The Art of Ethical Designs

UP Studio
4 min readJun 25, 2021


This short article talks about the art of ethical designs and how its the future of interfaces.


As Graphical Designers, you have certain moral obligation to the society. The confusing part of ethical designs is the legality of the issue. Legal ethics and ethical designs are the two different sides of the same coin. While data collection may be legal for companies to curate products, they can influence consumer options using this privileged information. Hence, ethical and legality might sound same but are miles apart.

What causes unethical designs?

Surveillance capitalism is unethical by nature because at its core, it takes advantage of rich data to profile people and understand their behavior with the sole purpose of making money. The most chilling thought of all is how data is being used not just to predict and manipulate current behavior, but how it is used to profile our future selves through machine learning, ultimately giving companies the power to impact our future decisions and behavioral patterns. These are known as dark patterns. These patterns are used to collect data and use it to influence future options of the consumers.

Types of dark pattern

Trick questions

While filling in a form you respond to a question that tricks you into giving an answer you didn’t intend. When glanced upon quickly the question appears to ask one thing, but when read carefully it asks another thing entirely.

Sneak into Basket

You attempt to purchase something, but somewhere in the purchasing journey the site sneaks an additional item into your basket, often through the use of an opt-out radio button or checkbox on a prior page.

Roach Motel

You get into a situation very easily, but then you find it is hard to get out of it (e.g. a premium subscription).

Privacy Zuckering

You are tricked into publicly sharing more information about yourself than you really intended to. Named after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Price Comparison Prevention

The retailer makes it hard for you to compare the price of an item with another item, so you cannot make an informed decision.


The design purposefully focuses your attention on one thing in order to distract your attention from another.

Hidden Costs

You get to the last step of the checkout process, only to discover some unexpected charges have appeared, e.g. delivery charges, tax, etc.

Bait and Switch

You set out to do one thing, but a different, undesirable thing happens instead.

Confirm Shaming

The act of guilting the user into opting into something. The option to decline is worded in such a way as to shame the user into compliance.

Disguised Ads

Adverts that are disguised as other kinds of content or navigation, in order to get you to click on them.

Forced Continuity

When your free trial with a service comes to an end and your credit card silently starts getting charged without any warning. In some cases this is made even worse by making it difficult to cancel the membership.

Friend Spam

The product asks for your email or social media permissions under the pretence it will be used for a desirable outcome (e.g. finding friends), but then spams all your contacts in a message that claims to be from you.



It seems the deck is stacked against single-client modes of working, and may be stacked against sustainable ethicality as a result. The culture of graphic design is not currently structured to prioritize and promote ethical conduct. To be fair, many of the systemic challenges to sustaining an ethical design practice belong to the global economy. Some of these challenges can be solved by designers alone. Many, however, require the same brand of deep cross-discipline collaboration that designers are especially adept at. Either way, if it becomes our collective intention, we do have the tools to change our culture.

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