A.K.A. Tech startups may be destroying the world. A.K.A. A case of correlation, not causation.
I think it’s safe for me to call this decade the age of startups. I mean just take a look at the rise of small companies birthed out of silicon valley, well designed NYC subway ads (that kinda all look the same at this point to be honest), and the influx of venture capital firms wanting to invest in “entrepreneurs” with big dreams. In the last 10 years, design has really taken a forefront in the way that digital products are created and marketed. We’ve finally realized the value in optimizing the experience between user and product, and it seems that we’re moving in a generally better direction, as new digital services have made life so much easier for us.
Everything is online, we no longer have to keep paper bills or receipts, we can order anything from food to medicine to toilet paper with a couple taps on our favorite app. This has made everything immensely convenient, and we’re definitely grateful so what’s the problem? It lies in the very kinds of problems that we are tackling with tech. It seems like we’re definitely tapping into the wants of our users, but are we truly providing people with what they need?
While I’m proclaiming this very bold statement that we should stop designing, it’s not that I believe all designers should burn their Figma files and stop innovating, it just seems like we’re turning towards technology as the end all be all of problem solving. The idea that all our issues can be solved by a digital application is very dangerous, not only does it place power in the hands of those who control the tech sphere, it allows them to alter our thoughts and the way we perceive the world, shifting focus from the larger problems into smaller user needs. Why do we need another dating app when our flawed capitalistic system requires the existence of the 1%, widening the wealth and class gap larger than we can afford? Why do we need another app that promises they can help us take control of our financial future, when the Earth is heating up at such a rapid rate we might not even have a future?
I think it might be a good idea for us to take a step back, to take a look at what we’re creating in the grand scope of things, its effects on the world, for our users and non-users alike. Maybe when designing, we should evaluate not just how much good a service can provide, but how much bad it might inadvertently cause and how much better we can do.