An Event Apart: How Designers Destroyed the World

by April 1, 2014

In his How Designers Destroyed the World talk at An Event Apart in Seattle WA 2014, Mike Monteiro talked about taking responsibility for your design work. Here are my notes from his talk:

  • Designers get to make things. But design is not just an act of creation but also of choosing what to create.
  • Design is your job, not your clients. Do not put the work on them.
  • We can't do our job without clients.
  • Designers need to take responsibility for their careers. You have a responsibility to yourself, your clients, and the world.
  • Facebook's designers made decisions about the privacy settings of their groups product. These in turn have created painful situations for people who have had their private information revealed without their consent. This is irresponsible design.
  • Business decisions go through design. Designers have a role in these decisions.
  • Sadly design often happens without a designer, with a designer that didn't see the issue, or worse a designer that didn't see it.
  • When something is badly designed and potentially harmful, you have one of three possible situations: ignore it, run it up the chain, the chain of command ignored.
  • Bad design makes it out into the World not through malicious intent but through no intent at all.


  • Who can pull the plug on something that sucks? You.
  • You see things going out the door all the time that you don't think are right. You can stop it.
  • Design is not how something looks and feels but also how it works and how it affects people.
  • If designers disregard their obligations, they are being negligent.
  • We need to fear the consequences of our work more than we worry about speaking up and more than we love clever technical solutions.
  • Victor Papanek = "There are professions more harmful than industrial design, but only a very few of them."
  • Taking responsibility is not a nice-to-have design skill.
  • The Web is extremely pervasive -it has the power to destroy us all. What goes on the Web goes through us. We can make sure it doesn't.
  • The monsters we unleash into the World will be named after us.

Designer Responsibility

  • Design works in the service of a better World. This is not a choice.
  • Are the problems you're taking on problems worth solving? Stop flipping companies and start flipping tables.
  • You have more power than you think. Recognize the power you have.
  • Designers have a responsibility to the craft. You represent us all.
  • When designers let down clients they make things harder for all designers who need to rebuild lost trust in design.
  • Designers have a responsibility to clients. Pick the right ones. Find problems worth solving that you are qualified to solve.
  • No one hired you to be their friend. Make them give you what you need to do your job.
  • If every designer prevented clients from going to a bad place, less clients would.
  • Be willing to get fired. You have to tell your clients when they are preventing them from doing their job.
  • Designers have a responsibility to self. This isn't about altruism -this is how you make a living.
  • The work we take on defines us. Consider the long term repercussions of this.
  • You are not bigger than the problems you are solving. Your ego is fear getting in the way of good solutions.
  • You will be wrong, there will be people better than you, you will make mistakes, and you will recover from them.
  • Care what you work on. Be intentional. A designer that doesn't care about what they work on is like a chef that would serve you rancid food.
  • Ask your superiors to help you solve problems. Don't tell me how, tell me what.
  • Your design education was terrible. We need gate keepers not pixel pushers.
  • You always have a choice. It is easier to recover from loosing a job or client then to recover from compromising yourself.
  • You are responsible for what you put into the World because we only have one.