Ethical Design Handbook

  • 320 pages, quality hardcover + eBook
  • Release: late February 2020
  • Tags: Design, Privacy, Ethics

“This is the book designers have all been missing: A practical reference book on how to work ethically in design. Starting with the why — what does "Ethical Design" mean, and why is this book even necessary or important, the book easily morphs into the business value of ethical design, best practices in ethical design, and how you can influence positive change.”

Helle Martens, UX consultant

Ethical Design Handbook

About the book

Over the past 20 years, euphoria has grown for everything we can collect from users. The truth is that most companies have more data stored than they’ll ever use. That’s a bad idea. In addition to the energy and money spent collecting and storing unnecessary data, there is also a security risk and responsibility associated with owning and carrying data on others. With the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), that problem has been expanded with an increased legal responsibility.

Deceptive interfaces have hidden costs in customer service, maintenance, support, return processing fees, and social media backlash. When we design with dark patterns in mind, we usually don’t account for these costs. But we should.

And we’re starting to see a shift in customer and user perception. People are increasingly getting fed up with being tracked, manipulated and downright tricked. There is a growing expectation of transparency, fairness and respect. And the failure to meet these expectations is punished by the law, the press and the people.

So now is a good time to shift to ethical design.

Using ethical design, you can grow a sustainable business in the following ways:

  1. If you treat your audience well, they’ll stay loyal to your brand and your company.
  2. Your conversion rate might go up. When you declutter your interface design, the result is often a higher return on investment. Don't take our word for it. Try a split test and see the result.
  3. Have you heard of GDPR? It’s kind of funny that one of the best arguments for design ethics is a team of lawyers in the EU, but it’s true nonetheless.
  4. Not being subject to a media shitstorm is another compelling argument. Consumers are fed up with the misuse of their data; privacy is important to them, and it’s a growing concern.
  5. It feels better.

Working with ethical design is a lot like navigating inside a labyrinth. There is more than one route to the end goal. It takes a great deal of logical sense. And sometimes you end up in a blind alley and have to find another path to move forward. The Ethical Design Handbook helps you get through the labyrinth.

It is an introduction to the toolbox of ethics for everyone who works with digital products as a designer, developer, product manager, lawyer or in management.

Table of Contents

The book has 7 chapters:


The introduction describes the necessity of incorporating ethical design in the way digital businesses run. It also defines some key terms that will be used throughout the book.

The Need for Ethics in Design

This section outlines some core consequences of unethical design, and it also explores some of the existing ethical design frameworks and introduces the notion of ethical transformation.

Creating Positive Change

This chapter explores how a positive change can be introduced in companies, teams and processes, which includes how to challenge decisions, ethical team governance and bridging ethics with risk assessment.

Respect-Driven Design

This chapter discusses and challenges how to involve end-users in projects, and it includes guidelines on how to design for the must vulnerable. Finally, it highlights some business perspectives of human-centered design.

The Business of Ethical Design

Let's dive into business. We establish why ethical design works as a business concept, and how to use the traditional ways of measuring success to measure the impact of ethical design.

Ethical Design Best Practices

The chapter provides a set of practical guidelines on how to design good cookie disclaimers, terms and conditions and how to handle data collection ethically. It also provides a set of specific examples of how to design user interfaces with ethical design in mind.

Getting Started

We wrap up the content of the book by offering a set of practical tips and specific blueprints to help you get started on your first ethical design project.

Mailing list

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