Growing design teams often hit a wall. It feels like commercial goals and user needs start tugging in different directions, and inter-team friction builds. Designers complain the business is overlooking customers in favour of targets and tempting dark patterns; the business complains the design team is becoming an obstacle to progress.

Meanwhile, customers, press, shareholders, and regulators alike are taking more interest in technology companies’ behaviour and mistakes. But the emerging tech ethics movement can seem abstract and philosophical. People talk about ‘doing the right thing’, but most teams don’t agree on what this means; nor do they know how to create and appraise ethical design. The ‘right thing’ becomes a matter of opinion, a battle usually won by the most senior combatant.

What I offer

After a long career in tech and design, I’ve spent the last two years focusing on this problem. I’ve found what teams need are practical techniques and skills that not only equip teams to handle ethical quandaries, but convince them that ethical approaches actually lead to better products.

Introducing the Ethical Design Sprint, an intensive, turbocharged week in which you’ll learn new ethical design techniques and apply them to a real business challenge you face. The sprint bolsters the now-famous GV sprint process with new approaches emerging from speculative design, applied ethics, academia, and ‘post-UX’ practice.

In one week you’ll:

  • learn about the three lenses of modern ethics and four ethical tests – simple questions to illuminate the ethical impact of your work.

  • uncover your project’s hidden stakeholders and look closely at how your work could benefit or harm them.

  • use creative techniques to explore unintended design consequences, such as the designated dissenter, the futures wheel, and personas non grata.

  • agree the key ethical concepts your project embodies, then use these as prompts for product ideation.

  • create distinctive design principles to act as a North Star for your project, for the sprint and beyond.

  • learn how to add ethical perspectives to design critique.

  • prototype a product that meets business, design, and ethical objectives, and test this prototype with representative users.

Read about the Ethical Design Sprint process in detail ➙


How you’ll benefit

As you’d expect from a design sprint, you’ll get real project momentum, including a working prototype validated with representative users, and valuable insight into your project’s viability and next steps.

But an Ethical Design Sprint will give you more. Your team will learn innovative, practical ways of designing sustainably and responsibly. You’ll learn how to anticipate and mitigate the risk of harmful decisions. You’ll learn how to broach tricky ethical topics in your business, and how prioritising ethics can fuel innovation, not hamper it.

You’ll also get two custom-printed card decks. First, a deck of ethical techniques – such as the value spectrum or the front-page test – for your team to rely upon in their ongoing work. Second, a deck of emerging technologies and trends to use when generating ideas and exploring unintended consequences.

The Ethical Design Sprint is ideal for any mid-to-large technology-led company; usually one with distinct engineering, product, and design teams. It’s appropriate for profit-making and non-profit organisations alike.

Why me?

The Ethical Design Sprint is offered by Cennydd Bowles. I’m a globally recognised designer with previous clients including Twitter, Samsung, Ford, WWF, ITV, Capital One, and Farfetch. As a proponent of ethical design in the technology industry, my thoughts on the subject have been quoted in The Guardian, Ars Technica, The Daily Telegraph, Süddeutsche Zeitung, and Forbes. My new book on the subject was released in 2018.

During the sprint I’ll act as facilitator, keeping momentum high, sharing my ethical-tech expertise, and introducing the new techniques. During the prototyping phase I typically also get stuck in as a designer (product, UX, and visual), product consultant, or copywriter as required.

The proof


I recently ran an Ethical Design Sprint with a talented cross-disciplinary team in BBC Research & Development, exploring the ethical implications of explainable AI. Could we design a recommender algorithm that made users feel respected and in control? And how could the team introduce these techniques into an organisation increasingly invested in personalisation and AI?

“[Cennydd’s] expertise was absolutely invaluable… our ideas around transparency and control of personalised systems were very well received… Cennydd also schooled us in the art of using Apple Keynote to produce functional prototypes which was a huge eye-opener - it took us no time at all to produce a compelling interactive demo and it’s an approach we’ll be re-using for sure.” —Tim Cowlishaw, BBC R&D.

Read about the project on the BBC R&D blog ➙

Next steps

My writing and speaking commitments mean I have availability to work with just a few select clients in Q2/Q3 2019. To find out more or discuss booking a sprint for your team: