Mike Monteiro: How Designers Destroyed the World

I’m not an auditory person – I love the written word and images, but listening to audio just doesn’t grab me in the same way. So when I say “you MUST listen to this talk,” those are not words to be taken lightly.

Mike Monteiro lays out the responsibilities of designers – an approach to ethical design that makes sense. Here’s why you should listen to what he has to say:

1.) Ethical design is a responsibility we all share.

Soapboxes annoy me. “Ethical design” sounds to me like I should feel guilty for enjoying the privilege the generations before mine fought to allow me. But Mike Monteiro explains it in a way that has opened my eyes. As designers, he says, we create things. We create things that impact other people. And when we are creating something, it is coming from us, and that makes us responsible for what we are choosing to create. Mike isn’t saying we should all quit our jobs and join the Peace Corps. He’s saying we are actively impacting others, and we that imbues us with responsibility.

“When you decided to become a designer, you accepted the role of gatekeeper with it. You are responsible for what you put into the world, and for its effects upon that world.”

We cannot create, and deny responsibility for what we are creating.

2.) Corporations are not evil, but they have power.

“If anything, we need our best designers working at Facebook. We need our most belligerent gate keepers working at BP. And we need our most belligerent assholes to be working in a position where they can tell Rupert Murdock to fuck off.”

It’s not fair (I thought to myself) to lump Facebook in with BP. Facebook doesn’t do as much damage as BP! Then I realized. Maybe Mike Monteiro isn’t saying that Facebook and BP are evil. Maybe we need to acknowledge that even BP, and certainly Rupert Murdock, are not actively trying to do bad unto the world. They are doing great things, powerful things, awful – as in full-of-awe and awe-inspiring things. ¬†And things that are that great, and that powerful, have a frighteningly large ability to do evil as well as good, so those people, the Rupert Murdocks of the world, they need to be surrounded by designers who will challenge them, and help them do great things without overlooking their responsibility to those who might be hurt as a byproduct.

It’s important to acknowledge that success does not mean evil or “selling out.” It’s equally valuable to remember our responsibilities when we seek success.

3.) Man up.

Mike Montiero, more than anything else, encourages every designer at WebStock (and all of us who watch the video from home) not to back down. We all have ideas we’re afraid will fail, or we’re afraid will anger someone. Watch this video, and listen to Mike Montiero’s pep talk. He’ll get you fired up to take on the world.

“Never trust a designer who has never been punched in the mouth.”

Webstock ’13: Mike Monteiro – How Designers Destroyed the World from Webstock on Vimeo.

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