Our latest episode of Humanizing Technology focuses on responsible design: how it can guide and influence human behaviour in the online world, as well as the greater impacts on society.

To tackle the topic, we invited Annegret Bönemann from foryourandyourcustomers (FYAYC) to our podcast. Besides her job as a designer, Annegret is a podcaster herself with her show, (Re)Design. Nina Müller, Ethical Commerce Alliance Director, did a little experiment with Annegret, taking turns in a tandem interview. Head to the links at the end of this story to hear how it went! You can also listen to this conversation over at (Re)Design.

Responsible design with people in mind 

Annegret, based in Amsterdam, explains her main focus is dreaming up design that supports and stands for a more responsible tech — creating experiences that are more sustainable, accessible and privacy-preserving. 

With a background in social design, Annegret has pondered how the world around us is made and designed. The armchair you sink into has an impact on your posture, allowing you to relax and feel comfortable. In contrast, a wooden chair with a straight back makes you sit up straight and be more alert.

“The Re(Design)”- podcast in turn is an audio extension of Annegret’s otherwise very visual world, where FYAYC aims to offer a platform for learning in order to evolve and offer new brighter solutions for their customers.

Privacy is a benefit, not a burden.

After this introduction, Annegret uses the opportunity to quiz Nina in return, diving into the Ethical Commerce Alliance (ECA), Empathy.co’s new initiative to take on responsibility as a company within society. The ECA is a space to share knowledge and guidance on how to better protect your privacy online, for both businesses as well as individuals. 

The conversation then circles around the meaning of ethical commerce and whether those two terms don’t contradict themselves. Putting the human, not the data, at the heart of Empathy’s efforts makes a big difference. Avoiding trackers or any other surveillance software is our way to help preserve a democratic society which we see as our obligation as a company, building privacy-minding solutions that offer competitive advantages.

Design’s power to influence privacy online

Then we hand off the microphone again and Anngret explains the crucial role design plays in manifesting a company’s identity and values, as well as the business model which drives design decisions. Naturally, this greatly impacts how a brand is perceived and how we interact with it. Designers carry a great responsibility within their work and can also influence the level of privacy on a website. For example, how cookies are designed, with what colours and what information is highlighted. This encourages certain behaviour, like nudging people into a certain direction to accept or reject cookies.

Generally, it is a designer’s task to reflect on their work often, asking about requirements, discussing with business stakeholders, etc. For Annegret, her main motivation is her inner moral compass, guiding her work intrinsically and adding value as a default into everything she does. At FYAYC, she can match her own values with the company in responsible design principles with feeling encouraged to constantly learn and explore new things and discover new perspectives.