Learning Ethics Firsthand Through Design Research Methods
Products, services, and systems that are incongruent with peoples’ abilities, needs, and values devalue their experiences. For example, non-scalable typography in a smartphone app interface can isolate people with low vision or advertising campaigns can misappropriate a community’s cultural heritage. Designers are ethically responsible for their design decisions. Infractions often occur when these decisions are based on assumptions instead of examining peoples’ unique characteristics and backgrounds firsthand. In 2017, Design Research Methods courses were implemented as the first design courses learners complete in the Communication Design BFA and Experience Design MFA at Miami University. These courses emphasize field research such as observations and interviews to develop designers who consider ways design affects people’s wellbeing instead of considering them as an audience to be “targeted.” This presentation shares how the curriculum challenges learners to involve diverse people groups in the design process. It shares how ethical design practices are stressed via primary research and human subjects research training. Examples of project work across a wide range of topics are detailed. These courses are delivered face-to-face and online and discoveries from this approach are shared. Learning outcomes, workshop activities, rubrics and program-wide assessment that measures learner growth throughout their degree is addressed.