Respect Driven Design

Digital products shape our everyday lives. This underlines the importance of ensuring that all people, regardless of their origin, culture, religion, sexuality or gender, have access to these products and that they are designed with respect for individual circumstances and experiences.

Two women and a man from different ethnic groups in an office environment are looking at a laptop together. They laugh and seem familiar with each other.

What is respect driven Design?

The term respect driven design comes from the Ethical Design Handbook and is used there primarily in relation to respect for vulnerable groups such as children and older people as well as the privacy and data of users. For me, however, the term should be understood more broadly and also include approaches from concepts that deal with different forms of discrimination (e.g. anti-discriminatory design, inclusive design or feminist HCI). After all, all of these frameworks have a common goal at their core: respectful treatment of all users – especially those who are often not considered.

Close-up of hands of different skin colors in an office environment.

Start with yourself

But how can we succeed in creating a conscious and respectful approach while keeping as many forms of discrimination as possible in mind? It all starts with ourselves. We tend to imagine users who have similar circumstances and experiences to our own. As a result, marginalized groups, their needs and contributions are quickly disregarded. In order to design more consciously, we need to educate ourselves, reflect on our behavior and become aware of the definition of “normal” based on which we do our work. However, it is particularly important to understand that you can never be completely neutral or objective, as you always tend to carry a set of experiences and opinions into any situation. Awareness and empathy are therefore important building blocks in a respect-driven design process, but are no substitute for the inclusion of diverse user groups.

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