I have an article posted on Design Observer about how the design community would respond to designers being called to do service design (i.e. social and infrastructural systems design) instead of designing products and artifacts by the US Army. What are the ethical implications of that for the design community as a whole, beyond the ethical choice of individual designers.
The comments have been interesting, but frightening in many ways for me. Interesting because (1) they are varied in both the readings and misreadings of my question and (2) more people have written to me off-line than on the post. It is frightening to me because no one has articulated a position for what ethical practice in the design community means. Not even a statement of "Thou should do no harm." In fact, the consensus (in feeling) seems to be that the question is a good one, glad someone is thinking about it, articulating it, but perhaps the question is premature.
Ric Grefe and I had a recent discussion of why I do not consider myself a designer. I'm a design anthropologist, and my students may be anthrodesigners, but whenever Ric speaks about "designers" I don't hail to that identity. While part of it is that I don't have training in design (I've had training in fine arts and the principles of design shares with art.), the other part is that I think very differently from designers. In this case, I have a sense of group identity while designers tend to see themselves individualistically. As an anthropologist (which is much more diverse a field than design), I do not act (as an anthropologist) without considering my actions impact on the entire field of anthropology across time and space. Obviously, designers don't have that sense of group identity and sometimes don't address the impact of designing on the field itself or of its social implications across time and space.
Yesterday, one of my students wanted to talk about changing her thesis topic because it felt too narrow. Now, through the research methods class, she wants her designing "to have a greater impact." I feel good about that because I have drilled into students the ethics of designing both within the community of designers and for whom you design (i.e. end user and client.) It saddens me that I have released them into a design community that is not prepared for them. So perhaps, they will revolutionize the design field when they come into positions of influence and power. It's sad that their passions and intentions will be premature (i.e. they will suffer frustration), because there is not ethical perspective to welcome them into the professional design community.