weaving economic analysis and sociotechnical system framing with the emergent ethical practices of designers and design managers by conceiving of new strategies for equity-focused design methods. Along with the collective efforts for ethical calls to action toward social and environmental justice, these strategies have the potential to empower leaders to design equitable business solutions. It is necessary to two key obstacles—market-focused demands and neutral methodologies—to shift the processes and outcomes of design practice to be more equitable. The literature reviewed here builds on previous theories and methods to conceptualize the value of developing more equitable design processes. To support this conceptualization and inform the necessary shifts towards equity, contributions from designers and design researchers focusing on justice-oriented methods and sociotechnical systems analysis are reviewed. In conclusion, the author explores the use of problem framing and scenario-based design to add systemic sociotechnical contexts related to oppression and exclusion. These are two of several proposed innovations to methodology that seek to bridge the gap between participatory-oriented academic design research and market-oriented professional design practice.