A Quick Thought on Design, Communication and Responsibility


Yesterday we had our last class in a course I teach called Communication Psychology. The course is part of the Multimedia Design career on a local institution here at Buenos Aires.

The purpose of the course is to introduce students into the world of communication; from semiotics, to media study, to communication models, talking about how communication works in our societies and how important is to understand its processes and factors in order to work in design.

One Simple Idea

The main idea I try to pass on over the whole semester is that everything communicates something.

Meaning that every component of a product, a design, a talk, a person, a building, an organization, is telling us something. Even the most little details or things that weren’t even planned (especially those things), serve as a symbol to something. And that something has an effect on the meanings we build together as a society.

The course should help students:

  1. Be able to identify those components and what they’re telling or helping to tell.
  2. Be able to design products that take every component into consideration (as much as it’s possible) to build better communication platforms.

People = Communication

Humans need to communicate with each other. We’re constantly interacting with other people or institutions. And currently more than ever we’re in constant contact with all sort of media platforms: social media, commercials, videos, websites, apps, articles, pictures.

The students I teach will soon be part of those people who take a part in designing these platforms.

That’s why being aware of those processes and communicational components gives designers a great power. They have the opportunity to influence others’ lives.

Consciousness Awakening

In our last class yesterday we talked about how they felt about the course. I like getting feedback from students as it helps me to keep improving my class.

Almost everyone said that since they started taking this course, they don’t just have more tools to face their design work but it has empowered them in their personal lives too.

If it’s when talking to a family member or someone in the street, writing a post on Facebook, getting a job interview or having a school work meeting (one of the students is an elementary school teacher), they’ve realized they take things different now.

They think of the words they use before they use them to pick the ones that will better say what they want to say.

They notice hidden meanings on the things they see. And they started to pay attention to things they weren’t before.

And they try to do all this with the purpose of improving the communications they have.

Taking Action

Over the semester we’ve discussed several times how working on communication (design is communication) and having learned all this stuff doesn’t just mean to design products that perfectly convey their messages or bring measurable results. Working on communication is looking to achieve all that while trying to build a better society at the same time. Because the product will be immersed in a living and communicating society.

What does that mean? I think this is a nice list of what could be a product that cares for communication and therefore for society. A product that:

  • Makes life easier/better in at least one aspect.
  • Simplifies tasks.
  • Reduces uncertainty.
  • Provides needed information clearly.
  • Helps understand each other.
  • Builds better relationships.
  • Doesn’t abuse its power over people.

A Unique Opportunity with a Unique Responsibility

Here’s where the opportunity to influence others’ lives meets the responsibility of doing it consciously.

Designing a product that people will use is entering people’s lives. It means having the power to affect their lives, even if it appears to be in a teeny-tiny thing.

So do it responsibly. Take care of the people on the other side of your product and you’ll be helping to create a better society.

Featured image credit: José Martín – Unsplash
Photo credits: Unsplash


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